Tucked away in a school that most alumni would rather forget is a woman to whom I owe my life. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way, but my life would be completely different if I had not met her. She believed in me like no one else ever did, showed me that I needed to have a dream and molded me into who I am today. She’s single-handedly the reason why I’ve made any decision beginning at the realization of what I want to do for the rest of my life—and, recognizing that I can (and will) achieve it. Her name is Angela Wilson.
I transferred into her class when I was a sophomore. She was small, delicate and radiated love. I knew I was quiet for the first couple of weeks, if not months—that’s something that still sticks me with me in new environments at 25. I always felt her eyes bearing down on me, and sometimes I think back on that feeling and wonder if she knew something about me that I didn’t. Or, even—because she was drawn to me for some predestined reason.
I don’t remember the first article I ever wrote for her, but I know it had to be a poorly written album review of some terrible band I found in Alternative Press. She never cared, though. Even though her written edits (always in green ink) outweighed the words in my article, she never made me feel like writing was something I couldn’t do.
After the first semester, I took her class every year until I graduated from high school. She made me Editor-in-Chief of the school’s newspaper for my last three consecutive semesters while admitting that she’d probably make someone mad by doing that. She was a mother to me, and I felt like her favorite child. When I was a teenager, I looked forward to being at school for the sole purpose of not being home. Part of me felt like her class was home.
Looking back on the rather miserable life I had at the time, she gave me the feeling of comfort. I can’t remember when was the first time I ever confided in her about my personal life, but I remember how she was never uneasy toward me like some people still can be when I recount my memories from 10 or so years ago. She loved me in a way that I had quite literally never felt. I wanted to be her. I wanted to be as strong as she was. I wanted to have the kind of impact on someone that she did on me. She became the mother who you always want to make proud with every little thing you do—I never really had that, but at 16… I was given just that.
Some people will say that I’ve not been lucky, but I am. A lot of people go throughout their entire lives without a dream or goal—without any speck of knowing what will make them happy. I had people who told me that I was pursuing an unachievable career. I had people telling me that I wasn’t good at writing, even though they could have been right and might still be. She taught me perseverance, though, and that was the most important lesson for me at the time. She taught me what it meant to make things happen for yourself because sometimes… No one else will help you.
I will never take for granted that I know what will make me happy—that I know what I want to do and will never settle until I get it. I’m beyond grateful because my heart and life are full due to her. I wouldn’t have half of what I do now if it wasn’t for a woman who still resides in the last classroom on the left in a building that for the most part makes me cringe to think about.
She has a photo of me in her classroom along with laminated copies of my writings. She told me that she tells her students about me when they say, “Life is hard,” or even when she sees someone who is becoming interested in journalism. I can’t put into words what it means to hopefully change a child’s life one day—to let someone know that what they’re dealing with isn’t their fault and that they’re so much bigger than the hand they’ve been dealt. But more importantly and simply, that dreams exist and can push you to be the person you want (or don’t want) to be.
So here’s to you, Angela. Thank you for guiding me out of that endless dark tunnel and leading me to happiness, love and fulfillment. Thank you for showing me that not only are dreams real, but that they’re obtainable and not meant to stay on a list without a slash through a handful of the most meaningful words to someone in their entire life. This publication will always be for you.