Those Who Lit a Fire Within Me

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” ~William Butler Yeats

Have you ever been touched?

Have you ever fallen into a moment, a glowing sliver of time, when you gazed into a pair of eyes and felt within you a sudden rush of air flying in like tufts of dandelion weeds blowing through an open window? Did you look into those eyes and stare down those pupils into the depths of a soul and feel the urge to run forward and lose yourself in that person forever- in that moment that was so magical it was almost unreal? Did their hands reach without reaching and touch without touching the edges of your heart, grazing with fiery fingers the many pieces of you and perhaps leaving a bit of themselves there as well, in that jumbled and unorganized pile of lessons and memories and thoughts that have accumulated inside you after all your years of wandering- of getting lost and rediscovering yourself and trying to decide which is really which? And amidst all the chaos, did they stand there, like it was the simplest thing in the world, holding you in suspension, turning you round and round in their hands?

I believe that there are certain people in this life that we are meant to meet- whose way of thinking is so parallel to ours that we relate to them on deeper levels than we knew even existed. They teach us about ourselves, acting as mirrors and throwing our images back to us, absorbing all of our light and shining with it to remind us of its existence. These people are found few and far between, but when they do come across our paths it is like the collision of two worlds, scraping past each other, denting the other, moving along forever changed. We take something away from them that becomes a part of who we are: small bits of shattered glass collected from others that come together to form something beautiful, shining, in pieces. You are merely a unique compilation of bits and scraps of those who have touched you.

But there is always someone who comes with fire.

They walk steadily towards you, bearing a torch wreathed in flames. You are so pitifully unaware of how combustable you are, of the way the completely flammable fragments of your soul sit inside your body, waiting for the single spark that could set them ablaze. Smoke begins to cloud your vision, fill your lungs, drowning you as they approach.  There is darkness everywhere. Darkness, darkness, nothing but darkness. Where is the light? Your frantic mind screams, your eyes wide searching for the what was there a moment ago, now blown out like a candle. Where is the light? And just before you sink into despair you see them: shadows springing from the fire in their hands and casting light on half their smiling face. They reach out to embrace you- and before you can move, they touch the flames to the many pieces.

Oh, how they burn.

You look down, and watch with amazement and wonder as flames lick their way around your ribs and your heart. Here now, there is light- not shining from some outside source, but from within you. You are the fire. You are the light. You no longer need a flickering candle at your side to free you from the suffocating darkness constantly lingering at your shoulders and threatening to swallow you. You are the candle. The darkness draws back until it is nothing more than a black, distant memory.

The pieces heat to extreme temperatures and begin to melt into a thick, golden substance, dripping like wax into your bloodstream. They are no longer individual parts belonging to the minds of others. They are yours-they are you– and they seep into the cracks of your being like liquid gold and warm you with a feeling words cannot begin to describe. And it is not often that words fail me.

I speak as someone who has known what it is to be set on fire, someone who has, from the moment it was set into my soul, tended to it and kept it burning. I have been touched by many sets of fingers, grasped by many hands, and gathered pieces inside me until eventually, I ignited. And it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Allow me to explain.

For those of you who don’t know, one of my goals in life is to become a Language Arts teacher. It is simply one of those things about me that just is– for reasons I cannot explain. It was a seed planted in me a long time ago, and it was only recently that I turned around and saw a garden flourishing from what was once just a disturbed spot of earth. I am so thankful it did though. I know myself now. When I realize I want something, that I truly, heart and soul, want something, I stop at nothing until I get it. I know where I’m headed, and with a clear course set before me, I plan to walk on firmly and make it one hell of a journey. Language Arts teacher? Well you better believe with my mind set to it, I’ll be the best one there ever was.

But sometimes I have to stop myself before I get too arrogant with my grand, wild plans and ask myself how I’m going to make that happen. Great teachers aren’t just born out of the blue- popping out of thin air and landing in a classroom of students ready to start teaching. Teachers aren’t born- they are created. I already have the passion, the love of reading and writing, the constant drive to learn. But I am not a teacher. The question is- how do I forge myself into one?

Time to go back to grabbing pieces of others.

And so that is what I have been doing lately- watching my teachers (the good, the bad, the ugly) and learning from them not only the subject material but also what makes them click. What was it about my ninth grade Language Arts teacher that made her so inspiring and unforgettable? Why are all my old middle school teacher’s former students still talking about her now, years after they have stepped foot in her classroom? What exactly makes me cringe when I draw certain teachers to mind? These thoughts (and many, many more, I promise you) constantly have the gears in my head turning as I scrutinize each and every one of these oblivious souls and wonder if I have what it takes to be like them- and in some cases, to not be like them.

