Mrs. Tirro, you should write a memoir.
In all my years of teaching dance and theatre at Spring Valley High School (home of the Tigers), I have heard a lot of “Tirro, you should…” statements. They are usually some reflection of a vision someone has of something they think I can do, or what they’d like to see me make happen. Often, after some consideration, I put the “you should” statement into a mental lock box of ideas that, while I am appreciative of the thought, is just something that I don’t think I can make happen for one reason or another.
Over the years, I have met a lot of people. I have made a lot of connections, envisioned and created a TON of performing arts projects, and developed some crazy ideas. I am not afraid to act on a crazy idea if I have some sense that I can figure out a direction. Sometimes, it’s my students that help jump start me in that direction.
The fact that many of my students are a captive audience is not lost on me. It is one reason why I love being a teacher. I love telling stories about lessons I have learned, and imparting “sage advice” to my students. The fact that high school is a revolving door of new audiences is not lost on me, and so I have gotten a lot of practice with pulling out a bevy of stories to match almost any situation. It’s fun to witness the light bulb over their heads turning on after I reveal some “brilliant” tidbit that creates a momentary epiphany in their adolescent fog. One day, somewhere in 2016, after one of my many conversations with my beautiful student Melissa (a star of a human being) who always seemed to be appreciative of my thought-shares, said to me…
Mrs. Tirro, you should write a memoir.
At first, the thought seemed cra-zy. How was I going to fill a book with coherent thoughts that flow from one page to the next? My life has been interesting to me, but is it really fascinating to other people outside of my little bubble? Even if there are, would the telling of said stories really be “book-worthy?” I nearly locked the thought in the box, but thankfully, I reconsidered.
Despite the doubts, I opened my laptop and started writing. Even if it was just for myself, I wanted to get the stories down somewhere so I wouldn’t forget in my “older adult” fog. The more stories you have, the less room in your brain to contain them.
I kept writing, on and off, for about 4 years. I’d go into manic periods where the words kept pouring out, and then I’d put it down for months at a time to recharge and let more life happen. I dusted off old show programs and remembered long-almost-forgotten events in the layers of life experience. I thought about where I came from, where I’d been, who helped me along the way, and tried to put the timeline of my life together in a coherent and entertaining way. Then at some point, I read it all through and thought, “wow, there’s a book right here on my computer. And I wrote it.”
Dances With Tigers was born.
Now, I’m in the process of seeking literary representation and publishers. I’m a COMPLETE novice, so the process is confusing and bumpy and I am relying heavily on the experience, advice and good will of friends who are willing to help. It is scary and exciting, all at once. It’s a different kind of leap, but if feels similar to so many others that I have written about in the book. In preparing the manuscript, it felt wonderful to go back and read about the people I have come to love and admire over the years. I knew who they were as kids, having spent meaningful time together, and I am still a presence in many of their lives after their transition into adulthood.
As move through my last decade of teaching, I am looking at what door will open next. I believe Dances With Tigers is the key to unlock the door to take my next steps. I am writing these thoughts in this public forum to put my goals out into the ether, because often, when you make a request out loud, the universe tends to answer. I have great appreciation for the opportunities I’ve had and the people with whom I’ve crossed paths. Now, it’s time to share what I’ve learned in the process.