It’s time for another Insecure Writers’ Support Group post, that time every month when a widespread group of awesome writers share their fears, struggles, and occasional triumphs.
I’d been wracking my brain for something to post about this month, some wisdom to share. Of course there was no shortage of things to be insecure about, but what fun is that?
As I sat there, staring at a blank screen, I kept getting distracted. You see, one of my first groups of international students had held a combination Vietnamese New Year/Chinese New Year/birthday party celebration tonight, and they’d invited me and my partner to join them. I was so touched and honoured to be included. Nguyen and her husband made dish after dish of wonderful, traditional Vietnamese food, and it always makes me so happy to be reunited with my students and see how well they’re doing. Together we represented India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Vietnam, China, the Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia (by way of the Philippines–it’s a long story).
If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d become a teacher, I wouldn’t have believed you. It wasn’t on my radar until I started teaching workshops to writers at conferences. I was surprised by how much fun it was, and by the positive feedback I received. Although I’d risked everything, remortgaging my home and leaving my corporate job to go full time as an author, I was also terrified of failing and having to return to an office. So, after many sleepless nights, fretting about bankruptcy and homelessness, I decided to ask around and see if local schools would hire me to teach here. I never could have guessed how much this would change my life.
When I wrote the initial IWSG post about risking it all for writing, a member commented that her friend did the same, and ended up finding a completely unexpected path that brought her happiness. I never thought that would happen to me–not in a million years. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still committed to writing and dream of six-figure book deals and global tours. But teaching has enriched my life more than I ever could have predicted.
I was teaching creative writing and online marketing classes when asked to hold preparatory courses for a class of new arrivals from China. Talk about insecure! What did I know about teaching international students? What could I possibly offer them? I didn’t have English as an Additional Language certification, or any experience with this kind of teaching. But the college believed in me (or perhaps they were just desperate), and before I knew it, I was in charge of nine students from China. By the time the summer ended, it was my responsibility to make sure they were prepared for Canadian university and the workplace.
It wasn’t easy at first. We had different ideas about punctuality, interrupting other students, and paying attention in general. Over time, I developed a ton of empathy, respect, and admiration for my students–even the difficult ones. Teaching isn’t easy, especially if you care. I’m not gonna lie; it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. You’re always performing, there’s usually someone testing you, and by the end of the class, you have nothing left. It makes it challenging to write several thousand words on your work-in-progress, that’s for sure. But when isn’t that challenging?
When that program came to an end and I had to say goodbye, I bawled like a baby. I mostly held it together until I saw one of my best students had tears in his eyes–then I lost it. Those students will always mean the world to me.
Now I prefer to teach international students. I’m so excited to hear about their experiences, their cultures and traditions, where they come from and where they hope to go. They are the bravest, kindest, most open-hearted people I know. The fact that they’ve accepted me as not only their teacher, but also their friend, makes me more grateful than this writer can adequately express. I may be the one standing at the front of the class, but I always learn just as much–or more–from them.
We can never predict where life will take us, and sometimes that’s a good thing. It may cause insecurity, but in so many ways, it’s also a gift.
Sending love to all of my students–past, present, and future. Thank you for the gift you’ve given me.
Has something unexpected–something that arose from insecurity–ever ended up being a gift?
The purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.