Four years ago, I sat in the basement of my university’s library awaiting the first of several Employability Skills classes I would be required to take before graduation. After 120 credit hours of preparation, I was finally taking a class that would help me use what I had learned. Besides, what was the use of earning a diploma if I couldn’t get a job? This was (and remains) a question that burns in the minds of English majors everywhere. So, there I was, anxiously awaiting to be pointed in a direction, my direction. This 1 credit hour class was my answer, a tool for crafting myself into a desirable candidate, a recipe for a magnetic resume, a cauldron where my array of interests could brew into a promising potion of my own personal success… and the beginnings of a providential, humbling and eye-opening appreciation for God’s sovereignty.
When Ms. Williams walked into the recesses of that dimly lit basement room, I was a bit anxious. For several years, I had rested in the comforts of my discipline and been at home amongst courses I knew well. Never did a class present any uncertainty. I was never caught off guard. In this case, though, I was clueless (yet somewhat curious) as to how I could be made “employable.” All I knew was that we’d be building a resumè. This was good news because I couldn’t very well be an English graduate with a shoddy looking resumè. Writing was my thing, my only one true passion, so writing a resume was step number one to being given a chance. And I felt I just needed one to prove my worth. Over the course of several once per week sessions, Ms. Williams taught us to be practical and passionate, to be disciplined but still dream. The course was a happy mixture of technical and hopeful, and Ms. Williams seemed a happy mixture of “mother figure” and “matter-of-fact.”
One day, as we were nearing the end of the course, I stayed after class to talk with Ms. Williams. I don’t recall all I said that day, and I won’t attempt to fabricate anything flowery or make myself sound desperately poetic, but I simply poured my heart into one basic statement— the very statement which, besides my spirituality, is sometimes the only thing that rings genuine and unwavering in my heart, and that is my passion for the written word. I felt I took a big risk telling an Employability instructor my love for writing, how it was all I wanted to do in the world and how it was my one true satisfaction. How far-fetched to actually employ our passions in a career, right? In my mind, I might as well have told her I wanted to be a backup singer for Beyonce or be a supporting actress alongside Tom Hanks. But, no. Ms. Williams supported my uncultivated desires. She didn’t tell me to be a nurse because the job market was better, she didn’t tell me to study business so I could be an entrepreneur… She told me to do what I loved. She listened.
Four months ago, I stood behind the front desk of my hometown gym awaiting the onslaught of senior citizens who would soon be descending upon a yoga class for healthy backs. I was new and nervous. I hadn’t yet learned everybody’s name in order to manually check them in or how to accurately fill out paperwork, so I was a fixture more than help at the time. Before the flock of seniors laden with yoga mats came into the gym one morning, the athletic “girl who always runs” walked in. In the beginning, I learned people by their habits. There was “guy who wears ill-fitting spandex,” “lady with impressive calves,” “guy who drinks too much pre-workout” and there was “girl who runs.” Thankfully, she was patient with the novice desk help and made sure to tell me her name each time she came inside. Soon, “girl who runs” became “Katelyn,” and soon “Katelyn” became one of the best friends I’d ever had.
Many years and many adventures had removed me from my college days. I lived in Tennessee for a while, mountain biking and perfecting my latte art. I lived in Thailand for a while, teaching English and learning gratefulness. I lived in New York for a while, adapting to rudeness and studying techniques of patience. When wandering (and blogging through said wanderings) brought me home, I was both elated and desolate. What was I to do? What was there to write about now? I was on the cusp of reality, and I didn’t know how to relinquish the writing material I had gleaned via travel for so long. I’d lost sight of how to let God lead me rather than the wind. I was in a low place, and I was becoming complacent. So, I prayed for a joy I thought I had lost. Before I discovered what a true and kindred spirit Katelyn was, “the girl who runs” told me that joy cannot be found in circumstances. Joy is a constant, never-ceasing flow of peace and restoration which only comes from our heavenly relationship. It is not reliant upon situational emotion. I had lost sight of the raw meaning of joy by trying to seek it. I was seeking but never finding. She helped me realize that. Then, all at once, like a sudden shower during southeast Asia’s rainiest of rainy seasons, I was inundated by new, happy facets of life I didn’t even know to ask for. I found friendships, rekindled my fire for fitness, stepped my introverted self into the social arena of group exercise, entered competitions, rooted myself deeper into a sound walk with God— and I signed a contract to have a book published.
For four months I have poured myself into a book deal I hadn’t even pursued. It was given to me. My arduous hobby of expression, the same passion of expression I’d held timidly dear to my heart in the basement of that library, was steadfast and being cultivated. I held on to it because Ms. Williams had told me to.
Several months have passed. I am in the final stages of book revisions and on the brink of releasing my first book. I have become stronger in every realm of life. Firmer faith, sturdier will, solid friendships. But I have recently let doubt crack that strength and have allowed worry creep in and attempt to steal my joy. I was eating lunch during my break one day at the gym when Katelyn’s sweet mom, Connie, finished her morning workout and approached with with a maternal and tender smile. She didn’t say a word, just took my hands in hers, looked me intently in the eyes and said, “I just wanted to hold the hands of a real life author.”
My heart smiled so hard to hear her say that. My dream was coming true, and my worry about the future was robbing me from the simple elation this accomplishment should bring. She sat beside me and talked me through my worry. Then she listened.
“I don’t care if I sell 10 books,” I told her with utmost honesty. “This is a dream come true, regardless.”
“It doesn’t matter, sweetheart,” she assured me. “As long as the right one person sees your work, they’ll know you have talent needing to be cultivated and pursued.”
I walked away comforted that day, but doubt still lingered.
Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at Katelyn’s house and enjoyed coffee and conversation with both she and Connie. Topic turned to my impending book and career choices and my indecision regarding a another degree. Katelyn said, “You know, mom’s a career counselor. Walk her through your thought process, buddy.”
And so I did. Between sips of coffee and exasperated sighs, I told Connie about the array of paths I had begun and ultimately shied away from. But Connie stopped me.
“But tell me, dear… What is your one true passion?”
I told her writing. How it was all I wanted to do in the world and how it was my one true satisfaction. It felt all too familiar.
Connie stared at me for a moment and leaned closer. “Were you my student?” she asked quietly.
“No ma’am, I homeschooled,” I replied.
“No, no. In the basement of the library. Many years ago.”
I caught my breath, and in a span of 3 seconds, floods of remembrance washed over me, and so did tears. I cried because sitting in front of me was Connie Williams, my Employability Skills instructor, the woman who had validated my aspirations, and the mother of my kindred spirit and soul sister, Katelyn Williams. How did I not remember? Perhaps it was because I was in the homestretch of my senior year when I took Employability Skills, but for some reason or another, Connie’s face had faded into distant memory and would’ve been an image unable to be recalled if not for such a happen-chance reunion.
“I thought it was you, Meredith. I remember you,” Connie said and wrapped me up in a hug. “Your passion is as evident now as it was then.”
“And she told me about you,” Katelyn said. She was just as stunned as I was. “She never really remembers her students long term and especially doesn’t tell me about them with the earnestness she told me about you!”
“I told her about the girl who loves writing,” Connie said. “I told her I wished she could have met the girl who loves writing.”
And I cried even more. “The girl who runs” and “The girl who loves writing” were predestined friends, and both Connie’s wish and prediction came true. I did meet Katelyn, and I did follow my dream.