When I am truly happy it’s a warmth that starts in my pelvis and spreads up through my sternum, but never reaches my heart. My heart does not burst with cliche happiness. It’s a much more primal emotion, and feels like someone has spread Bengay on my insides and slightly inflated me, but imagine the best possible feeling that could describe, not the torture version of inflated insides coated in Bengay. Sometimes the happiness builds enough pressure that it seeps out my eyes. I can describe this emotion today, because I am sitting here feeling it.
Why am I happy? My life is filled with extraordinary people right now, and those people have caused a confluence of extraordinary experiences over the past two days.
Yesterday I planned a team outing for the amazing people I work with. We were going out for a late lunch, partially to remember one of our colleagues who died a few years ago, and partially because we just needed to enjoy a good meal together away from the oppressive angst and uncertainty that currently permeates our workplace. We also needed to celebrate. An app 18 months in the making was finally approved by legal and went live on the Google Play store. Funding that I have been fighting to get in the door for almost a year had arrived, and was enough to pay for two of us for a year. If the looming budget cuts come, that money will save jobs.
Then my team turned the tables on me, morphing the lunch into a celebration of me, complete with a card, gifts, and a heartfelt gratitude for all I do for the team. I was emotionally wrought and working off of four hours of sleep, so the fact that I did not break out in tears was a remarkable accomplishment. Compounding the emotion was that because of Tuesday, I finally understood an additional facet of what I provide to the team.
Tuesday was my last Apocalyptic Fiction writing class, and while I never did accomplish my goal of being able to spell apocalyptic without the aid of spell check, I learned so much more.
- I saw my own struggle in other’s writings, and through reviewing their work learned how I can improve.
- I learned that I am terrible at identifying if a title is an apocalyptic novel or a death metal band.
- While reading a book I despise I learned what I value as a reader and a writer
- I learned that “bestseller” doesn’t mean “everyone likes this book.” Related, I learned that I respect and value the opinion of people who like books I hate and people who hate books I like.
- The utter terror I had sharing my work was replaced by the wonder of having people I trust not just enjoy my work, but provide thoughtful criticism on how to make that work better. I also learned the value of giving and receiving feedback to and from other writers.
- I learned that my love of maps can enhance my writing capabilities. Sigh. I love maps.
- Through reading my classmates’ work I now understand why tension is important, what it means to have backstory delivered at the right time, how to convey information by both showing and telling, how to see the structure of a story though the mess of a draft, and why a story that has soul can pull readers in even in the early stages.
All of this was made possible, because our instructor Alexander Lumans built a supportive and encouraging environment where risks and experimentation were encouraged. Couple that with a group of respectful, creative, engaged students and literal magic happened in our classroom for eight weeks. Time stopped. Worlds were built and dreams were formulated. When there wasn’t magic, there was just great conversation. We debated about the quality of the books we read and learned from our disagreements. Beverage was not spewed out noses, but there was enough laughter to make that risk very real.
When the last class was over we spilled out of our couch and chair filled stuffy classroom into the real world and discovered that we liked each other as people too, not just writers. The conversation flowed through writing, reading, television, videos, circuses, clowns, the cat in the hat, jobs, careers, and life’s injustices until the wee hours of the morning.
Walking to my car with one of my classmates I said, “I’m really glad that by the end Lumans became more than just our teacher.” Those words came back to me at lunch on Wednesday. I am wickedly horrible at self understanding, but a keen observer. Often I have to see something in others before I can recognize it in myself. Sitting at lunch I could understand how my team felt about me, and I could see ways I could make my work relationships richer through implementing what I appreciated from Lumans leadership in our class.
New friends? A better understanding of how to improve my work relationships? True excitement about my writing projects? Hope of my new friends creating a writing group? What an absolute gift the universe has given me this week in the form of two spectacular groups of people willing to open up and appreciate each other. I’m filled with joy, trust and hope. If that isn’t true happiness, I’m not sure what is.