What I Wish I Knew Then

Sometimes I feel like one of the luckiest people on Earth.  I was born into a stable family with great parents and three terrific older brothers. I married a great lady, and we have an adult son who is making his mark in the world.  We’re proud of the man he has become. My career as an elementary teacher was rewarding, and I’m filled with pride as I watch many of my former students doing extraordinary things.

One of the things I’ve noticed about myself is that I tend to be more philosophical as I get older.  Maybe that’s a symptom of having more time on my hands.  It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m any smarter, but I do find myself thinking about some of the lessons I’ve learned.

If I could have one do-over in life, it would be my high school years.  After a happy childhood, we moved cross-country to California when I was starting high school.  Maybe it was the combination of being at an awkward age, moving to a new place, and not having the self-confidence to embrace new challenges at the time, but those years weren’t a particularly happy time.  I wasn’t depressed, but I wasn’t joyful either.

High school was cliquish, and for a guy who didn’t fit in any of the groups, I found that I kept to myself more and didn’t have a lot of close friendships. 

Around the time I turned eighteen, I made a thoughtful decision to expand my horizons and to get out of my comfort zone.  No more playing it safe and always resorting to only familiar and comfortable things. 

I found my true self during college.  I tried new things with enthusiasm and put forth the best version of myself.  Not every unique experience turned out the way I hoped it would, but I was no longer living in fear.  Those feelings of empowerment made me feel better about myself, and people accepted me for me.

I went from a scared teenager to a confident adult—someone who could stand in front of a group of people and command their attention with an outgoing and fearless persona.  Don’t get me wrong—I still am fearful in many situations, but I’ve learned that we feel best about ourselves when we embrace new challenges.

Why am I thinking about this today? Perhaps it’s because I’ve just accomplished one of my goals—the completion of the first draft of a middle-grade chapter book. 

While I was teaching, one of my favorite things to do during a typical school day was to read to my students.  Each day I got to be a performer and act out the voices of the authors’ characters.  I could be brash, silly, humble, mean, or any other characteristic that I imagined the author intended.  It was a rush to hook the kids into the plots and the characters.  I always tried to leave them begging for more.  “Don’t stop!  Keep reading!”  Those phrases were music to my ears.

When I was teaching, I made a decision that I was going to try and write a children’s book to recapture that feeling.  Having taught many ages, I decided to target those children I was most familiar with—middle grades.  After first writing a combination memoir/advice book for new teachers, I decided the time was right.  I went to a writer’s conference, found a critique group, and I’m going for it.  What started as a vision of 30,000 words became 50,000 when I finished the first draft.

I’m a realist—maybe this will never come to fruition, but I’m proud of myself for having the courage to go for it. Now I’ve moved into the rewriting and editing phases, and there’s still a ton of work ahead.  While I self-published my first book, I’m inclined to try and go the traditional publishing route this time.  I know—much longer odds and a lot more time to make it happen. (But hey, I’m retired.)  If it doesn’t happen, at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I didn’t stand on the sidelines, and I gave myself a chance.  Perhaps this will be too preachy for some, but my advice as a sixty-year-old to that scared teenager is, “Don’t let fear hold you back.”

33 thoughts on “What I Wish I Knew Then

  1. I’m with you on high school. I too was quiet, not any of what I really thought came out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 19, 2019 — 7:34 pm

      Look at you now! I think the important thing is to look at our own growth rather than how we stack up against others.

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  2. Very nice Pete

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    1. petespringerauthor December 19, 2019 — 7:39 pm

      Thanks, Norma. I hope your birthday was great. I still organize a monthly luncheon for all the retirees. I hope you let me know the next time you’re coming into town. So many good folks from way back in the day—Carol, Adrianne, Lindy, Joan, Linda, among others

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  3. Congrats, Pete; that’s a great accomplishment!

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    1. petespringerauthor December 19, 2019 — 9:40 pm

      Thanks, Becky. Very early in the process, but I’m trying to follow my heart.

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  4. Very interesting, Pete. I have always been a loner too and someone who doesn’t worry overly about what other people think. I always liked different things to my peer group. I read odd books like Helter Skelter, I am David and the complete collection of Charles Herman Bosman. I listed to my mother’s Broadway records and say songs from Mame, My Fair Lady and Caberat. I still do. This song is very appropriate for what you have said here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHMUvAplW3s

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    1. petespringerauthor December 19, 2019 — 9:50 pm

      Ah, thanks so much for the Cabaret soundtrack. I made it to New York City once, and there is nothing quite like a Broadway musical.

      That time was just a rather short period in my life. People who have known me since I became an adult would never know this about me. There’ nothing wrong with marching to your own drummer; I’d say it’s a strong mark in anyone’s character when they aren’t easily influenced by other people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have noticed with my own children, Pete, that the teenage years are a time when you really want to be accepted by your peers. I think most of us put our own inner selves aside during these years and conform to the ideas of our peer group. Lucky people like us get past this and find ourselves again a bit later in our lives.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor December 20, 2019 — 8:28 am

        I noticed one common characteristic of all the students I taught—to feel safe and connected. Friends are a big part of that equation. Whenever I had a new student come in the middle of the year, I’d always look for a “playground pal” to show them around and give him/her a sense of belonging.

