These are the words that make me

A friend shared a post on Facebook where a designer/illustrator offered her services to bloggers. I looked at the artist’s stuff and knew that I didn’t fit her usual style but I responded anyway. To be honest, her work didn’t fit my usual style either.

I’ve had a caricature drawn by Dan Heyman before and this suits me perfectly; I’m a larrikin.

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So when Sheryl said she’d draw me an image I didn’t know what to expect. I still don’t think our styles align but I love the picture. I’ve been sitting on it for a few days because I wanted to honour it; I wanted to write something decent that justified the effort she went to. AND… if you like her stuff you can see more on her website (http://nevertheless.com.au/) and/or Behance (https://www.behance.net/sherylyoung).

RonBarton-illustration

I still don’t know what to write but I’m going to spew out some words and hope it all makes sense in the finish…

Recently I was asked by Australian Slam Poet, Abe Nouk, to come up with 6 words that would serve as a short bio, 6 words that defined me. I came up with “Poet, Teacher, Father, Doer of Stuff”. These are the words that make me.

I am a poet. I never thought I would be. I mean, I always wanted to write but I was hoping to be the next Stephen King. I sort of fell into poetry. At uni I would scribble words on tiny notepads that could fit in your pocket and eventually I started writing pieces that could fit on one page. Aside from a few friends I would entertain with some comedic verse every now and then, my words were for me.

At some point a few years ago I was looking at submission suggestions online to see what length was expected for book length manuscripts. The site I was on had suggested word counts for novels and short story collections as well as the normal amount of poems required to fill out an anthology (60-80). With forty poems on my hard drive I was two thirds of the way into my own book of poetry – it was just the motivation I needed.

I’ve been lucky. I sent my full manuscript out to 5 publishers and one of them (Ginninderra Press) said they would produce my book. Following this I sent two new poems to Tincture Journal which were accepted and published in their first edition. I’ve been published elsewhere but I’m building a list of ‘rejected’ submissions that keeps me grounded.

I’m a teacher too. I love my job. It’s the career path I decided upon when I was fifteen and there have been no regrets at any stage. It’s funny, when I told my year coordinator that I wanted to become a teacher she said it would never happen. I’m now a Level 3 Classroom Teacher, Associate Dean (2nd in charge of my department) and have almost 11 years of experience behind me. Who saw that coming?

Every year has brought new challenges. I’m not going to shy away from the hard times and say that it’s all been easy. It hasn’t. In 2009 the stress of the job caused me physical pain; I would double over with severe stomach cramps. I was working myself into a hole, taking on more than I should have. As I said before though, I have no regrets – that year taught me a lot about my own boundaries.

Regardless, the best thing about the job is the kids. People who are concerned about the future because they don’t trust/like the current generation of youth are clearly influenced by the media’s bias. I’m constantly amazed by what my students have been through and what they are able to produce. I know I’m making a difference too. I was invited to an ex-student’s wedding recently and her mum was telling me how concerned she was about ensuring that I would be at a table where I could have intelligent conversations. Her mum also told me that my angry voice (punctuated by a short, sharp yell of “GUYS!) was incredibly intimidating. It was amazing to think that our teacher-student relationship wasn’t smooth sailing and yet I still had enough of an influence to justify being invited to her wedding. I did feel a bit weird being there but I couldn’t help but be touched by the invite and consideration that went into ensuring I had a good time.

Most important to me, though, is that I’m a father. I won’t spend many words on it here. I don’t do well with emotions (which seems ironic coming from a poet) so I’ll just skim the surface. I don’t like being away from my family where it’s avoidable. My wife is amazing and she’s gifted me two fantastic children. My daughter is top of her class, even though she can’t throw over arm. My son is into everything I like – Ninja Turtles, superheroes, Lego. And I got to name them too! I had each of their names in my head since I was in high school but what I couldn’t imagine is how great they would be. They frustrate the hell out of me sometimes but they know I love them.

Finally, I’m a doer of stuff. I’ve successfully run two TEDx events and two writers’ festivals. I’ve just finished a season of basketball and signed up for a season of Aussie Rules. When my mates need a hand around the house, I’m there. I like to think of myself as reliable and I do what I can to maintain that reputation.

So that’s me in a ‘little’ more than 6 words. Poet, teacher, father, doer of stuff – these are the words that make me.

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