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From the mind of mom: Onward bound

Once upon a time, there lived a little girl on Fourth Street.

(To date her, it was a fully paved Fourth Street with utilities not in need of replacing. Alternatively: a Fourth Street that led to a Park Plaza retaining a smattering of businesses. Eckerd, anyone?)

To that little girl, words were magic.

In later life, she would recall with fondness those formative years, her hours spent folding “Berenstain Bear” books together into chapter stories. She’d remember, heart squeezing, storytime in the classroom suites of North Rowan Elementary. “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” “Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great,” “Superfudge” — the greats.

There were no pictures but, oh, there were words and magic and a craft of cadence she could only dream to one day try and recreate.

It was a vision that grew as she moved away from Judy Bloom and onto Charlotte Bronte, Mary Shelley and Dylan Thomas. Craftsmen and craftswomen. Artists. Commanders of language.

Easy idols for a girl with no voice.

You see, all her life — my life — I’ve struggled with social anxiety. The fear of the unknown, of rejection, judgment or ire. My ventures around the Rowan-Salisbury school system reflected that.

“Johnny, you’ll be working with Andie today.”

“Who?”

Voice rarely exercised unless absolutely necessary, I accepted my status as chameleon, ever to fade into the background…

And then. And then.

Then came a years-long journey out of the background as bosses discovered a craft I’d been honing in pastime for over a decade. Write this. Prepare that. Speak here. Lead there.

And while the background proved a mighty temptress when I suffered a layoff in 2015, my passion for language called louder and sang sweeter.

I’m so glad I listened, as listening would two years later lead me to the Salisbury Post. Home, for a little girl just down the road on Fourth Street.

In two and a half years, first as an intern and later, as a staff member, I have laughed with you, cried with you, held you to task on your shortcomings (whether welcome or otherwise) and celebrated your accomplishments.

I have worked, at times, to give a voice to the voiceless, and I have treasured every minute of it.

But today, I start a new chapter in my lifelong venture of, eh-hem, voice development.

Goodbye, Salisbury Post. Hello, North Rowan Middle School. Meet your newest seventh-grade teacher, Mrs. Foley, who is ready and waiting to teach you something great. Something *magic.*

It all starts with a word. A thought. An opinion. A pen to a page. A finger to a key.

It’s a romantic ideal, but it nonetheless rings true: words can offer healing, refuge and escape. They can change the world, and so can you.

I’ll see you in class.

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