Just before my husband was about to mow the yard, my daughter picked up a bucket from the sandbox and started filling it with dandelions.
As she quickly gathered the bright yellow gems, she yelled, “I have to save my beautiful flowers!”
My daughter’s young three-year-old eyes don’t see weeds; she sees beautiful flowers.
I challenge you to try to imagine a time when you also saw the world like that.
I’ve been writing this editorial for about two and a half years now, so what I’m about to say is more painful than my words can describe.
After some long contemplation and one last piece of criticism to break my rather thin skin to begin with, I am choosing to leave my editorial spot with this fine newspaper.
For a large chunk of my life, I pursued creative writing with a deep passion, so I understand the need for constructive criticism quite well. However, I have a confession to make.
Outside of my role as a weekly editorial contributor, I am a lot of other things.
I’m a wife.
I’m a fulltime working mom of two wild toddlers, a dog and a cat.
I’m a fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade English teacher.
I’m a sister.
I’m an aunt.
I’m a daughter.
I’m a best friend.
I’m a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree.
When I’m not teaching, I’m cooking dinner.
When I’m not reading a bedtime story, I’m cleaning a litter box.
When I’m not grading papers or planning a new novel unit, I’m checking in on my nieces and nephews and playing catch up on the family group chat.
When I’m not wrestling a toddler into the bath tub, I’m squeezing in a homework assignment for the latest online graduate class I’m taking.
At some point in all that mess that is my life, I scramble to write up my weekly editorial. Honestly, more times than not, I am sitting at the foot of my daughter’s bed rubbing her back with one hand while I type my words with the other.
In the past few months, I have received notes sent to my personal home address, grocery store aisle comments, and messages on my social media with various critiques of my editorial. Whether it is a typo done out of my own exhaustion, a consequence of my procrastination, or a typo done by my phone’s messed up sense of proper grammar, a lot of folks have made it clear to me that I am under more scrutiny than I realized. Writing this editorial each week used to be a creative outlet that I sincerely enjoyed, but as of late, it has lost its appeal for me.
Unlike my daughter, folks are only seeing the weeds and not the flowers.
For those who know me, or better yet those who deal with my quirks, this is no secret, but for those that don’t know me outside of the words that appear here every Wednesday, I’m an extremely sensitive person. As my Momma has always said, “I love with all of my heart just the same as I hurt with all of it too.”
I imagine my rather thin skin is why God steered me away from a vigorous writing program at WVU and the rough pursuit of a journalism career. Somewhere along this wild journey I have taken in my twenties, God has instead placed me in the warm embrace of a classroom full of smiling, forgiving kids, neon colored couch cushions, and walls covered in brightly drawn doodles. Without a doubt, I am where I am supposed to be, and with that, it is time I bid farewell to the piece of myself that embodies this editorial spot each week.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Criticism should not be querulous and wasting, all knife and root-puller, but guiding, instructive, inspiring, a south wind, not an east wind.”
It isn’t that I feel I can’t meet the demands of the criticism I have received, but it is in this moment of my life that I don’t wish to spend my time chasing perfection through the scope of heavy criticism.
My son is turning five tomorrow, my daughter will be four in September, and honestly, the time went by so fast that I already resent myself for moments lost.
In truth, my life doesn’t provide me with the serenity I need to provide the editorial that meets the proper writing process. There were probably too many times my eyes drifted closed before I could proof the entire editorial before sending it off to be printed.
In a world where negativity is the easiest and most common road chosen, I owe it to myself and my family to step away from the public eye for now. It is not my wish to be the topic of brunch conversation about improper grammar or to be questioned on my abilities as an educator based on something not truly written at my best.
My time with York News-Times has been a blessing. I will forever be grateful for the people who have entered my life all because of one spontaneous email with an attached writing sample begging for just one chance at becoming a writer. Thank you, Melanie and Carrie, for taking that chance on me and allowing me to live my dream of writing and getting paid for it.
The criticism may seem like it is chasing me away from something I enjoy, but really, connecting back to my pal Emerson, it is inspiring me and steering me towards more time spent with the beautiful things in my life. Because really, I’m just a mom in a yard full of dandelions helping a toddler fill her bucket full of beautiful things.