Last day of school! Who would have guessed the mixed blessing that is? I am happy and sad all together. And really should be preparing for vacation, but need to pause for a moment first.
With another school year come to an end, I can’t help but reflect. There have been field trips, assemblies, tests, projects, praise, and the occasional admonishment to classes that just can’t always control the moment. Incredible growth and learning has filled the days, not to mention a few challenges along the way. Maturity comes with a price and it isn’t always pretty. Fidget spinners, frenemies, and tween angst aside though, it is all good at the end of the year.
And as much as summer vacation is wonderful, the piece that makes me sad is saying goodbye to teachers and school admin. Some will not be returning and others will step out of my children’s lives from the role they played this year. Both my girls were blessed with some mighty fine teachers and I know that isn’t always the case people are dealt. Our school will be losing several upstanding teachers who have often gone far beyond the minimum mandate of what it is to be a teacher. Know that I see what you do, even when it feels like nobody else notices. Whichever role you get to play moving forward, I hope the people you meet on your path know and appreciate all you do.
So an ode to the teachers who take one step beyond. Those who make it to school and work hard on the bond.
You work hard each day to learn from and to teach with children so varied; compliant, to those hard to reach.
The hours are long. The effort is great, from marking to coaching, know that I appreciate.
Please keep stepping up. Always offer the extra mile, because the ones you inspire most might be the ones most in need of a smile.
Today, I heard that one of the members of my extended family passed away. I hadn’t seen him in over 20 years, but he was the first family member I met from my father’s side of the family, when I touched down in South Africa. Weppie was vibrant and jovial, and had a smile for everyone he met. I couldn’t help but be enchanted from the word go.
Thank you for touching my life Weppie. I know you will be missed by many. To honour you, I share the story of when we met. This is an excerpt from a larger story of my travels through Africa. The moment warms me even still…
RIP Weppie De Klerk
I blinked in the glare of near-forgotten sunshine, as I stared out at a new world. The moisture that escaped my strained eyes had more to do with a need for shade now, rather than sorrow. My home on the other side of the world approached the cold embrace of winter. Here in Africa, the spring rays drove sharp daggers into my tender eyes. Already there was a need for adjustment, for change.
A set of stairs was pushed up to the waiting airplane. This was a novel experience in itself. Back in Canada people exited the parked plane through a long tunnel that wound to the building proper, before rushing pell-mell to arrive first to the luggage carousels.
Not here though.
On this day, a flight attendant called my name before I had a chance to exit the plane.
“Katerina Krreeha, please report to the flight stewardess.”
Several summons went out in both English and Afrikaans before I realized it was me being paged on the intercom. It was my first awkward language lesson, as I had never heard my last name pronounced in anything other than a garbled Canadian version before. I finally raised my hand and the smiling attendant gathered me up. In a daze, I trailed behind the pretty woman who directed me off the plane. Once outside she stopped in front of a burly, goateed man. Not sure what to expect, I stopped too.
“Velcome!” the man fairly shouted as he scooped the carry-on bag from my arm. He wrapped me in a bear hug, before standing back to look at me.
Pure joy and vibrant life sparkled in his eyes. Apparently, he was happy to see me. His job at the airport allowed him to get me off the plane first, so I was pretty pleased to see him too.
“I’m Weppie,” he said. “Your cousin Marianne—your Uncle Jock’s oldest daughter—she is my wife.”
Before I knew it, he had whisked me through security with much laughter and pleasantries to all and sundry. It seemed he knew everyone we passed.
“How is your wife, Willem? Has she forgiven you for your bit of fun at the braai last weekend?” he laughed.
“Good to see you, Jakob! Don’t you give my friend a hard time today. She has come all the way from Canada,” he admonished. “Ja!”
The stories flowed fast and furious. I was the centre of it all and couldn’t help but feel bedazzled.
