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40(ish) people who mean the world to me

I am turning forty this month and along with all the humorous trappings of reaching a milestone birthday, I’ve recently been thinking a lot about people in my life who give me incredible inspiration. How lucky am I to know so many amazing, wonderful folks! How lucky they put up with me!

This summer I started reading Sean Dietrich’s blog, “Sean of the South.” He’s a witty storyteller with a rich, southern voice. Sometimes he shares letters people write to him, and in one post, he shares a letter that began, “I sincerely love you.” And I thought, that’s something I ought to say more to people in my life.

So: I decided to start a list. Forty people (or groups of people) who mean the world to me. People I sincerely love. This list isn’t conclusive. Some are people I don’t know well. Some I’ve only recently met. Some I haven’t talked to in ages. For reasons that probably make sense, I specifically omitted family members near and distant.

Here we go.

The More Things Change

If you look at something five ways, how can it seem different on the sixth?


We return to the sea again and again. This, the sixth year of spending a week in Cherry Grove, this the first year of the new normal, the post-pandemic stranglehold more or less released. Things appear different.

First, our vista: our friends’ condo at the beach’s point changed hands, and after five summers we had to search for a new place. Serendipity being the kind saint that she is, I discovered a colleague owned a place just half a mile away. We are here, oceanside.

Things are physically different. The pier on the north end of the beach is missing a ninety-foot portion of its middle. The end of the pier (or most of it) still stands, stranded in the water, planks reaching out shore-side, waving for help. This damage is almost a year old; last August, Hurricane Isaias swept across this sandy string and took the pier’s belly with it. The dunes on that side of the beach have been clawed away by angry seawater. The beach moved.

Tossing Out Mr. Hogan

Yours truly with a group of former students in 2007.

Cleaning is cathartic, but how do you throw out a profession?


For eight years, I’ve kept a half dozen copy paper boxes shut in a closet in our basement. These boxes were full of file folders that were, in turn, filled end to end with paper, thousands and thousands of pages that were the sum total of my brief career as a high school English teacher.

Pop psychologists sometimes talk about the baggage we carry around with us as we go from place to place and point to point in our lives. It makes for a nice metaphor: this notion that we are often weighed down by reminders of our previous experiences, and that cumulatively, these experiences can inhibit our way to make any kind of progress.

The good news is that the yards of copy paper in my basement never impeded my ability to leave teaching and find other work–that turned out just fine. And yet, I’ve lived with them in a sort of hidden proximity ever since I left my classroom in 2007. I cannot remember why I felt compelled to save them.

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