It has been ten years, but I will never forget the winter break and subsequent semester of January to May 2009. For one thing, it was that December, when I finished student teaching, that all my plans relating to becoming a teacher went up in flames. My supervisor and I did not connect, it was an overwhelming experience in terms of work, and it was the first time in a long time that I really felt incompetent. My students were never the issue; far from it. I looked forward to helping them as much as I could on a daily basis. But how could I help them when I was waging an internal battle with myself about whether or not I was good enough for the privileged job of being a teacher? Yes, I believe that any job that allows you to change young minds is a privilege. By the time I finished the semester, I was exhausted, depressed, and would be sick with a nasty throat infection a week later, just in time to spend my trip to Puerto Rico with my family in my old childhood bedroom while my father scrambled to get me food that I wanted to eat in my diseased state. One of the good things that comes with spending a lot of time in bed is thinking. And after reflection, I decided that I at the very least, had to take a break from teaching and at most, had to look for a whole new career.
With my family’s blessing, I took the semester off. After years of planning gone down the drain, I was not sure if I could be trusted to know what was best anymore. But this time off would transform my future as I knew it.
By February 20, 2009, I had accomplished two things: I had applied and been accepted to Youngstown State University to explore a minor in anthropology (the TV show Bones had inspired me). That minor would turn into a two-year BA, since YSU accepted all my credits as transfers. And that February of 2009 would mark the beginning of research and writing for my debut novel, Lifeforce. My writing had begun in fifth grade. After a rather unsuccessful attempt at a first novel, I had given up on writing. I had taken it back up again in 10th grade, as a challenge from my sister. But I focused Harry Potter fanfiction. I found that while I had no problems fabricating plots, I would have more trouble creating my own characters and my own alternate reality. So the research and writing began in earnest that February of 2009. Now, 10 years later, February 12, 2019 marks the release of that novel And although it, looks nothing like the first drafts, I am happy with how it turned out.
Ten years later, now finished with my first semester of law school (where I swore I would never go, gasp!), I have a much better idea of where I want to go as an author and as a future lawyer, an ambassador for adolescents who do not quite know where they fit in, and an advocate for fair and informed healthcare policy. As my mentor once told me: “Life happens when we’re busy making other plans.” It does get better, if you embrace the bumpy ride.
Born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Annette Rodriguez was labeled the “come libros” or “book eater” in Spanish. Today, she proudly leads a balanced life, and lives for the day when her writing becomes a message to the world, not only an outlet for personal expression.
Annette encourages you to contribute to Strayhaven Animal Shelter. She supports Strayhaven because she has been an animal rescuer since a little girl Annette invites others to be the voice for those creatures who have none. Visit strayhavenanimalshelter.com.