If not for George and his authoritative voice, I might be a teacher of ESL (English as a Second Language) today instead of a writer. I was more than halfway there. I’d completed all my theoretical classes at Seattle University and most of my practical coursework at their affiliate in Ballard.
I was also well on my way to becoming a published author. I’d earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and I’d had a few short stories published.
Now that I was home after a couple of decades accompanying my husband overseas without a work visa of my own, I felt I should have a real job. I liked to write, but writing wasn’t … you know … a real job.
I was conflicted.
One afternoon I mentioned my situation to George. My husband, Eugene, and I were in Issaquah having a drink with George and his wife in their lovely apartment. Afterward we would have dinner at George’s favorite local restaurant, Shanghai Garden. The chef would come to our table and ask if we wanted something that wasn’t on the menu, and George would suggest a special Dungeness crab dish.
George hadn’t lived in Issaquah long, but he already had friends in both high and low places. Making friends and contacts was a natural trait for him and also a habit developed during his early years as a reporter for the South China Morning Post and then as editor for the Asia Magazine.
Giving his scotch a swirl, George turned to me and asked about my writing.
“My writing?” I paused to sip my rum and coke—an indecisive drink if ever there was one … a depressant poured into a stimulant. “I’m thinking of getting a job as an ESL teacher,” I said.
He cocked his head and narrowed his eyes. And somehow his one sentence response became a turning point for me.
Why? What gave him such an authoritative voice in my personal decision?
Maybe it was the persuasive timber of his voice. George had been a print journalist, but he had a voice that could have made him just as successful on TV.
It was more than his tone of voice though. His absolute confidence gave him power. George never used words and phrases like “maybe” or “kind of” or “I guess.” He had a way with words, a journalist’s knack for convincing his audience that he knew exactly what he was talking about and that what he had to say was worth listening to.
So when George placed his scotch on the coffee table and paused dramatically before telling me what he thought, his comment was bound to make a deep impression. “Nicki,” he said in his most authoritative voice. “Anyone can be an ESL teacher.” Though I didn’t believe for a minute that just anyone can be a successful ESL teacher, I knew what he meant. He thought I should devote myself to writing.
And George’s words made all the difference. He had an authoritative voice. And besides … those words were exactly what I wanted to hear.