Dear Mrs Role Model,
Isn’t it amazing how you have been so significant in my life when I was just a fleeting presence in yours? Every night, you must go home from work, mark homework, stress and strain over current pupils, look after your family, watch TV, play piano. I see no reason why should ever need to think of me again. But that’s the funny thing. I think about you all the time.
I think about how you were so strong and sassy and well…different. Not in a bad way, not at all. Every other teacher who taught me my “ta”s from my “te-te”s were just how you expected a teacher to be, the image engrained into our brains by years of frumpily-dressed primary school teachers. Don’t get me wrong, they were all lovely and I can’t imagine my life having never known them. But they didn’t sparkle like you. I moved on and now, when looking back, all I think is “yes, she was nice.” But you shone like they didn’t. You came across as being in love with your job. You weren’t just some person who dreamt of performing and then settled into a teaching position out of convenience, the kind of person I supposed I would become before I met you. You had style, you spoke with unbridled enthusiasm about Beethoven, you listened to me like a friend, you joined in with my bitching sessions when I was having a hard time with troubled friendships, sometimes you even asked for my advice like I was an equal.
When in the depths of my depression I realised I wouldn’t ever be able to make it as a singer and I gave up all ambition, believing myself to be talentless, undeserving of good fortune and generally nothing special, it was my memory of you I turned to for hope and guidance. Your radiance lit up the dark tunnel that seemed to be my life.
You didn’t care what people thought of you, you got stupidly excited about silly things, you choreographed dance routines on the spot, you travelled the world and went to festivals with your family. I went to your home, adorned in family snapshots, gig tickets, colourful mementos and trinkets, and all I could think was how wonderful it must be to be you, to have lived and loved, learned and helped others to learn.
Thank you, Mrs Role Model, for helping me realise there is more to life than perfection – there’s love, there’s adventure, there’s satisfaction from inspiring others. I keep seeing you in my dreams and I start to tell you all this, but then I awake and you disappear. But my admiration for you will never end like these disheartening dreams. You gave me the directions to the path which I’m now travelling, called me back when I headed in the wrong direction trying to live in someone else’s shadow. You taught me so much, both inside and outside the classroom.
I often listen to Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and remember that concert we went to together, and the way your little girl made you buy chips for me then wouldn’t let go of me when I needed to go home. I’m listening to it now. I hear the opening chords of the Allegretto and I feel overwhelmed, because they remind me so much of all these unsaid words. Maybe I’ll share them with you some time. Maybe this week, maybe in a couple of months, maybe next year. And do you want to know why?
You are everything I hope to ever be.
With eternal admiration and respect,