I sat in a student desk next to her. "Here," I said, pointing at the page. "This is where your story is. This is the heart of the piece. I get why you had to write this other part first" I bracketed off an entire page with my purple pen. "It's important. It matters to you. But it doesn't get us where the story is going."
She nodded. "Yeah. I can totally see that. So, I should talk more about this instead?"
"Yeah. Your piece is really about the mothers. All the mothers in your life. Stay with them. You did an amazing job with that."
She was 15. I was 23. God.
Sometimes I feel like that life was a prologue to this one.
Every voice matters, I tell people. I say it all the time. I listen. I encourage. I draw out. Every voice matters.
Except, I don't really mean mine.
So much of my life has been dedicated to helping other people thrive. To showing other people their worth. To other people's life work. And I'm good at it. It's a gift. I'm proud.
But maybe sometimes I want to write my own piece. I want my own life's work. I want to create and not just discover.
Mr. Holland's opus was the kids he taught, the amazing work he did in teaching, the way he changed the world one student at a time. And it was amazing.
But don't you think sometimes he just wanted to finish writing the damn symphony?
Do we get to do both?
At that desk, ten years ago, she looked up from the memoir and smiled at me. "You remind me of my mom, too, you know. That's how I know you're going to be a great mom."
You just have to find the heart of the piece.