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Melissa Gurley

July 1997

Moving On

Here it is. The future. Looking at me, watching me, calling me forward. A feeling of excitement overcomes me as I realize that I am going forward. There is nothing that is holding me from the path that is in front of me. I start to run. I run as fast as I can, hoping that if I go fast enough, I can fly. There is nothing in my way, and the road is mine.

A feeling of sorrow comes over me as well. The path does belong to me, though I will share it from time to time with other travelers. Indeed, for the last year I have been traveling with many people. Some are dear friends; some not so dear. For the last year, we have been traveling together. We have shared experiences that are special to us, and now, we move forward. Our paths curving in separate ways.

It is true that I will meet others along the way, and that I will share equally special moments and build new memories as well. But a slight sadness has come as I realize that this special time of my life is coming to an end.

In the last few weeks, I have graduated from high school, went to pridefest, marched in the Pride Parade, and said good-bye to a friend. It all seems so final, even though I know that I will still see my friends and enjoy their company. Things have changed. I have crossed a threshold, and entered a new area of my life. As I further my education, I will meet new people and make new friends; but that will be the beginning of a new existence.

And the end of another. Not the end of my childhood, or irresponsible behavior; but the end of a very special part of my life. Now, I am a high school graduate. Before commencement, I thought it was just a ceremony. It was only something for my father and grandparents to wipe their eyes and say how proud they were of me. That was before my final farewell to the teacher who gave me the courage to follow my dreams.

Throughout the year, Mr. O gave proof that teaching was more than a job to him. He read every rough draft and offered suggestions. He helped with ideas, if a student happened to be stumped. He took from his spare time to help with research for Forensics speeches.

One morning, I entered the classroom to find a newspaper clipping on my desk. It was the poem "Falling Up" by Shel Silverstien. Mr. O was helping me prepare my Forensics piece and, knowing that Shel Silverstien is among one of my favorite poets, he clipped it out of a newspaper he was reading that morning. He probably spent more than forty hours just helping me on my speech. I was not the only person he helped prepare for the season, and I was not given preferential treatment. Mr. O helped all members of the team. He put in countless hours helping each and every member of the team.

His influence spread further than Forensics. He also proof read all of his students rough-drafts, and many of the papers he "swaced" were for people who were not in any of his classes. Mr. O was everyone's favorite writing lab teacher. I spent almost every lunch time with him during second semester. Even in my personal literary excursions his assistance was evident.

Mr. O gave me the encouragement to pursue a career in literature.

Shortly after the finals, and shortly before commencement, I received a card in the mail. Mr. O sent a card saying that I had left my mark at BHS, and that he was glad to have the privilege of being my teacher/editor. Yes, there is nothing remarkable about that, but his influence runs deeply through everyone he has ever helped in a creative writing class or Forensics. I didn't realize that he meant so much to me and other members until I received that card. That farewell from the person who probably left the most prominent mark in my life.

I realized at that moment that I can never settle for a run of the mill life. The experiences of this past year have shaped me for a life that goes beyond anything conventional. I have been spoiled, and I can't just sit and let life flow. I'm still going to go into Social Work, but I want to make a real difference in that field. And my true passion is writing. I know now that, if I keep studying and working hard, I can leave my mark in that field as well.

Please don't take this as bragging. It's just that I know that I can, and I would feel like I was letting Mr. O down if I didn't send him a copy of my first book that he already put so much time into. That book will be dedicated to him, because he wants to see it published. My next book will be an "I told you so" to everyone who ever tried to tell me to get real and not put so much energy into a "pipe dream."

Another friend has pointed out the influence Mr. O has had on him. From that conversation, I concluded that this one teacher must have touched hundreds in his career. He must have shaped many students over the years, and each time he gave individual attention to a student, offering constructive criticism or encouragement, he left a little piece of himself to be carried on into the future.

As I continue on my path into the future, I carry a piece of the people that have touched my life; and Mr. O has probably left the biggest piece. Not only has he helped me with the grammatical science of writing, but he has encouraged me to allow myself and my style to be seen in my work. When I looked over my portfolio, I see myself being more open in my writing. Letting myself come through has made my work more interesting and enjoyable. It is easy for me to see how much he has influenced me as I write, so I can see where he will stay with me throughout my life.

Though there is that touch of sorrow of leaving him and other people that have influenced me, I know that I will have a little of them with me forever. And I know that I will keep them close to my heart as I march gaily onward.

* * *

WHAT A GRAND FEELING!!

I bought a necklace that says dyke. Just thought I would share. PrideFest was wonderful here. I saw people walking around without a care in the world. No one has to hide there. For the first two hours, I was walking on clouds. It is such a happy feeling to be free from prejudices. There was not one soul there who would judge me for the way I was born. It was grand!!

After that, two of my friends and I went to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I can never live a normal life again -- I have been spoiled. A beautiful woman sat on my lap, I was embarrassed for being a first timer (not so grand), I was hit in the head with toast, and I danced the Time Warp. Afterward, my two friends and I went to breakfast (not so grand), and I got home at five. It was grand!!

Finally, Sunday. The Pride March. For once my phrase "march gaily onward" had literal meaning. I walked around Milwaukee, holding hands with a cute girl, and smiled and waved. Yes, we also smiled and waved for the protesters. All three of them. I feel kind of sorry for them, they are the real minority (wicked laughter follows last statement). Then, cute girl and I have pizza and go home. It was grand!!

Do you sense a pattern here? Is it just me, or did I have a grand time? I think it is just me, and the fact that I'm in an incredibly grand mood right now. You see, I was just hired at Grand Geneva. I am no longer an unemployed high school graduate. I have a job; isn't it grand?

I'm done now; don't worry. Yes, there are a few too many "grands" in the beginning. We are supposed to say "Grand" when ever someone asks us how we are doing. Seems a little cultish to me, but when you are hired on the spot I think I am entitled to a little conformity (for now at least).

E-Mail me: melissa@wi.net


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