I part took in an exercise from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way*. This exercise required me to dig through my memory bank and find people who may have seen something in me that I didn’t, those who encouraged my interests or natural aptitude. In short – I had to find those people who backed me with whole confidence.
The beauty of this exercise is that we can quickly realise that these people have helped us beyond the time we’ve known them. Their confidence in us has actually laid a permanent place in our lifelong development of not only giving us a wider view on life, but on being a better person. And it always comes from their kindness.
The added benefit of this is that during lowly times, when our confidence is knocked, when we’re looking for some respite from negative thoughts, we can turn to these old champions in our minds to inspire us again.
The ultimate champion – Ms. Jill Barker
In this exercise I cited my Year 12 English teacher, Jill Barker. English had never been my strength in school (I’m sure you can pick out errors in the way that I blog). The final year of high school saw a tremendous upswing in grades only because I gave extra attention to it.
I did away with being intimidated and overwhelmed and tackled text in ways I never had before. It meant less indulging in TV and music and more time dedicated to reading all the prescibed novels across the Summer ahead of the school year. It meant being curious and participating in class discussions where I had to swallow my pride and be prepared to be wrong.
What I found were potent universal themes in the books we studied. One in particular, David Malouf’s Fly Away Peter, beautifully embraced the theme of mortality – a topic I’ve always been fixated on since the passing of my father as a child. And there was Ms. Barker guiding our young minds through it all with all her grace, intelligence and positive reinforcement.
Yes, I had to show up and do the work. This was coupled with her flawless manner. Her teaching was gentle, yet effective. She didn’t have to yell to command respect in the class room. She wasn’t patronising. I think what was most important is that she treated us like women instead of girls. You wanted to be a good student of hers. You wanted to do your best. The feeling in every class was always warm and supportive. The result? Top grades for all.
At the end of the school year Ms. Barker wrote a poem – a line dedicated to each student.
“I love Faustina to the ends of her every curl…”
To this day, this has been the kindest words ever said to me.
The year long experience still sits on my bones. And the lessons learnt in that class room still act like a slow release or a late bloom – purposefully designed to only be understood as we grow older and embrace the enormity of life.
I have no doubt that I’ll keep being taught these lessons, these epiphanies from that time til the day I breathe my last breath.
These old champions of self worth, they’re real treasures to hold onto.
*I’m down for borrowing books over purchasing them. We pay for them with our taxes.