The other day, I was out holiday shopping with one of my writer friends at a local mall. It was early enough in the week, so the walkways weren’t overly crowded and the people were still polite. We were heading toward our next destination when I hear my name squealed out.
Not this name. My other name.
My real name.
You see, in my day job, I’m a teacher. Not extremely glamorous, I agree, but I enjoy it nonetheless. I’ve taught high school at the same site for over twenty years. During that time, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a rather large number of students. Now, I find myself with students approaching me telling me of brothers and sisters who remember me as their teacher. I even have had the recent distinction of students whose mother or father once sat in my classroom.
This was one such student. But long before she was one of my students, I knew her father. He was a musician in the rather tight-knit Irish community of San Diego. I also remember his passing. So, when she did make her way into my class, we already had a different kind of connection.
As she stood across from me, her smiling eyes wide and her hands covering her mouth, I felt like a rock star. She threw her arms around me and we hugged. She cried a little; I tried to keep my composure. We talked a little about how college was going, hugged a little more and shared some laughs. After a couple more hugs, we went on our original paths. Over my shoulder, I heard her talking to her friends as they melted into the crowd.
“She was one of my favorite teachers…”
Still basking the glow, my friend and I stepped into the holiest of temples for any writer. Nirvana for authors. The blessed “brick and mortar” store: Barnes and Noble. We meander through the aisles, discussing everything from anime to movies. Point out books by authors we know and take silly pictures with their covers.
The longer we wander around the shelves, my mind is drawn back to the meeting just outside the doors. Is that what it feels like to be famous?
In retrospect, I’ve only been a serious author for about four years. A baby in comparison to my other career, but we all have to start somewhere. During an online interview, I was asked what my greatest dream for my writing would be. NYT bestselling list? A contract with one of the Big Five houses?
No, my dream was simpler. I wanted to be recognized by a fan. That was it. I just want to have one person stop me on the street and know who I am. That was my definition of fame. My idea of the “Big Kid’s table.”
Has that dream changed? Not at all.
Yet I had a realization, an epiphany if you wish. I don’t know if I will ever reach the level of fame as an author as I have achieved as a teacher.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t plan of quitting on my writing dreams, nor is this a plea for unnecessary ego boosts. It’s merely an observation. Time is a huge factor in this equation. Four years versus twenty-three years. Nearly twenty-seven if I include my years spent searching for a full-time position. The numbers are skewed in one direction.
I know the authors whose careers equal my teaching experience. They have earned their seat at the Big Kid’s table. Sherrilyn Kenyon. Terry Brooks. Anne Rice. Their words inspired me to pick up a pen. They created characters and wove stories that fired my imagination and sparked my muse.
Will I ever reach that level?
But I do know that as former students come back to visit, or reach out through various social media, telling of their successes and their pursuits, I feel like I have made some small impact.
So, I might never have hordes of fans screaming my name, but I do have a cadre of graduates who give me hope.
And I’m okay with that.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND SEE YOU IN 2018!