My life has been forever changed and it is for the better.
This past fall, I began mentoring 10 students in writing at a local high school. One that wasn't too far from the high school I went to as a teen.
I took this project on because I had promised myself when I was younger if I ever made anything out of myself, I would give back what a few precious adults had given to me.
This was supposed to be me giving to them. Instead, I'm the one that walked away changed.
I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes because I fell in love with each of these teens. From the start of the year until now, I spent time with them. I taught them what I new about writing, read their work, discussed their writing with them, encouraged them and tried to show them how to improve on their craft.
I expected talent, but I'll be honest--I ended up blown away with how exceptional their writing was. The amount of heart and emotion in these stories, their complex ideas, their hopes, their dreams...their stories touched me and my heart.
Sadly enough, at some point when you get published, writing starts to become numbers instead of words. How much you made in an advance, how many books you sold your first week, how many books you sold over several months, how many books in you got in a contract, how many books have been sold over seas, how many, how many, how many.
And these things are important. Being published is a business. If I don't sell books, neither me nor my publisher get paid and if we don't get paid, then my publisher probably won't want to purchase any more books from me so all of the sudden the term "how many" becomes a big deal.
But being with these students reminded me of a time when I never asked the question "how many?" Instead, they reminded me of the pure and simple joy of storytelling. They reminded me that I am a storyteller at heart.
This year, I laughed with these fantastic teens and I even cried with some of them. I watched as they struggled up mountains, and whenever I could, I would try to be the hand that helped them up. The suck part? There are some mountains we have to climb on our own and, whether they knew it or not, I prayed for each and every single one of them as I watched them on their ascent.
I don't know how teachers do it. I don't know how teachers year after year pour themselves into their students and then on the last day watch them walk away.
The students I spent time with know that even though the last day has arrived, even though some of them are graduating, that my door is always open, but I have no idea if I'll hear from any of them again and because of this, on the way home, I cried.
I'm so incredibly proud of each and every single one of them. Proud of who they are, proud that they were courageous enough to share their talent with me, proud that they were able to learn from constructive criticism, proud that they supported each other, proud that they are each the amazing individual that God made them to be.
To my Valley students--I love you. Remember what I told you today. What happens now is by your choice. No one else can sit in that chair and write your story. Only you can do it. There are no excuses. You are each so talented and I believe in every single one of you.
May God bless you and carry you close until we meet again,