Recently, I celebrated a friend’s birthday in New York. It was a belated celebration for a truly beautiful spirit. My birthday gift for her was a day of her choice, all my treat. We went down to Chinatown and had bubble teas, dumplings, sesame pancakes, duck soup, enough food to feed an army. We walked the streets looked for lychees and peeled them with delight, sucking on the tender pulp to the envy of those on the subway. We went to a bookstore to pass the time away, and I bought her books. We had dinner with another friend of mine. We attended a poetry reading and saw old friends, drank beer on tap, and eventually played with her babies, Cinnamon and Grace, which she shares in ownership with her new love in their new apartment. Life was sweet.
One of the books that she received for her birthday was The Last Lecture, written by Randy Pausch, who recently passed away.
You can check out his “Last Lecture” here.
One of the essential messages of his lecture is to live one’s childhood dreams. Another is to enable the dreams of others. Finally, he talks about lessons learns.
What were mine? To be a writer and read and write all my life, to help people (particularly children), and to fly
Let me talk about the last one first. Ever watch “The Flying Nun”? Well, this show combined my early devoutness to Catholicism and my desire to fly. What a gift to be weightless, to be unbound, to have no restrictions! Ever since those early days with “The Flying Nun” I have loved to fly. One of these days I’d love to obtain my pilot’s license at one point. More on flying in a moment.
First dream, to me, living has always been reading and writing. My world exploded when I learned to read. I was ever eager to read more. In elementary school and high school, I virtually lived in the libraries around me: the school libraries, Eastwick library, the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. All of them. I collected books. My mother’s wallet emptied with the arrival of each order form at elementary school from Scholastic or at the latest book fair. As I read, I wrote, mostly short stories with sad endings as a child, based in some way on myths that I had read along the way. There aren’t that many 10 year olds that become obsessed with Greek and Roman mythology and Harriet the Spy.
As I grew, I submitted poems to magazines, got some accepted. I competed in a few slams, did a few readings, wrote a few chapbooks, got into Cave Canem, move to NYC, did more readings, wrote a book or two, finally got a contract for one, did some residencies, etc. All along the way I have been guided and inspired by others.
Recently, I was talking to my mother about my latest decision: moving to Germany to teach. She said that she would cry and that I wouldn’t care. My mother is one of my confidantes, closest friends, mentors, role models, my mother, more. Of course, I care deeply about whatever makes her cry and am saddened by the fact that one of my actions may make her cry. But in the end, I am a flyer, and I have to be true to that, right?
Today, too, I was talking to a man I once loved passionately and still have strong feelings for, though they have deepened into friendship. He said that if we had been together when I made this latest choice, we would not have survived, because he would not be able to handle the distance. I was suddenly glad; I felt light, because there really was no obstacle against me going on, chasing after one dream, that of helping children. I’m a good teacher and a good support to others. It’s an honor to serve humanity as most of my family has, in one way or another.
Last, but not least, writer. My first book comes out this November. I’m in the process of arranging the book tour, applying for residencies, submitting more poems, constantly growing even as this one beautiful flower is struggling to bloom. I don’t know if it will be well received, but it is the fulfillment of a childhood dream.
Going back to The Last Lecture, my dreams are happening. I have very few regrets, because I generally say what I want to say, when I want to say it and give all I can towards being happy, genuine, and honest. I also try to help others by enabling their dreams. I am growing to become a listener. This is not a natural gift – I am a true Aries and generally concerned with myself, hence the blog – but I do attempt to listen. I think teaching is a good place to do that. We’ll see. Perhaps someone down the road will reach their happiness and perhaps I will have been a part of that. Maybe it will be a lesson taught in an English class or talking to someone on a bus. Most likely, that moment will be forgotten, but I hope that I can be a part of enabling the dreams of others, particularly those that are geared to human flourishing.
So check out The Last Lecture or go to Germany or really, just follow your dreams. This blog is dedicated to my path as a writer, as a woman who flies, as someone who wants to help others. Welcome.