I realise this blogging malarkey should be regular; I’m painfully aware that I have not blogged in what feels to me like a lifetime. ‘Painfully’ because as a writer (in a previous life) writing used to be a way of life; a way to vent frustrations, catalogue and celebrate successes, self indulge and hope that one day you could write that piece that would catapult you into the literary elite. Alas, with little persistence and regularity as a writer I was forever destined to be merely part of the amateur self-publishing clique – whose writings stay housed within personal journals or the archived local press pages.
Since retraining to teach writing, along with all other facets of myself, has taken more than a back seat – it’s all but been cancelled out by the daily grind of teaching. Teaching as a profession often feels like being fossilised; trapped under the immense daily pressure and never-ending list of things to achieve. As such, I have become far too engrossed in the daily machinations of being a teacher – planning, marking and reporting. But this isn’t a blog about the tribulations and troubles of a teacher; a topic heavily documented, especially this year due to the educational climate in the UK. This blog is about my own journey as a human being over the past year and a half as a fully qualified, and as I see glimmers of a life once loved slowly returning to sight.
One such glimmer is the ‘me’ as writer. After a particularly care-free and hedonistic Christmas break I was skillfully ignoring the mountain of marking staring at me from my desk and the hours of up-skilling I needed to do ahead of the next term as a still relatively new and inexperienced teacher of English and media. Drastic measures were needed if I was to avoid the inevitable last-minute planning panic that was about to ensue if this state of semi-ignorant bliss continued. Those drastic measures involved me booking a quick two-day trip away from the comfort of my reclining chair and BT Vision box.
Within 4 hours of arriving in the sanctuary of Llangollen (with laptop and marking neatly stored in my luggage) I had achieved: (in no particular order) a two-course meal, two pints, over half my marking done and written two poems, including a sonnet (the first creative writing I have done in a good many years). Proof be, if proof be needed, that breaking the cycle is healthy and was indeed, much needed.
As I reflect on the past year (an annual past-time in December, I believe) I am spurred into a renewed sense of excitement for myself as I embrace these glimmers of the old me – as writer, as traveller, as woman even. You see everything stopped for me while I adjusted to my new vocation. Wanting to be able to do something well is all-encompassing, no matter what it might be, and, as you will see from this year’s book diary, I have struggled to find time to do anything else.
Becoming a teacher was my final calling, but in answering the call I ceased to be good at anything else: I failed in my relationship, turned my back on my family and friends, scarcely wrote but a few lines in my journal, gave up on choir, and instead found myself in a relentless cycle of term time (hard, emotionless and focused) and holidays (letting hair down excessively). Somewhere in all of this I forgot to be me. So it was with relief and vigour with which I enjoyed writing my sonnet yesterday – not only was it a moment in my own history but a turning point in what could have shaped up to be a pretty pathetic and sad year.
The proverbial jury is still out on whether I have made the right decisions giving up everything I once knew to commit to this career; God knows I adore what I do – the students, the ‘light-bulb’ moments and the literary research I do – but there is no denying it is not just a job. I have felt moments of turmoil this past year that I recognise from the shaky and unknowing years of my youth. I have felt hopeless, and tired, and often questioned whether I have what it takes (and it takes a great deal). But north Wales – hoorah! you have restored in me the me I longed to see and speak to at this critical time. God bless you.
The moral? A change is as good as rest.
The sonnet? Well, seems only fair to pair the renewed blog-writer with the renewed poet:
Ode to Berwyn
Oh pink heart that lasted, rivers of tears.
A dark blinded silence, broken for years.
And in that sound she did long and forget
Those still waters ailed and old troubles met.
For I will not believe your muffled cries
That wallow shyly under rivered eyes
In hours of lost stones, trickled and tumbled.
For o’er the bridge she irked and stumbled
And listened loud for shadows of the past
For in her proud silence her thoughts could last.
Was in her merry melancholic heart
That weighted darkness brought the world to pass
In an age, not lost, but long remembered:
Her truth and spirit worn but not severed.