Thursday, October 29, 2009

Defining Moments

As I opened the book which held the poetry I wrote as a teenager, pages which I had painstakingly typed out over and over on my mother's typewriter until they were devoid of misspellings, the title page I had placed in the front brought back a very distinct memory of a defining moment in my life.

My English teacher, Mr. Spade, presented us with an assignment. We were to find a classic book by an American author to read and present to the class. I groaned. I despised reading for any reason apart from my own enjoyment and was not looking forward to the project. I walked to the city library and asked for some recommendations. The first book out of the librarian's mouth was "Thoreau's Walden" so I checked it out, brought it home and set it on my dresser, never even cracking the cover to read a word until almost 2 weeks later when I was given the date for my presentation.

I remember sitting in the small alcove beneath the stairs across from our apartment, my own quiet place for reading and writing, and beginning to read Thoreau's words. Initially I was frustrated because the words did not flow in a way I was accustomed to, the language required more thinking on my part. But as I progressed through the story of this man's escape from civilization, I became fascinated. And when I read these lines, something in me changed:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

I read over these words countless times, each time realizing that I wanted to do more. I wanted to be more. I wanted not only to live, but to "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life" as Thoreau had described.

I began to search out those around me who seemed to live life to the fullest - happy people who lived with determination and purpose - people who I wanted to emulate. I would question whether my actions were truly a reflection of myself or of just trying to fit in. I eventually learned to do and be and live in a way that I was comfortable with myself and the things that made me who I was. I learned to let go of many inhibitions which kept me in a shell and became a happy, passionate, more outgoing young woman.

Most people who know me today do not know the quiet, shy young girl that I used to be. They are often surprised when I even speak of times when I was awkward and introverted. To me, this is a measure of my success.

So, thank you Mr. Spade.

Thank you Miss Librarian.

And thank you Thoreau.

I am glad to report that I am still living.

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