When I teach 9th grade, one of my units deals with the idea of the Heroic Journey. Most of my readers know of this pattern, but for those who don’t, here’s the nutshell: the hero must go to a place away from his everyday life. In that place, he has a mentor, and helpers, and he faces a series of challenges, including one that nearly destroys him. When he comes through it, he has learned something about himself.
Martha’s Vineyard was the sacred space to which I came, crossing the threshold of an entire nation to do so. My mentor was an amalgam of all the instructors. My helpers were my fellow students, who both helped me and taught me, as well as the staff who made sure I and all the other students remained in one piece. I faced the Horror that is Thursday, as well as the emotions of that evening’s crisis. And I learned that I am a writer. Nothing and no one can take that from me.
I mentioned earlier that I wept. What I didn’t say was why. And while you probably can guess, I’m going to tell you anyway.
I was weeping for so much. I wept for the loss of my tribe, even as I knew they would be there online. I wept for the loss of the “sacred space” of the Island Inn where we’d all become a family of sorts. And I wept for the future I actually felt I had a chance at. It isn’t that I think publishing my stories is going to make me completely happy—for one thing, I’m not particularly unhappy now. And I am well aware that not many writers make it to a point where they can make as much writing full time as they can with a day job, and I’ll keep a day job until and unless such a time occurs. But I have burned for so long with the need to tell my stories—not through self-publishing, but through bookstores and publishers. And I finally believe that I can do that. I finally see that I do, in fact, have the ability to weave a story someone else will want to read. And the gift of that knowledge came from people I respect, and people I admire—both students and instructors.
Eventually the tears went away, and I began to replay the week I’d just experienced. On my way home, I formulated plans to make the transition from amateur hobbyist to professional—not plans to try, but plans to do it, no matter how long it takes.
To all the instructors, staff, and my fellow students: Thank you for what was undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my life so far. I miss you all, and look forward to future meetings, wherever they might be.
Alex, Beth: BEST. ROOMMATES. EVER. Seriously, you’re awesome, and you’re stuck with me, now. Muahahahahahaha! See you soon, I hope.