Memoir / Essays: In search of myself

Elvira Fernandez

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Teaching was and is still considered a noble profession which not many would take up as a first choice voluntarily. I look back and I feel proud to say that I come from a family of educators. What could be more natural than my slipping into the role even before realizing it? Over the years I have come to accept that though teaching is a fulfilling experience, it can at times be the most thankless and underpaid service. Many a times, what you do is taken for granted and even criticized viciously. If you work diligently with the desire to achieve the best then you can add to the already bubbling cauldron- peer jealousy and rivalry. Now, you have the perfect recipe for stress and other stress-related disorders. 
The earlier you step into this field the faster is the chance of a burnout. With no promotions in sight, a feeling of saturation begins to set in and you feel you’re stuck on a plateau, because you’ve seen all there is to see and you can now only go round in a circle. Although learning continues for the simple reason that you constantly come in touch with the youth, but as an individual you feel ‘caught up’ in one place. 
I was lucky that before I reached that stage of saturation, an opportunity to branch out presented itself. I grabbed it with both hands, and staying ‘rooted’ to the place, I started reaching out to the alumni of the institution. Soon, with the help of two of my colleagues, I was able to start building up an Alumni body, investing in it thoughts, ideas, efforts and much more. The venture grew and flourished, bringing in much appreciation and of course criticism too, initially. With the passing of nine years, many of the old critics got transformed into allies and a whole set of new ones were born. I can’t stop laughing whenever I think of this. Each time we would learn from a previous experience and apply the lesson to a new event, the next set of problems would show up, to teach us more lessons. When I took up this mammoth task, I was told by a few committee members that this Alumni Body wouldn’t last long, they quoted the earlier examples. I thanked them for their support and persevered over the years. I learnt that perseverance and determination can get you through the worst of times. A deep faith in the Almighty Father cannot be negated from the list of essentials. 
I remember one of the Alumni meets; as the date for the event drew nearer, I could sleep only three to four hours a day. I, along with two of my colleagues was struggling with things, having no support from the authorities. I had innumerable calls, emails and messages to reply to each day, apart from taking classes, planning tests, conducting and marking them. To add a cherry to the cake, I came down with viral fever and had two relapses. When I look back, I’ve no idea how we managed to get through those trying times. By the grace of God, the event was a huge success. The Alumni bid goodbye with effusive praises. The words of appreciation in spite of all the obstacles soothed the pain and suffering. It boosted our confidence in loyal friends and good team work.
With one peak scaled and new records set, what was next? 
Since I had joined the institution, students would approach me with requests for various kinds of written materials like – essays, debates, scripts for plays, prayers, etc. One colleague in particular, a well-wisher, who watched the steady stream of students walking to and fro suggested that I should compile all these works so that in the future I could publish them. Each time he suggested it I would laugh away the idea saying where was the time to think about publishing books as I already had a lot on my plate. 
But, time changed, and much changed with time. I came face to face with a not-so- pleasant phase professionally. Around the same time a friend began working on a series of English textbooks. He requested me to help him out with a colossal project of planning and penning a series of English textbooks. We would discuss, and I would put down in ink certain stories and poems as per the requirement of the blueprint. After reading a few pieces, he insisted that I should think about putting my pen to paper seriously. He said that I had the imagination, creativity and flair for it. You bet, I didn’t take him seriously either, to begin with. Then I wrote a very descriptive piece intending a collection of short stories. When I shared it with him, he suggested that I should create a protagonist and have the story revolve around him or her. Feeling inspired, I deliberated over a number of options. Gradually the idea took root and blossomed into ‘Magic at Ferns and Blooms’. By the time I showed him what I had done, I had penned sixteen chapters of the twenty-one-chapter long fantasy novel. He was aghast! Till date I remember that moment of intense surprise! I seized the opportunity of asking him to be the Editor. I shared with him my plan of penning a trilogy; he liked it. I wished to have coloured illustrations in my books and thus began my search for an illustrator. God intervened once again and guided me to the person, perfect for the task. Three of us, together as a team, brought out a series of three books – The Ferns and Blooms Trilogy (Magic at Ferns and Blooms, More Magic at Ferns and Blooms & Goodbye Ferns and Blooms) in a span of three years. 
Success always follows earnest preparation. I remember how hours were invested in discussing plots, possible solutions to dilemmas, edits and the resultant pictorial representation through illustrations. 
During these years of misfortune, my efforts multiplied, as I desired to bring out the best in me. Since I had been buried like a seed, I had only one option to germinate like one, to rise stronger and brighter than before. I was determined that I was definitely going to answer the setback with a clamorous comeback. And I did!
‘If you can dream it, you can do it’. Life taught me that however bad the situation maybe, things could surely get worst, after which they would without a doubt get better. Every struggle helps to draw the best out from deep within us. Hence, the ingredients for success according to me are: inspiration, desire to dream, dedication, perseverance, good friends, hard work, willingness to experiment, acceptance of failure, desire to try again and openness to constructive criticism.  
Today, from where I stand I know...

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

Bio: Elvira Fernandez is an English Lecturer and an avid reader of all kinds of literature, but Children’s Literature, Fantasy and Romance top her list. She is an Indian author who loves to write for children. She has written short stories, plays, poems, content for some academic books and e-zines, apart from doing some editing assignments. She has won several awards – including the first prize for her English essay in a competition organized by AINACS in 2019 and the Editor’s Choice Certificate for her story in the AILC 2020 organized by the Creative Post.
Her love for Nature, children and her pets find expression in her writings, especially in the Ferns and Blooms Trilogy, a fantasy series. The first two books of which have been recognized as an Enchanting Series of Books by Nissim Prize for Fiction 2020. 

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