Good Intentions, Flawed Results
Between the ages of 5 and 17 there is one day of the year that we meet with a cocktail of emotion so potent we are nearly not ourselves upon ingestion. That first day of school often feels like the first chapter in a book that will be written as soon as the school bell resounds through the hallways. It is a defining moment for the year of your life that has yet to unfold.
Having attended a different school each year between the ages of 5-9, I have a deep appreciation for being the new kid at a new school. The flood of adrenalin filtering it’s way through your bloodstream as you approach the threshold of the unknown exists not because they don’t know you, but because you don’t know them. Who are these strangers and how will they treat you? Will they like you? Will they think you are odd and keep their distance? That moment you are suspended in time as within the next moment those questions will assuredly begin to be answered.
I haven’t experienced those emotions in a long, long time. I mean you wouldn’t have referred to me as “school age” in the last three decades but here I was crossing that threshold once again and this time I wished I really did have a cocktail. Lucky for me the bar was right off the lobby. Even more fortunate, I didn’t need a drink to meet these strangers because they are just like me – writers. And this was no ordinary school; this was the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.
For two and half days I was a part of something that can only be described as indescribable. How can you take a group of people who by the very nature of the passion that exists within them would under most circumstances approach each other with the wariness of a competitor about to do battle and create a moment of familial camaraderie? I don’t believe that anyone would even try to accomplish this feat because you cannot create this kind of symbiotic rapport; it must deeply exist within those who are present so that it can permeate the event like a warm hug from an old friend.
If I had the opportunity to devise a school of my choosing, I could not have imagined a learning environment as rich and fulfilling as the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. To sit and listen to men and women whose entire aim was to share their experience, instill you with courage and to honestly provide you with the tools that you need to accomplish your goals was awe inspiring. Without pretense, each faculty member and each attendee reached across the table of doubt, insecurity and naiveté where I have long resided and invited me to a table of hope, friendship and encouragement.
In every interaction, in every session, in every way I was reminded that I am a part of a community of people who may be solitary in their endeavor to scribe the myriad of realizations and experiences which exist wholly within their individual lives but are also part of a community of consciousness that relies on the inspiration of the collective to face the challenges of that life. We are writers. What I learned above all else is that the act of written expression is more than words on a page that carry the hope of connecting the human experience in my mind’s eye to that of another. Writing is a never worn out invitation from an dear old friend who is waiting for you with a cup of warmth and a kind touch.
Two years from now I will be looking forward to my first day of school again. I will hope to see faces of those I know and those I have yet to meet. I will be aware that everyone at the workshop is both teacher and student. This time I will cross the through the doorway knowing that I have nothing to fear but I have everything to learn. I believe Erma wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
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