I went to a large high school in Orlando. It was so large that a new one was eventually built and there was rezoning and students had to switch so that there could be some relief. They called that school Freedom.
As an introvert in a school already filled to capacity, I tended to keep to myself and had a small group of friends. Otherwise, I mainly blended in to the background. Though, I am sure a lot of people feel that way looking back at their high school years.
I maintained good grades and eventually enrolled in honors classes and Advanced Placement English. It was in the the latter class where I felt the freest creatively, and felt my potential seen and encouraged for the first time.
My teacher was an extremely creative type that seemed almost restless in his traditional job. He would tell us about the time he spent living on a boat, and would wear Led Zeppelin shirts underneath his blazers. He also incorporated film in our studies as much as possible, and was the first person I heard mention the rule of thirds (a concept in film and photography that discusses the most aesthetic way to compose an image). As you can imagine, all of the students enjoyed his class immensely.
Once, he assigned us an essay and I wrote about sauteing onions and garlic. I wish that I could recall the topic of the assignment, whether it was to write about our favorite pastime or something else similar, but I remember that I spent a paragraph or two writing about the sound in the pan, the smell in the kitchen. I received such positive feedback on that paper, that it has shaped who I am as a writer today. Mr. G. praised the paper out loud to the class, and in the margins wrote about the passion that came through in my words. He encouraged me to hold on to it.
As we neared graduation, Mr. G. had all of us write down a list of 30 goals we wanted to accomplish in life. He checked them off and had us hold them in the pockets of our graduation gowns. I’m sure that I wrote all sorts of things, such as travelling or working some creative job or promising to practice yoga (I was really into yoga at the end of high school), but one thing that I remember distinctly is writing about how I wanted to learn more about Judaism and my Jewish background. A little over a year later, in college, I met a group of three Israeli students and several other Jewish American students and professors. I found myself having shabbat dinners with them many Friday nights, joining a Jewish club at school, and at the very end of this phase in my life, in the Holy City of Jerusalem itself. Life is funny like that sometimes. I can’t help but think of Mr. G. when I think back on those memories.
In his class I read The Awakening, watched clips from the films Garden State and The Hours (a movie based on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway). These were stories of everyday people, many of them women, and I appreciated reading about life through their eyes. Fictitious as they were, art is not created in a vacuum (as one of my college English professors was so fond of saying later on).
It’s that time again — I’m off to begin cooking dinner. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading!