Parrish’s Pearls of Wisdom

Parrish’s Pearls of Wisdom

If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it. – Toni Morrison

I’ve always been a sentimental schmuck, which can also be categorized as a mild hoarder. When I was a little kid, there was always at least one shoebox full of special items stored away under my bed. A vending machine ring from an elementary school crush. A worn piece of wide ruled paper folded up into a fortune teller. A plastic whale I was too old to use as a bath toy, but too young to fully get rid of yet. Stuff like that.

Flash forward to college, and I found myself immersed in a world of highly creative people. I went to a land grant school with a heavy emphasis on agriculture and technology, and English majors were certainly in the minority. It took a few years, but I made friends with like minded people in a smoky, banged up bar on Hillsborough Street. One of them, a wild eyed grunge rocker turned poet, advised me to keep all these artifacts from my life.

“Keep notes! Keep playbills! Scan things! Throw them all in a notebook, and one day flip through it all. You never know what will inspire you.”

So I did. I carefully filled thick binders with notes, papers, essays – anything I deemed important from friendships or education or my writing career so far. I placed the documents in page protectors, and moved the boxes of binders with me halfway across the country twice. I kept moving them, but rarely looked in them. My life was busy with Pinterest, work, ponies and friends. I forgot the things I decided were worth saving. As I became habitual in the non-creative life of my adulthood, I forgot the reason they inspired me in the first place.


When I moved forward with the process of selling my house, I went over to pick up some things from the now vacant building and noticed a box of notebooks and binders on my kitchen counter. We had moved my archives to the attic, and I had forgotten them entirely. It was the home inspector who found them all and brought them down for me. Weeks later when I started the task of cleaning the miscellaneous junk off my kitchen table, I opened the binders.

I rolled my eyes at the inflated, pretentious poetry that 18 year old me wrote. I smiled at the tattered edges of a screenplay, written in blue ink with bubble letter headers and ripped out of a notebook. Then I found the letter my favorite teacher ever, Mr. Parrish, wrote our graduating class – and I sobbed (although let’s be honest… I cry at the drop of a hat these days).

He had written us six pages of advice and thanks, mixed with both his own and his favorite poems. Though no one has made a movie about Mr. Parrish, he was every bit as influential to my teenage years as the protagonist from Dead Poet’s Society or any other famous movie about teachers. Reading the words on the letter took me back to an easier time and the warm comfort of knowing that I was safe to branch out in the world while still under the umbrella of my family and home.

I wanted to share part of the letter, Parrish’s Pearls of Wisdom, with y’all today. Maybe they bring you back to your favorite teacher, or maybe they will serve as a good reminder for today.

  • Stay true to yourself; always believe in what you know is right, and practice that which is right even if others do not agree.
  • Take time to ponder the beauty and wonder of nature – she gives precious gifts every moment of everyday.
  • Close your car windows and sing to the top of your lungs a Dave Matthews Band song – even if it is off key.
  • Take a walk in the rain. Not only is it refreshing, it is just a strange thing to do!
  • Read. Read. Read. You have been given the gift of thinking, so exercise the thinking process by reading!
  • Let people know what they mean to you. Often we don’t take the time to thank people for the impact that they have made in our lives.
  • Take the time to teach a child something new; teaching someone something is the greatest gift that you can give that person.
  • Allow yourself time to vacation in your mind! Some of the best vacations I have ever taken have been in my imagination!
  • Plant a tree, so you can watch it grow.
  • Feed the ducks at a pond. They are appreciative of this slight effort!
  • Go to an open field, lie on your back, and watch the sky and the stars. It is a humbling experience!
  • Read a Robert Frost poem in the midst of a snowstorm (or an ice storm 🙂 )


Though the posts of this blog aren’t contained in a notebook, what I write here still consists of an archive of things I deem important. Writing and maintaining this site has helped me start crawling back to the creative life I always planned for myself. If you have a pearl of wisdom you’d like to add to this list, please share it in the comments. You never know who will find it in another ten years, and how it may help them.

Thank you Mr. Parrish, for encouraging my idealistic (bad) poetry and igniting my love of writing back then. Thank you for leaving a lasting impression and some words to help me find my way now.

17 thoughts on “Parrish’s Pearls of Wisdom

  1. But most importantly, thanks Mr. Parrish for always turning a blind eye to the fact that we came in the day every single paper was due looking like we had been writing it all night. Because we had.

  2. Smile warmly at people. You never know what they are going thru and sometimes that may be the only kind or good thing that happens to them today.

  3. i love it – and have tons of old journals and scrapbooks and year-end notebooks with messages from teachers and classmates too. i don’t look through any of them very often any more, but maybe it’s time to take another little peek 😉

  4. Speaking on behalf of all teachers, thank you for acknowledging his role in your life. We truly try to give our students the skills they’ll need to be successful in life. We also hope that they grow up to be great thinkers. Mr. Parrish would be proud. :0)

  5. I have a scrapbook of Charles’s and my first year together. Every receipt, photo, movie stub, ridiculous thing you can imagine, is contained in it. In middle school and high school I kept my sketchbooks with a world of favorite quotes and phrases that have followed me across an ocean and 3 states. They have permanent residence on our bookshelves. I’ve posted some of those old drawings on the blog. I think it’s wonderful that you’ve saved everything that you did! It definitely makes for an epic trip down memory lane when you go back to read.

    One of my favorite quotes is “Vivir con miedo es como vivir a medias.” “A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.” It’s from the movie Strictly Ballroom and yes, it is in one of my own notebooks. 🙂

  6. Do not spend your wealth paying the debts of others.
    Rowan Seymour, my own high school teacher who inspired me years later when I was ready to hear his words. I tried once to send him a note of gratitude but could not locate him easily…and I did not want to appear stalker-ish. But I would have loved him to know.

  7. I think we had the same english teacher! Well, if he turned into a 5’2″ woman keeping a room full of 15 & 17 year olds who know EVERYTHING in line, LOL. What an awesome find (& don’t feel like the only hoarder, LOL, I have boxes full of notes from friends in classes in grade school, playbills, movie stubs, & countless other bits of random stashed here & at my mother’s house in my old room still, heh).

  8. I’ve been feeling introspective myself lately and I find that my mind wanders to what is most important. The older I get, the more responsibilities I have and the more things weigh on me; I’m constantly having to make choices, like who I’m going to spend my time with and what I’m going to spend my time on. It’s never an easy answer, but it’s worth thinking about making conscious, intentional choices I think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.