A lot can happen in three years. Things begin. Change. End.
I checked the calendar. On the second Tuesday in March of 2015, I opened a blank Word document and started typing what would become the first of 156 nights to come and counting. The sunset in my rear view must have drove me the rest of the way after exiting at LaSalle, all pistons firing, spurned by a now unfamiliar urgency to get home to that empty, rented three-bedroom house and write something.
I remember it so vividly that it could have happened just last week, although at the time I couldn’t have anticipated the routine I’d unwittingly unleashed, that this writing itch, once scratched, would unfurl an almost supernatural gravitational pull when the sun sets over Darling Stadium, beyond two rows of unassuming homes you’d never guess contained such treasures (in contents and people).
It wasn’t habit yet that night, though: into the kitchen, pour a glass of red wine, grab my digital bestie, flick on the porch lights, snuggle into my white wicker love seat, pop open the hood, and just start writing the first words inspired after the sun has set and I’m sitting still. That first paragraph flowed freely, though it wouldn’t always be that easy.
“I used to be a writer and a poet and a novelist. And a singer. And an actress. And a media tech. And a computer repair geek. I used to be a little sister and a big sister, a babysitter, a housekeeper, a business owner, a gardener, a receptionist at a hair salon, an intern at a church, a tutor at a private school, a certified personal trainer, a model, a Nashvillian. I used to be so many things. Even a wife.”
In one fell swoop, I’d defined thirty-two years of my accumulated value. There were accomplishments, certainly reflected in the myriad skills highlighted in that cross-section, a laundry list for a closet full of costumes I tried on, all of which I seemed to forget I had tucked away. Yet, despite the tone set a Hampton spring night at its best, with my magnolias just hinting at the full blooms I’m savoring now, only it was a balmy and clear night then instead of the one currently tempting me to pack this up and head inside where it’s warm and dry.
But that’s just it, rain or shine, you’ll find me here, night after endless Tuesday night, still hoping to accomplish, to any degree, what I admitted in keystrokes three years ago: “[T]he thought occurred to me while weaving through traffic at dusk that if I could just reach my computer and start writing again that I might just expose a sugarcoated sentiment that would change me somehow for the better.” Each week, it does that in some unexpected product of weaving anecdotes with reflections make even my readers unsure, at times, how my eclectic brain will make it into something that resembles meaning. Rain or shine, I write, and those same Magnolias still beg me to stop and smell the springtime whether I’m locking or unlocking the door or just glancing out the window… for these precious few weeks each year.
A lot can happen in three years. Things begin. Change. End. I realize those roles I’d defined myself by, some since childhood, continue to shape every next set of three years, and like my writing, change me somehow for the better. In reality, I’ve had the opportunity to, through weekly installments in the annals of 21,904-word document (and counting, of course), intentionally reflect, assess, and record this resurrection of sorts, as I now look in the figurative rear view and see which costumes should be reclaimed and which should be retired.
Having spent a full decade of my adult life geographically separated from my immediate family, living in Hampton will have equated to watching the seasons change four times as my nieces and nephews grow. That first year when the twins were small, my brother would close the office door and hunker down on his dissertation while Gabrielle and I wrangled the kids through post-dinner clean-up and bedtime routine at least three nights a week. As if being Auntie La La wasn’t chance enough, I babysat for Gabrielle’s Bible Study so the ladies could meet and focus without childcare costs.
In fact, this past weekend was my bridal shower up in Maryland, hosted by a friend of Charming’s mother who had arranged for a fabulous, beach themed celebration where a childhood friend of Charming’s led the activities. One of the games was a series of questions that my fiancé had answered about me. The goal was for me to guess what answer Charming had recorded. When asked what one thing I couldn’t live without, I’d said him, but he’d said, “Family.” They gave me the point, anyway. He will be family, and he tells me he already is. His mother, sister, and grandmother are already mine, and their faces were as dear to me as my own mother and sister-in-law present in the same space. No, I don’t have any costumes for sister and babysitter – they still define me, and I wouldn’t mind if I’m the one needing a babysitter in the next three year time window.
Given my line of work, I get to be an actress and a media guru every day, one of those “big fish: small pond” type scenarios. I’ve had ten years’ experience engaging adolescents in core English curriculum, and my classroom is the only place where I am a good salesman. I get to put on a show, step up the energy, and use the stage to change my students for the better, too. Serving on the technology leadership team my first year at Kecoughtan put me on the district’s radar, and I was quickly leading PD trainings. I thought it would take years to reclaim a media specialist’s reputation in a new district like it had back in Nashville.
As for housekeeping? Well, I get got don that apron all the time, even if I’d rather let someone else have center stage for Thursday cleaning nights. I still know just enough to make me confident from my geek squad days, and more than enough to get me into trouble at bedtime if I’m lost in some techy undertaking that’s supposed to be done by professionals. After Nashville, I experienced a year of daily work in a cubicle, and it wasn’t a failure to discover that wouldn’t be a career for me. Owning a business is better left to someone like Charming, and my TA’s handle responsibilities of a receptionist for me now last block every other day. We learn. Three years can, does, and will change a lot.
There were other things like interning at the church that inspired dreams unrealized, like someday leading a Bible study, and I suppose I’ve been just waiting to settle down with Charming and grow those roots at Restoration Anglican in Virginia. While personal training was a fulfilling side job, my throbbing shoulder reminds me that needs to be shelved for now. My modelling days are long gone; I’m sure that the most camera action I’ll get in the future will be as a politician’s wife if Charming decides that’s a priority on his epic bucket list, too.
I used to be a Nashvillian. That decade is nearly a third of my life. I was a suburban New Yorker, now a Virginia beach girl … What will be next? Or even where? Charming was offered a job to begin after his current post ends that means a different next three years for us. I used to be a lot of things, but there is one thing that defines me above all the others, and probably why my subconscious spit it out first.
I used to be a writer. No. Not anymore. I’ve been writing every week now for fewer years than I spent in college, working part time and graduating with honors; however, I’ve invested into this hobby more years than it took to complete my masters, teaching full time and securing that 4.0 and a speech at commencement. I hope that supernatural gravitational pull to my front porch isn’t limited to Downtown Hampton, because I think maybe it’s time to write my first book.
Life is new and bright and good. It is also cold and wet and dreary. Rain or shine, you’ll find me writing my way to elfin epiphanies. I know my magnolias, and I cherish them, but I didn’t know I would until I saw them bloom. There are more of these wonders of God’s creation I haven’t seen yet that will likewise make me stop and smell whatever season I’m in.
A lot can happen in three years. Things begin. Change. End. Blossom. Surprise. Inspire.