LPTrendsAuthors & Getting It Done: Kathryn Mattingly. Doing the best we can with our immediate circumstances is a little like shooting arrows in the dark sometimes. You have no idea where they will land, but you hope occasionally one will hit dead center in the core of what you need most.
I shot an arrow like that recently. The kind that hits it mark right when you least expect it, right when you aren’t even listening anymore to hear it connect with anything at all. You’re just trying to make ends meet. Forget about goals and dreams recently shattered by an economic land mine that destroyed once thriving careers.
Rising from the rubble, I have built a tutoring business. Wondering how it is that I returned to where I started in education, I am just happy to have the ability and expertise in a grim job market.
Not past the shock of this reality, I recently obtained a student from South Korea spending 2 months here with grandparents.
As her tutor, my job was to be sure Ashley stayed on top her game in English skills. Her grandparents do not speak English and Ashley attends International school in South Korea, where only English is acceptable. What better way to maintain a language than with creative writing? I threw in some grammar, vocabulary and reading comprehension, but mainly – we wrote stories!
Signed up for a different camp each week, our little student created batches of brain goo and sculpted owls from clay. Not surprisingly amidst the hands-on fun, she found an English tutor tedious at first. During week 1 she asked me every ten minutes if I was leaving yet. Sometime during week 2 Ashley stopped watching the clock. Now fully engaged in story writing I asked, “Why?” With a big smile and twinkling eyes she quipped, “This doesn’t seem much like work. It’s fun!”
By the end of week 3 Ashley was greeting me at the door instead of grandmother having to fetch her from dark recesses of the house. Week 4, Ashley was meeting me at the end of the sidewalk when I pulled up. Week 5 she walked me out to my car and waved shamelessly as I drove away. This was now our ritual.
During my time with Ashley I came to know her as incredibly bright and diversely gifted in a look-out-world kind of way. During the course of our 8 weeks together she managed to capture a solo part in her theater workshop and performed for Good Day Sacramento. ‘Were you nervous?” I asked. “Oh, no,” she shrugged, “I’m used to piano solos.”
I learned a lot about South Korea through her creative writing. Ashley learned that she loves to tell stories about her homeland. At some point I realized how tutoring giggling little girls is just as rewarding and inspiring as lecturing a classroom of cocky college kids.
I will never forget her grandmother bowing to me at the door each session, while I deposited my shoes on the porch. Or the Asian tray of dark ornate mahogany she served my drink on every single time, no matter how much I protested. Ashley wouldn’t translate. She’d just look at me with those bright eyes and say, “It’s tradition in Korea to honor your guests with a beverage. Grandmother is stubborn about tradition. Just drink it!” Then she would shoot me that bewitching smile.
Her mother was flying in from South Korea the day of our final session. They were headed to NY for an east coast cultural experience before returning to their homeland. Ashley gave me gifts brought from Korea and I gave her a personal journal to write about NY. It caught us both by surprise when emotions overcame our gift exchange. We vowed to stay in touch via email and letter writing. I could barely see through my tears driving away.
Despite the distance between our homelands and cultures, an arrow shot in the dark had made its mark – connecting us for a precious instant of understanding that love and communication is not bound by any continent.
Had the economy not been the demise of my well paying position, I would never have met Ashley. This realization is just scratching the surface of why I have no regrets about needing to recreate myself these days. It’s been a hell of a ride, and despite a few moments of complete and utter panic, I wouldn’t trade a day of it to have my old job back.
Life is about shooting arrows in the dark and hoping a few will hit their mark, occasionally surprising us because we thought we were aiming for something entirely different.
More of my writing can be found here, as I write for the magazine, edit for us globally, and am a book division partner of Possibility Media.