Most of the time I try not to think that I could’ve died a few months ago – that cancer could’ve drug and drowned me six feet under. I have too much and too many people to live for – my son, husband, mom – and all my other family and friends. One of my 11th grade students told me yesterday that she wished I was with her all year because it’s been a tough one. When I jokingly said, “Sorry kid, but I had cancer and had to take care of business,” another girl in the class asked how I could say it so casually because she would’ve sobbed. I explained to her that it was how I survived through my owns cells trying to kill me – by not wallowing in the condition and setting my determined gaze toward the future.
But once in a while, I think of the unfinished things of my life I would’ve left behind. My husband and I have hundreds of photos we’ve printed in stacks that have never made it to a photo album. I have five chapters of a YA novel written but my protagonist sits idle since I have not made time to go back and write her next steps. There are spools of yarn that haven’t been twisted and looped into hats or blankets somewhere in our bedroom closet. In the closet in our son’s room, we have countless wedding souvenirs which never found a place in our house. There is a white plastic crate of my favorite novelty coffee cups (still dirty) sitting in our dining room that have not made it to my classroom. Six graduate level English credits sit on my transcript from the local university toward a doctorate degree. I have a document with a budget breakdown for a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina to enjoy the beach in my files.
This list, however, is not a reminder of what I would’ve left behind but, instead, is a road map of where to go from here. I’m going to pull out the stacks of pictures and place them in leather bound photo albums. My protagonist in the novel will shake off cobwebs as I write her next steps word by word. When the leaves change color again, I will twist and loop teal yarn into a baby blanket for a friend. Today, I will buy a shadowbox to hang in our hallway as a place to display our wedding souvenirs. In the fall, all the coffee cups with cats and old coffee stains will make their way to my classroom. My hope is that in the next few years that I will take more classes to teach community college English and make use of my post master’s degree credits. In July, my son and I will sink our toes into the warm North Carolina sand by the sea and watch my husband setup our sun umbrella and beach towels.
I have so much more to life to live. This is just the beginning.