This year, I didn’t choose a word for the year like I have in the past. Looking back, I’m having trouble finding one word to describe the year. In some ways, it was hard. In other ways, it was great. There were moments when I felt successful and confident, and moments when I felt lost and devastated. Perhaps that is just how life is all the time.
2016 was a great year for me publication-wise. My first poetry chapbook, Evening Body, came out in February. I had an essay published in an book titled Soul Bare, which came out in August. I published 11 poems and 2 essays this year. I also received 2 Pushcart Prize nominations, which was a first for me!
I also took a wonderful novel writing workshop in the spring, which really helped me begin to revise my novel (which is now on its third title: Ashes). I made great progress on it until school started in August (more on that later).
In the spring, all four of my family members were in the musical Mary Poppins at a local community theater. In the summer, we helped with a theater summer camp for kids, and our son starred as Shrek in Shrek Junior. Our daughter starred as the Wicked Witch. It’s been so exciting to see them grow as actors and musicians and develop a love for theater! I am proud of them both!
We were able to take a short vacation to the beach this summer, and we also did a few cosmetic updates on our house, including a new outdoor deck and grill kitchen, all of which my husband built!
In November, my best friend from college, Amanda, visited for Trevecca Homecoming, and I enjoyed a weekend with her and her son. The following weekend, my friend, daughter, and I went to YALL Fest, a YA author festival, in Charleston, SC. We had a blast.
2016 was also hard. I started taking anti-depressants again after struggling with my emotions for some time. I started going to counseling. Church has been a difficult issue this year. I was very saddened by the election and what it means for my students.
That brings me to the biggest change in my life this year: After 5 years of instructional coaching, I chose to return to the classroom. I teach ESL to newcomer high school students here in Nashville. I have a renewed love for teaching, and I truly feel like this is my calling. I have really enjoyed getting to know my students and figuring out the best way to teach them. I absolutely love my EL team! My co-workers support and encourage me every day.
However, I had forgotten how hard teaching is. I love the work, but it is hard work. I have put in many hours of extra planning and prep time to meet the needs of my diverse learners. I have had to figure out how to adapt when new students kept pouring into my classroom day after day, week after week. I got 22 new students in the second quarter alone!
It’s been a challenging but rewarding semester, and I’m proud to say I’ve handled it. Oh, don’t get me wrong: There were days when I was frustrated and down. There were days when I was super stressed and overwhelmed. But I have made it through every challenge. (And my co-workers held me up many times!)
On the down side, my writing time has drastically decreased since I started teaching again. I have missed having that quiet, creative time just for myself, and my goal is to be more intentional about it next year. I just read this great thread on Twitter from poet Kelli Russell Agodon with suggestions on how to write more in 2017 (the first was unplug, of course, ahem).
I think what 2016 taught me is that I can be strong. Even when I am challenged with hard things, even when I need to seek help emotionally, even when I doubt myself, I can find the strength to carry on and surmount my challenges.
Guess what? I am thinking of a word for 2017! Yes, I think I’m ready to jump back on the #oneword365 bandwagon! Come back in January to see what my word is!