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As the year winds down, I am wondering what the new year will bring. More than anything, I am reminded that as much as each of us has a story to tell, there is much that we can do to shape what those stories might be.

Do you remember the movie Dead Poet’s Society? Robin Williams was an English teacher at some Ivy League prep school, and he was working hard to show the young men in his class that literature and poetry were as essential to life as math and science. I used it when I was teaching American Literature because the quotes from Walt Whitman made it easy to do so, but really, I liked the message that it was giving to my students more than anything. Here is one of my favorite quotes:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

I have carried this with me since I taught this way back in 1995. I think it can be hard to lose sight of what our intentions might be no matter what we are doing . I think we get caught up in achievements we can write on paper, but often it’s the unlistable things that more clearly shape the song or story we are capable of creating for ourselves.

She listens to me, laughter punctuates every conversation, she wrote from her heart, she tried to start a conversation, he stayed longer than he needed to at the hospital, she stopped by every night on her way home after work, I didn’t ask them to, but they shoveled my driveway, he held the door, she made me stop and listen to a funny joke, he caught me in an attack hug, every year she sent a birthday card, long after others stopped asking, she kept checking in. Thank you.

I admit I have been humbled by two simple words.

Thank you.

I don’t get a ton of comments nor a whirlwind of press for my writing, but out of nowhere, I will get a random message.

Thank you for giving voice to my thoughts. Thank you for what you do.

How wild! How crazy! I think because it feels so selfish, this writing thing. And then I am gifted with Thank You, and I know that all I can do is continue because it is part of my verse.

I am reminding myself of this because as I celebrate turning 44 and look to 2013, I feel untethered in a way that I am not yet comfortable with. I want to make it a year of writing and wellness, but the lack of definable employment beyond the occasional shift at the bookstore makes me nervous. At this stage in the game, I would think I could be well over the identity struggle as it pertains to a nameable job, but I am not.

I do have a choice in this narrative, my song. So while I may not be sure of the words, I am working toward really believing that this next verse is as essential as those that I have contributed so far.