I mentioned previously that my earliest recollection of wanting to be a writer was in high school. My aspirations, which started with poetry, were nurtured by my eleventh grade English teacher and an assignment that would forever change my life.
My English teacher had us analyze 10 poems using iambic pentameter, where we’d recognize the rhythms, as well as stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. In addition, we had to write 10 poems, and also analyze them using iambic pentameter. I absolutely loved that assignment!
While most of my 17-year old classmates groaned and complained that they couldn’t write poetry, I happily took on the challenge. In addition, one of our poems had to be an epitaph that we would like to have carved on our grave.
A morbid ask? No way! (Hey, Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare were my favorite writers even at that age.)
So, I wrote my epitaph:
“Remember me always,
How I tried and didn’t try
Remember me always
How I loved life and loved you
Remember me always”
Simplistic and to the point.
From a 17-year, I’d say rather thoughtful and honest. I remember writing that with all the people I loved in mind: my family, and friends. Even back then, I knew there were days when I didn’t do my best, and I acknowledged that. I was taught to be honest, (One of the many things I love about my parents, imparting this wisdom) and if I couldn’t be honest with myself, I was in trouble.
Anyway, my English teacher loved my poetry, particularly my epitaph. I received an “A” for the complete assignment. But most of all, I received the biggest boost in my confidence to pursue a career in writing. After majoring in English in college, I went on to write speeches, newspaper articles and now, novels. I still dabble from time to time in poetry.
Midway through my junior year in high school, shortly after my momentous poetry assignment, they fired my English teacher. My classmates and I were stunned.
I was crushed. My cheerleader was gone.
We never really knew what happened. However, we speculated that she was let go after her sexual preference was discovered. (We were 17, not stupid) After all, it was the 1970’s and people were fighting, as they are now, for their right to exist.
As for my epitaph, it hasn’t changed much. I will probably use it when the time comes. After so many decades, I’m amazed at how introspective I was as a junior in high school.
I owe that to my parents, and to Ms. Craig, my English teacher, for encouraging me to set my thoughts free.