I believe that our decisions define us, but I also believe in second chances, and third chances, and fourth. As an English teacher, I often experience the power to give or withhold these chances, and I try to think back on my own life and where I would be now had chances been withheld.
My GPA for my first semester of college was an incredible 1.96. After graduating in the top 10 of my high school class, I flunked my first semester in college, and my second. For two years, I told myself, “this semester will be different.” I cannot say now what compelled me to continue down my path of self-destruction other than a stereotypical teenage-angsty desire for adventure and self-discovery. Like John the Savage in Huxley’s Brave New World, I wanted poetry, danger, freedom, goodness, and sin, and I found them as a bartender living in a run-down efficiency with a man I finally realized was even more lost than I.
There I would still be today were it not for second chances and defining decisions. If, when I called my mother to ask if I could come home, she had not cried with joy but had turned her back, I would still be there. If, when I wrote appeals letters to the office of financial aid, they had denied my requests, I would still be there.
Yes, I had chosen the life I had, but when I was ready to choose again, I returned to college, earned a place on the Dean’s List, and completed a B.A. in English and a minor in Education, determined to make a difference in the lives of young people. For nine years, I taught high school students how to write essays, read literature, and analyze the world around them. I held them accountable for deadlines and assignments, but I also remembered my own experiences and tried to offer them the same humanity that I had received. When a student came to me with a problem, I tried to offer compassion and second chances.
Now I find myself at a new crossroads, preparing to make another defining change in my life. I have an amazing husband and two incredible children, and I find myself ready to shift my focus to their needs. As much as I enjoy it, teaching high school has become too demanding, has begun to keep me from my family more than I can allow. As I give it up in favor of embarking on a freelance writing career, I recognize the same old feelings of fear and anxiety, that tight place in my chest that makes me second guess myself, and I realize that this new adventure is another chance to define myself. I choose to take the leap, to risk failure, to avoid the regret that comes with letting go of dreams. I don’t know what will happen, but I do believe that I will have more than one chance to find out. This I believe.