The Story of Moi

In my last post, I referred to a pop-up book I had created at the beginning of a graduate school course.  At the time I was pulling a 180 in my career path—after a few years in Finance, various signs pointed me in the direction of teaching, so I quit my consulting job outright to become a full-time student again and earn my masters in Secondary Education to teach English.  The actual book I made for the project is an ocean away in storage, so I can’t include photos here of my lame attempt at the craft, but I did scrounge up the brief reflection I’d written for it and thought I’d share it here since my mind is on it, and I’m still grateful for the perspective it reinforced within me:

As a child, I adored Munro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand for Robert Lawson’s lovely ink sketchings of Ferdinand, the bull who did not like to romp and fight, but, rather, sit under his favorite cork tree and smell the flowers.  As an adult discontent in my former Finance career, I randomly recalled this book a couple years ago and consequently became aware of how much the corporate bull-fight in which I was participating ran contrary to my nature.  My resultant epiphany prompted by this simple picture book centered on the realization that books have always been my way of smelling the flowers whenever the world seems artificial and harried.

The literature I read has the capacity to provide emotional, spiritual, and intellectual stimulation (denoted in my project as a heart, cross, and brain, respectively), as well as contributes countless other aesthetics that enrich my daily life such that I am better able to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.  Among the flowers blooming within [my project’s] pages are:  keys to understanding new knowledge or ideas, keys that open doors to other ways of thinking or to various corridors within my soul; airplanes that transport me to imaginative, enchanting lands and experiences when the everyday becomes mundane or challenging; the music of poetic, figurative expression as issues of life are harmonized (or made dissonant) in the sounds and rhythms of words; telescopes that foster awareness as I am enabled to see distant worlds and plights beyond my own backyard; and mirrors that force me to confront who I am and muse in self-reflection.

The multi-faceted impact that reading continues to have upon me is perhaps as infinite as the varieties of flora, rendering a library a virtual garden.  Just as Ferdinand left the bustle of Madrid to reside once again beneath his tree, so I left my job to pursue a teaching career that would let me read as much as I always wished I could (and then some!) and try to inspire the same passion in others.  Thus, The Story of Ferdinand has become that of my own.

And since then, I’d devote the last day of each school year with a read-aloud of this book (yes, to an audience of teenagers), leaving my students with the message to not go against their grain in life—“Find your way of smelling the flowers, and be very happy.

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About thefallenmonkey

Primate that dapples in writing when not picking others' fleas or flinging its own poop. View all posts by thefallenmonkey

7 responses to “The Story of Moi

  • Lua

    This was such an inspirational post!
    As a child my favorite book was the Little Prince. I remember reading it every night and then as I grow up and started writing stories, people kept telling me that I should “stop drawing hats and get evolved with serious stuff” 🙂 So I studied law and everyone was happy- except for me. I constantly felt like I was going against my nature, my way of smelling the flowers was writing and as long as I practiced law I knew I could never be truly happy. Back then all my teachers told me to write as a ‘hobby’ and go be a lawyer but my mother encouraged me to follow my dream.
    Your students are very VERY lucky to have such a teacher who reads them the story of Ferdinand, teaches them to follow their heart and be happy from an early age 🙂

    • thefallenmonkey

      “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”

      …my favorite quotation from Little Prince 🙂

      And speaking of hearts, you have warmed mine with your kind words–thank you so much! Kudos to you for pursuing what you love, and do not regret the time you did spend studying law–not because it was a practical thing to do like everyone said, but because I’m convinced every experience we have, all the knowledge we accrue, comes to us for a reason. I’m relieved to be able to look back now and see how my business degree and experience has influenced me, either in showing me what I did not want (which is arguably as important as discovering what you do) or giving me skills and perspective that I can transfer in unexpected ways to my more meaningful pursuits. Another book that greatly inspired my decision to shift gears: The Alchemist.

      It’s wonderful that at least your mother could also see in you what you dream for yourself and has rightfully encouraged you. With your passion and talent, I don’t doubt you’ll be a great success in whatever way you define the word, not others 🙂

  • Eva

    Thank you! This is such a great post – and strikes such a chord with me. After doing the “sensible” thing for over 13 years – getting a job right after A-Levels, studying next to work, leaving no breaks between very intense jobs in advertising, since February for the first time I am “out there” to really follow my dream. While always being encouraged to work hard to earn money to get security, I now have blown those virtues out the window for now and give it a try with writing (and coaching writers), the only thing that always made me feel good and proud no-matter-what. Great to see there are people like you out there who as well make a big jump and go after their dream.

    As you, Monkey (hope you don’t mind this but I don’t know how-else to call you ;)), I wouldn’t regret my detours as they all made me the person that I am now, strong enough to walk through the hard times and believe into my writing. Fortunately I have a very supportive husband and friends (who are far away unfortunately, as I have moved) but there’s still so many people I encounter which look at you like you’re crazy thinking you could actually make a career in writing. Maybe it is. But how will we know if we never try?

    And Lua – I can only chime in admiring your courage taking the bull by the horns already now. When I was your age (don’t want to be patronizing with this, it’s just a decade ago, so I thought it’s ok to say it ;)) I would have never dared to dream about doing this. You deserve all the luck you can have with this adventure.

    • thefallenmonkey

      Oh, I am loving the empathy! For as much as I was able to reconcile those life choices within myself, there is still seriously such comfort in knowing others understand first-hand. I have to echo your sentiments, Eva, toward Lua and her pursuits at this stage–while I’m grateful that I found my way into teaching by my late 20s and am now finally indulging in writing in my early 30s, I can’t help but envy those that have it all figured out earlier than I did. It took me a while to learn how to stray from the straight and narrow path I’d charted (I found a journal I kept when I was younger, and I was already talking about getting my MBA when I was 13! I had programmed myself!) and gratefully realized that I wouldn’t burst into flame or become destitute in doing so 🙂 Indeed, we never know until we try, so here’s to giving it all we have, ladies!

  • Agatha82

    Aw….I loved this post. How inspiring and I do know the story of Ferdinand, and well, being a Taurus myself, you can imagine how much I relate to it 🙂

  • Nancy

    I shall say, having taught beside you, you truly do inspire those around you. I saw it in the kids and I experienced it myself. Your keen observations and ability to really see into things is wonderful. A favorite novel of mine (even after teaching it for countless years) is To Kill a Mockingbird, and at the end I always have to read the final scene out loud to the class. It’s where Scout escorts Boo home and for the first time sees the neighborhood from his perspective. I cry (unashamedly) every time. You do the same thing. You take something and show me a new perspective. I am grateful.

    • thefallenmonkey

      My heart is melting more with every comment! The film of TKaM was on recently, and, as it never fails, I cried during the courtroom scene when the people in the balcony stand for Atticus. I am with you on that book being a favorite; loved teaching it, and it only gets better with every read. I am far too humbled by your compliment that I could offer new perspective in that way; wow, I’m just relieved that I didn’t totally derail your classes! You had it so together, and your students connected with you so well that it was tremendous pressure for Annie and I to walk around in your and Becky’s shoes! (speaking of To Kill a Mockingbird ;)) I have you to thank for being an influence on my teaching, so I was only as good as my GHS mentors.

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