In claiming myself as a writer, I pay tribute to Mrs Bligh. She taught me in Grades 1 and 2 in the ‘Country Infant Room’ of Antonio Park State School, a 1960s breeze block building: modernist, modest and functional. Yet within this utilitarian shell, this extraordinary teacher encouraged me to write, to read and to love learning. Somehow she also fostered in all of us, and I’m not sure how she did this, the capacity to think broadly, laterally, and with imagination. Perhaps it was in our classroom conversations which ranged widely over all kinds of topics, and where every class member felt heard.
For Mrs Bligh, I wrote ballads and poems with torturous vocabulary and even more torturous rhyme schemes. She appreciated them, not with lavish praise, but with the kind of warmth that has the ring of truth. She pinned them to the caneite board at the back of the classroom with brass thumbtacks–the kind with a star on the base. My first publications.
Since then writing has been an active part of my life. I have written essays, a PhD thesis, newsletters, magazine articles, academic articles, edited all kinds of bits and pieces. I have held titles such as technical writer and communications coordinator. I have filled my shelves with books on the craft and art of writing. Yet I have never truly honoured writing as my ‘real thing’. I’ve often lingered on the threshold of commitment but I’ve never actually worn the ring. Yet, without a doubt, writing is my unclaimed first love, neglected for rather too many years. Over the past couple of years, it’s as though we found each other again and I’ve realised how much we mean to each other; how writing sustains me, supports me, allows me to explore all kinds of territory, and lets me grow. Yes, I’m nervous after leaving it for so long, but I’m now declaring publicly that I write. That I’m a writer.
As I pick up this neglected part of my own life and make my own commitment to love, honour and cherish it, I have been pondering the importance of discovering and claiming unlived aspects of our selves; the wishes, dreams, hopes or wild possibilities we cherished as children or kept hidden for years or even decades in some undeclared place. I believe we need to honour them, perhaps not as a vocational commitment but with at least a little love. I spoke recently with a former student, who will graduate from her law degree in a couple of weeks. She has dreamed of being a lawyer since childhood and cherished that dream through the twists and turns of an extraordinary and challenging life. Now at an age when many people are counting the years to retirement, she yearns to become no ordinary lawyer, but a force for peace in the world. We both declared that it is never too late to begin, and that we need to allow ourselves to love and commit to whatever is calling us. This is not just self-indulgence or following our ‘bliss’ but the way that we can contribute our main thing, the reason we’re here, the way that we can assist evolution, not just our own growth, but the development of the broader human project.