We are coming to the end of a long, long year. At the beginning of 2017, I declared this my year of “Delight.” I chuckle at that now. It was not the year of delight, although there were some really good moments. It was more like the year of Frustration, or the year of Resisting.
The spring semester was only my second semester back in the classroom after five years, and it was not easy. With new students arriving almost weekly and my ESL classes getting larger and rowdier, there were many days I couldn’t wait for the dismissal bell to ring at the end of the day. Cue the frustration. Still, being there for those kids kept me going. They need somebody to see them, and I was determined to be somebody they knew cared about them. Completing the school year was a huge milestone for me. After several years of not teaching traditionally, I found out I could still do it! I continue to teach beginner English Learners at the high school level, and the current school year is going well.
I published a measly four poems this year. Much of the year was dedicated to revising my novel. I went away in the summer to a quiet, wonderful residency at Sundress Academy of the Arts in Knoxville. I came back convinced that my novel was finally, completely FINISHED.
Then I realized I was wrong. The process of landing a literary agent has 1) almost killed my soul and 2) convinced me that I need a little more revision. I am learning so many lessons through this novel-writing process, I will admit. It’s been three years in the making. It needs a little more time. I asked a few people to be beta readers, and one has gotten back to me already, so I have some revision suggestions to go on.
I also got a really nice rejection from a literary agent who said, “I feel, somehow, that you’re capable of developing this more. This feels like the draft of something really special, if that makes sense.” While I’m super frustrated about it, I wholeheartedly believe in my story and I do want to make sure it is absolutely ready for publication. One of my beliefs about art is that good art takes time.
Much of my year was spent agonizing over the poor leadership of President Trump. He has created a spirit of fear, fueled by inaccurate statements about immigrants, refugees, and Muslims. Fear is how leaders control people, and unfortunately he has convinced many that America is in grave danger. He is obsessed with making sure he looks good and berating anyone who doesn’t make him look good. He is determined to undo Obama’s policies on climate change and improving the environment, and of course, Obamacare. This president is not actually concerned about the welfare of the American people. He is concerned about his own image and his own principles, which include reaping wealth and power at the expense of others and putting others down in an attempt to elevate himself. His morality is questionable at best. The way he speaks about women is ugly and utterly inappropriate for any man, but particularly for a president. He is doing so much harm to our nation, and the way some Christians have aligned with him baffles and disappoints me.
This is why I said earlier that perhaps this was the year of resisting. This year I have called my congressmen, joined Moms Demand Action on Gun Control, and lost Facebook friends due to my intense political posts. But the highlight of my year was the Women’s March in January. I had never attended anything like that before, and it was incredibly inspiring to be surrounded by so many people who were speaking up for human rights. I marched for the dignity and value of all women, to say to the President and the nation that it’s not okay for women to be treated as objects. I marched for my students, to say that immigrants and refugees are people of value and deserved to be treated as people, not enemies or “others”. I marched for the Black Lives Matter movement, to say that black lives in this country have been treated as less valuable than white lives, and we can no longer accept that. I marched for all Americans – male, female, black, white, brown, straight, gay, Muslim, Christian – because every human has worth and I am tired of the attempts to divide this nation. The Women’s March was made even more special because my mom and one of my best friends, Karla, walked with me. Protesting with two of the strongest women I know at my side was so incredible.
This year was honestly, mostly about family and work. When you have tweens who are involved in activities, life gets busy. My daughter plays volleyball and both kids have gotten into singing, acting, and piano. I make sure not to over-schedule them because I don’t think that’s good for kids, and I want some time at home in the evenings, but I do want to encourage them to have at least one extra-curricular activity. Focusing on home life and being a good teacher pretty much fills most of my time.
I don’t have much to write about faith right now. I still have all the same questions that evolved during my faith crisis. I think I’m just at the point where I’m okay with uncertainty. More and more, I see how certainty and rigidity of belief can be really harmful to the human psyche and spirit. However, Jesus’ life and example still inform my worldview.
I re-started anti-depressants this year. One of my most read posts on this blog ever is one about Lexapro. I still get emails from random people about the post. I don’t know if my issues are genetic (depression does run in my family) or spurred by stressful events or what, but I got the point where I was angry, irritable, sad – basically I felt like I’d lost control of my emotions. I needed help. A medicine called Pristiq is helping me now.
I might be writing some more here. I’m not sure. I don’t care about platforms and brands anymore, but at times, I find myself aching to write little essays but not wanting to deal with the pressure of writing for publication in a journal and the possibility of rejection. Maybe placing those ideas on this blog is the answer. My writing life feels really messy right now. So I guess what I’m saying is this is the first post in a long time, and I hope it won’t be the last. No promises, though.
Me, too. From the Women’s March to the anti-depressants. But you said it better! Love, Valerie
Such wonderful reflections here, Karissa. I can related to many of them, and I loved your candid and beautiful prose. May 2018 be a truly blessed year for you!!!
Honored to follow your journey however you want to share it and wherever it takes you.