I desperately tried to keep up with the jovial banter and quick pace. Not easy, but Weppie’s open nature was infectious. With Customs cleared, we gathered my luggage and continued to chat as we walked. Despite my sleep-addled brain, it was impossible not to like him already. I nodded and squinted through bleary eyes, but was happy to be there regardless.
Before my exhausted brain could catch up, we stopped again. This time it was in front of another group of strangers. Their faces seemed somehow familiar though.
“May I have the pleasure to introduce you to your Uncle Jock,” Weppie declared as he introduced his father-in-law with a small bow.
Here was my father’s brother. Beside him stood his wife, Elsa, and beside her my father’s sister, Aunt Linn. They were the closest relatives I had on my father’s side and they were alive and finally in the flesh in front of me.
This week a woman looked me in the eyes, really stared into my soul trying to see… me. She was looking; searching for meaning, depth, story. And then she smiled.
Just as she expected, it was there. She didn’t learn my story, but she knew there was one hidden in the quiet way I returned her gaze unflinchingly.
“You are a shining star! Keep on Manifesting your Magnificence!”
Could she see the tears I’ve shed along the way? The doubt I’ve felt on my path? The waiting for life to begin? Or was it the fact that I was there at all? I stood in front of her with the words ‘Be Bold’ echoing in my head. Could she hear them? Was she saying them?
‘Dream big,’ her eyes whispered.
I was at a book launch and inspirational evening hosted by TOAST! London. They invite visionaries to speak and share their stories of how they beat the odds, struggle against life and its challenges, and thrive, supporting their communities along the way. The woman who shook my hand was one of the authors in the book; a trailblazer in her own right. And she recognized something in me that spoke to her.
Do it. Take the step. Push yourself. Don’t be afraid. You will thrive. I have faith in you. Shed your insecurities and have faith in you too.
Time has a way of ebbing and flowing. Every time I think I am one step closer to ‘making it’, a stumbling block humbles me all over again. Thus it goes in the writing world. I shouldn’t be surprised.
I cannot complain though. Life has been busy with more than just work and having those extra hours to devote to family plans and emergencies is one of the reasons why I have stayed with the job of Freelance Writer. Perhaps my most recent ebb has more to do with the universe knowing I need time to process life?
It really isn’t as dire as I let myself believe at times though. While one client scales back, another is ready to ramp things up in the new year. And while a client is parting ways with the founders of her company, they both look forward to new projects and have asked for my help and insight along the way. That kind of sounds like more work overall, if I think about it that way.
In the interim, I am given the temporary gift of time. As a writer, that leaves me vulnerable to too many time-sucking distractions; ie. Facebook, Twitter, the endless stream of memes on cats and the US election. Ack! It’s a hazard of the job though, when I need to wade through it to fulfil my mandate of content curation for clients. And I still have some who like all my treehugger posts!
I just have to remember my internal pep talk on the days that I falter. You know the drill. I should be writing. I should be editing my novel. I shouldn’t be looking for ways to eliminate grass-stains from my kids jeans, but Oh! I could share the hack to reduce my plastic dependence on a client’s page! Head down. Move On!
It’s hard not to get sucked in, but what I really think I need to do is stop worrying so much. If I need more clients, I need to contact people who might send me in the right direction of some. If I want to write my own independent pieces, perhaps I need to spend a morning brainstorming ideas of what to write about and where to solicit those ideas to. Or perhaps I should recalculate my daily schedule and slate in some mandatory editing, instead of hoping that the hours and whims will strike me at more regular intervals.
I know all of these things, and yet I allow myself to wallow in doubt and self-pity. Take the bull by the horns Katherine! Set a schedule, pencil in a coffee date alone, and with some key contacts. Go for a walk. The fresh air and vibrant fall colours do wonders to melt away worry (and maybe an extra pound or two that dogs you for sitting in front of your computer all day). And whatever else I might do, I have to remember to give myself these occasional pep talks to keep me going.