I always look forward to my Gotham Writer’s Workshop instructor’s feedback. I have been checking email for the past few days hoping to get his input. At long last, it arrived today. His review was very favorable. I notice how my ego likes that! He said I did a good job of ‘showing’ (versus ‘telling’) with the friend’s reactions. He wanted to know more about Chris. He thought it would be better if I told the story in the present tense, versus as a flashback.
Last week’s lecture was about fiction. Our writing prompt was two begin writing a story that opens with the line: Chris was starting to question the wisdom of this trip. The focus is on a single journey on a single day. Below is my story…
Chris was starting to question the wisdom of this trip. That was her head talking. It had always spoken the loudest. She’d built a successful career as a business consultant with the guidance of that voice, the voice that pointed her in the logical and safe direction.
She remembered that bitterly cold day when she’d first told her friends about her plans. The three of them had gone to lunch at the pub down the street from the office. She’d felt small under the weight of her black coat, but she’d released her fearful thoughts into the wind and stood up straight as they entered through the old oak door. She wasn’t sure why she needed courage to share her decision to go.
After they’d settled into a table near the fireplace, she was the first to speak so she wouldn’t change her mind about telling them. “There’s an opening for a team lead at Teach the Children. There’s a summer program where a group of volunteers go to impoverished villages in Africa to teach. If I get accepted, I’ll take a 6-month sabbatical from work.”
“What?” Susie exclaimed. Her voice seemed to sing in an even higher octave as she went on, “You can’t be serious! Why in the world would you want to do that?”
The bar tender looked over. The dog in the corner raised his head from the worn red carpet and glanced their way. The regulars kept at their conversation, but the stillness of their bodies said they had tuned in, too.
The warmth of the fire gently hugged Chris, and feeling supported, she responded, “Yes, I’m serious. I am going for an interview.”
She held her conviction, took a few deep breaths, and continued. “I know it’s not rational, especially with all of the changes happening at GlobalCom. I’ve worried about whether I’d have a job to come back to.” She closed her eyes to the images that flickered into view of her life crumbling around her and fought to keep her mind out of the conversation.
She kept the volume turned up on the soft, kind whispers that led her toward something meaningful. “But, I feel like I’m being called. I’m driving to Chicago tomorrow to meet with the Teach the Children Director. I have to take this chance.”
She’d spoken her truth, and with it everything felt lighter. Jennifer looked at her and smiled softly. Even Susie seemed pulled from her concert of energy and sat quietly as Chris went on.
“I want to make a difference in the world. Helping GlobalCom create a more connected world is a fine cause. It just no longer feels like my cause.”
The more she shared, the greater her sense of peace. The usual lunch time clamor in the pub had turned to a tranquil harmony.
“The other day my mom reminded me that I wanted to be a teacher when I was a kid. I think we must have an intuition as children. There’s something about helping people learn and become their best selves that makes me feel alive. I’ve realized that I am a teacher at heart.”
Susie was unusually still, and Jennifer seemed to see deep into her. Chris reached for one of Jennifer’s beautiful hands resting gently on the table. Then, she motioned with her other hand an invitation to Susie. For the longest time, the three of them sat there in a quiet celebration of Chris’ opening to the gentle pull of her heart calling.