For example: Mrs. Wagner. How do I begin to describe Mrs. Wagner? She was my eighth grade Language Arts teacher and definitely the one to nudge me down the road of writing. She was the first ever to read my work and tell me she thought I was going somewhere with it. Though she did encourage me, she didn’t hesitate to make me work for good grades -which I got- because she knew that I needed to be pushed, and that I had the potential and could go far. I admired her for this, mainly because she was the first teacher not to just hand me an A+ and pat me on the back; instead, she made me work. And you know what I realized? That I loved it. I developed a thirst to prove myself- and from that point onward every essay I handed into her had been the product of many long, grueling hours and at least ten rough drafts. I polished and perfected those papers to the point of exhaustion- and I turned them all in with a sheen of sweat on my forehead, a cramping sensation in my fingers, and a smile on my face that stretched from ear to ear. She was my hero. To this day I have not forgotten her, and I still email her at Christmastime to talk and catch up.

Goal #1: Be like Mrs. Wagner

Now let’s talk about Mrs. Fabich. Oh, that Mrs. Fabich. She has been my Latin teacher for the past three years now, and I’ve grown so fond of her. Mrs. Fabich is probably the most intelligent, energetic old lady you will ever meet. Not a single day do I walk into her classroom and find her in a bad mood. It’s not hard to tell that she is passionate about her job- and she has a love for every single one of her students that is so refreshing, yet so hard to find. She is one of those teachers who really gets it. I watch her and find that I want to be like that- to love my job so much that it shows on my face. I want to be able to rattle off Shakespeare like Mrs. Fabich rattles off about the Roman Empire. I want all my students to come and hug me on the last day of school and wish me a good summer, like we all do with Mrs. Fabich. I want my passion to carry me through life and I don’t want to slow down, ever- I want to dance and laugh and be crazy all while being an amazing teacher, which she does so well. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ll probably shed a few tears the day I leave her classroom forever.

Goal #2: Be like Mrs. Fabich

And then there’s Mrs. Perrin. She was the one with the fire.

I can’t say that in my whole life I’ve ever met a better teacher  than Mrs. Perrin. She is -in my opinion- the pinnacle of what one should truly strive to be like. She took the dreams inside me -the incomplete, intensely passionate ideas and desires floating around to no point or purpose- and set a match to them. And let me tell you, I went up in flames. Everything became clear in my vision. I knew at once where I was going, and what I had to do to get there. I looked at her career and and saw in it exactly what I wanted from life- to be happy. To simply be happy. My unconscious often leads me to amazing places, and as long as it leads me to a good and beautiful place I’m quite content. I believe with all my heart that a Language Arts classroom is a good and beautiful place. Mrs. Perrin helped me see that, and for that I owe her my everlasting gratitude.

Goal #3: Strive to be like Mrs. Perrin

I have been touched, I have been burned, I have been scorched. I have been molded into the person I am today by many sets of hands who kneaded my mind like clay and turned me into something far better than what I was before. Teachers like Mrs. Wagner, Mrs. Fabich, and Mrs. Perrin came into my life for a reason. I know that reason, as well as why countless others have crossed and left my path, and I hold on to those reasons that destiny hands out like scribbled words on slips of notebook paper, promising me that everything that is meant to happen does and will. I stuff these reasons into my pockets and keep them close to my heart. I like to believe that I am part of a bigger plan- a bigger picture. A tree inside a forest. My life is a but a ripple in this vast ocean of things, but if I leap in with enough force that ripple might just reach others. It is a very beautiful thought, and one that often brings peace to my frantic and troubled mind.

Think about all the people who have made an appearance on your life’s stage. Which ones left the biggest impressions on you? What emotions did they evoke within you- the desire to laugh, to cry, to change? What words did they utter that you sucked in like oxygen and now tumble and rattle around inside your hollow, echoing body? Who touched you? Who lit a fire within you?

We sit here in this empty auditorium before our stage and wait on, always in a constant, perpetual state of waiting, for the next torchbearer to come flying down and start the raging fire within us.

But do not, I implore you, ever forget that you too are a bearer of flames.

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Thoughts? I love those.

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