        For me, that feeling never goes away. Sharing experiences and feelings with friends keep us connected, and I never want to lose that.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Go for it Pete, you’ve nothing to lose, plus I’m sure it’ll be great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 20, 2019 — 8:37 am

      Thanks, Sheree. Always looking for the next challenge.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fantastic, Pete. I’m heading off to work (18F…brrrrrr) and will comment later. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 20, 2019 — 8:41 am

      You too, Steve. Your nippy weather makes me think of our son, who now lives in Montana. He’s flying into Medford, OR, on Sunday (about four hours to the north), and I’m looking forward to the drive home with him. It will be good to spend some quality father/son time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A father/son bond is terrific. So is a father/ daughter but each is different. A long drive with your son is a wonderful holiday gift. Enjoy!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Great blog, Peter!
    It is my favorite one so far, and I think one of your best!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 20, 2019 — 8:46 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Ann This must be a wonderfully special time for you and Tom, watching your kids sharing magical moments with their kids.

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  8. congrats on the new book – what an amazing accomplishment! and by the way, your early years sound a lot like mine. I did not like my high school years, but the college years were wonderful…

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    1. petespringerauthor December 22, 2019 — 7:16 pm

      Thank you, Jim. I find it ironic that I decided to become a teacher when I didn’t like school that much until college. You’ve blogged about some of your students in the past. My guess is that you are as invested as I am in the future of our students.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I always liked school; I just didn’t like the social side of it in high school. and the students are certainly the best part of my job as a teacher!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellent post Pete and I can honestly say that my school years passed in a blur.. we moved round so much that I was hitting my 7th at 14. This meant that you held back from making friends as you were going to be leaving them behind every two years. In those days without email, letters soon fizzled out. It did teach me to be independent and to stand on my own two feet but I do regret that I left so many behind. You have given your students a wonderful gift of stories that they will remember long into adulthood. Congratulations on the book, and I am sure that it will be fantastic. And when you do approach publishers you have a track record with your first book and its reviews, which will be very helpful when they are considering your manuscript so submit a print copy with it. Merry Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 23, 2019 — 3:56 pm

      It must have been hard to start over so many times in new schools, Sally. Each one of us has our own journey; I suppose that’s what makes life so interesting. You’re so right about how technology has changed the world in so many ways. I used to have my students write a letter to a family member or friend during the school year. Many had never written one before nor knew how to go about writing one. How sad is that?

      Thanks for all of your wisdom and advice. Believe me—I’m paying attention.

      My best to you and your family.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Pete See you in the New Year…have an amazing holidays.. hugs

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I suspect high school is cliquish around America–maybe not round the world, but likely here. Mine were (just three-and without parents in the military). College is the coming out time. Perhaps it has something to do with brain development along with breaking free of those cliques in high school (for new ones?)

    I applaud your courage on trying the traditional. I gave up early on that–took too long to get the first book done and being a memoir from a non-celebrity not likely a winner in the agent wars. I guess if a best seller magically comes along they’ll come find me. LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 24, 2019 — 4:28 pm

      Thank you, John. I’m making this up as I go—nothing set in stone. I would eventually like to see my book in print, but realistically I’ll be happy selling a few copies. It’s more about finishing a process and learning along the way.

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      1. You got it, Pete! 😎

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Way to go, Pete! Congratulations on finishing your middle grade book. Isn’t it great to look back on life and reflect on what we learned! Awesome post! BTW, Kate DiCamillo received over 400 rejection letters before her book was accepted – and it won the Newbery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 30, 2019 — 8:59 am

      Thanks for the encouraging words, Jennie. I’ve read so many stories like Kate’s. It really is a testament to her belief in herself. I still consider this a new hobby, and I’m enjoying the process. Everyone in my critique group is a better writer than me, but I don’t compare myself to them. What I do know is I’m better at this than I was a year ago, and that in itself provides satisfaction.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I need to join a writing group. My “editor” is the writer for BookPages, the library publication. She is the only one who agreed with me, that the opening paragraph on my book was terrible. Then she proceeded to edit and edit. It was wonderful!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor December 30, 2019 — 10:20 am

        I’m so glad to hear that you are writing a book; you have years of wisdom that deserves to be shared. Oops! I’m assuming that your book would be about being a preschool teacher, and perhaps your writing about something entirely different.

        While I worked hard and devoted many hours to my first book, I look back now and cringe at some of the language and overuse of adverbs. It was written from the heart, though, and I know we are our own worst critics.

        I’m like a sponge with my critique group, and I learn something new each time we meet. I tried another group one week, but it had a whole different feel. My group is supportive but honest; I’m glad they offer excellent constructive criticism.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks, Pete! The book I wrote is actually a picture book. The fewer the words, the more difficult the writing. I’m working on picture book #2. I just emailed you a few thoughts. I haven’t yet written a book on the wisdom of teaching (that might be a good title!), although I’ve pitched my blog stories reformatted as a book. No bites – I may tackle it as a total rewrite when I retire. It’s on the back burner.

        Editing is the hardest part. Support and honesty are the best two things for a writer. I’ll keep you abreast of what happens. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. petespringerauthor December 30, 2019 — 2:40 pm

        My bad! I just wrote to you before reading this. I’m glad that you are thinking about this. Your stories as a preschool teacher are fabulous. The skillful way that you teach your students is incredible. As a lifelong educator, I think you should continue to pursue that angle if it interests you. I know what you mean about picture books. People assume they must be easy until they try one.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thanks so much, Pete. I will continue this. Promise! Your words and encouragement are much appreciated. Picture books are the hardest of all to write, therefore the most selective. That makes me smile at the challenge. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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