Dear Mrs Miller,
I just wanted to thank you for the two inspirational years I spent in your class.
Thank you for showing me how to appreciate words and nature and truth and beauty. Thank you for always being so sure of yourself; what a security that was when I felt so insecure myself. Thank you for being a strong woman and a role model. I don’t know if you know the depth of the impact you had on me, or whether that was even your intention. But I like to think it was.
I sought out, as many teenagers accused of thinking too much do, the value and the wisdom in your words, even the ones your threw away offhand. I sought answers in the passion that shone from your eyes as you read to us. I wanted to see the truth you saw in those pages.
A moment that will always stick with me was when you looked up halfway through reading us a love poem (Barrett-Browning, I believe), you paused and said “When a man asks you to marry him, girls, the question to ask yourself is not ‘does he love me?’ The question to ask is ‘is that enough?’” Your gaze returned to the page and you continued so seamlessly I later questioned whether the interruption had even occurred.
But I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. It resonated with me and is still a question I ask myself on a regular basis, not just in love but as a measure for my life. I think all any of us really want is to be able to look back and feel that it was enough; it satisfied. We want to feel that we can be content. Was I happy enough? Did I love enough? And was I loved enough in return? It shouldn’t be too much to ask for satisfaction and contentment, should it?
Sometimes I think that I get too anxious about making a success of myself, of making life ‘enough’ for me. I can get so caught up in wanting to get my one chance ‘right’ and then, of course, I spend all my time worrying about it and not enjoying it. You always spoke so passionately about the way literature could express the beauty of the world and the importance of appreciating the present for what it is.
I imagine if I told you about my anxiety you’d react now as you always used to when we told you our trivial, angst-ridden problems. You’d quote Keats’ ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’ and tell me to make time to stare at the sky.
You were right, of course. And so was Keats.
Beauty is truth and truth, beauty.
And that really is all I need to know.