14 Flavors of My Life (The Impact of Educators)

Before I was obsessed with fuzzy socks, there was a time when I was obsessed with ice cream. As a kid, it made my world go ‘round. Which could be why I used ice cream to frame the biggest project of my 7th grade year. It was entitled, “14 Flavors of my Life” and was a collection of 14 poems, narratives and letters that captured who I was at twelve-years-old.

The other day, my parents were doing a little spring cleaning and stumbled on the project. Remember friends, I completed this project before camera phones and back when we didn’t have Canva to make all our documents design-minded. So with printed photos, scissors, glue and copious amounts of colored pencil embellishments, I pulled together a tome full of memories, major moments, and future aspirations.

class project

My History & Sweet Nostalgia

Looking through 14 Flavors of my Life I laughed and cried.

I belly laughed when I read through the dramatic narrative of my first jump off the high dive at the Shawnee Swim Club the summer between 6th and 7th grade. I cried reading my account of my grandfather’s cancer, how it had come back, and how I was fearful I might have to know this world without him. After I got through the emotions of reading through this historical and nostalgic work, I reflected on the assignment itself and what it did for me as a person.

Do you realize those were the first 14 blogs I ever wrote? Short little snippets of who I am, what I do, and why it matters to me? And do you know who I have to thank, Ms. Matthews.

I can still remember Ms. Matthews and see her in my mind’s eye as I write this. Funny, I have no idea what her first name is because, well, she is Ms. Matthews.

I recall her being fun, enthusiastic and artsy. There was a piece of art in her class that said, “love is a series of scars” and I spent much of my 7th grade year trying to understand what that even meant. I get it now.

When I Fell in Love with Writing

Many people make statements like, “Oh, I’ve always loved ____.” For me, I’d complete the sentence with, “I’ve always loved writing.” However, after reading this project I realize that isn’t true. I can see where 7th grade is when I fell in love with writing.

I know this because of the nurturing and encouraging feedback I see written on the pages of my project. Reading her comments still energizes me and makes me think – I really can do this.

Ms. Matthews praised my revisions and how much stronger they made my writing, teaching me to receive and grow through constructive criticism. Reading those comments I smiled realizing that I showed her I could take her words and make my writing better. To this day, I love how iterative writing is! Get something down. Walk away. Come back. Tweak, adjust, reconsider – write.

She applauded a deep and thoughtful conclusion to a narrative about the double edged sword of growing up. Her feedback validated my introspective thoughts and affirmed how writing is a way to connect people through emotions and ideas. I could make others feel something by how I painted with words! Reading her feedback I can feel my 7th grade self swelling with excitement that my writing did that. This project doesn’t feel so long ago because the feelings have remained.

Ms. Matthews also affirmed how blessed my Grandfather was to have a granddaughter who loved him so deeply – affirming it is okay to show up as my authentic self and share the depths of my emotions, fears, and struggles. He passed away soon after I turned in that assignment. This project is a precious look into my young mind on the cusp of grief.

Who is your Ms. Matthews?

I was given the gift of “I believe in you” by Ms.Matthews.

I’ve loved writing ever since and it has only grown over the years. From writing in journals to blogs and now as I aspire to become a published author.

I’m curious who has impacted you in this way? Who held up a mirror and allowed you to see yourself in a way that you had never considered before. Who told you “yes you can” when the world made you feel like you simply couldn’t? It is worth taking time to reflect and savor the way another person impacted you.

The realization of Ms. Matthews’ impact prompted me to track her down and reconnect. It had been every bit of 20 years since we last spoke! I sent her an email and shared a heartfelt thanks that pointed out how pivotal her encouragement was, all those years ago. It was so special to receive her email back! Within her response she also shared that she remembered another project I had worked on that centered on ice cream – ha! I’m glad I could tell her of her impact – it felt important that she knew.

I hope that once you identify your Ms. Matthews you will let that educator know of their impact, too. There’s no way being an educator is easy and I imagine the impact isn’t always identifiable. In my case, it took me over 20 years to realize what transpired in her classroom. Reach out, express gratitude, and affirm their impact. They may have no idea about the way they blessed you – let them know.

What do you think? (leave a comment!)