Last September, while staying at a cabin in Tahoe, I received an email with an incredible opportunity to build and teach a new Editing and Publishing course for the professional writing concentration at William Jessup University. I wrote back immediately.
“Yes, of course!”
I mean, who would turn down a chance to teach an almost-upper-division-level English course their first semester out of grad school? Plus, Professor Bailey had a nice ring to it. That yes marked the beginning of an almost eight-month commitment to first build this course and then deliver it.
After the initial adrenaline high, I started to panic. What was I thinking? I can’t work full-time AND teach two courses. When will I sleep? When will I eat? (At the time, I was also committed to teaching Strategies for Success, a five-week course for WJU’s adult degree completion program. Miraculously, my supervisor relieved me from that commitment when we both realized I was in way over my head.) There were a thousand and one times when I almost bailed. I drafted up lots of emails with the verdict, and then deleted them again.
This spring, there was a lot going on both externally and internally for me, and it felt like my heart and mind were dashing to catch up with my feet, as well as the cyclical Monday through Friday rhythm of a work week. Sundays slipped into Saturdays. Sunrises slipped into dusk. So many nights, I wanted to sit and stare into space—whether that was the night sky or my bedroom ceiling—and just process and breathe and allow my body feel what was swirling around inside of it. But there just wasn’t time. One evening, I journaled about this into my notes app:
“I don’t have enough time. I wish I had two lifetimes to explore all the opportunities that come my way. A whole day to have a conversation, or to even process a conversation. To listen to a podcast, to read a book, to deepen friendships, to walk for miles without anywhere to go. To pray and actually have the time to hear God’s voice. To be able to make an omelet in the morning. To let my breath catch up with my schedule.”
Scripture describes this holy fight with time, where we wrestle against our human limitations in the now/not yet tension between the kingdom now and the kingdom as it will be one day. It was in this season of doing everything but sleeping, when I discovered the incredibly poetic, hypnotic music of Sleeping at Last.
Once or twice a lifetime, you discover a music artist whose creative work nourishes you so uniquely, it feels like it’s been crafted just for you. That was my experience encountering multi-instrumental Ryan O’Neal’s solo projects.
And darkness will be rewritten
Into a work of fiction, you’ll see
As you pull on every ribbon
You’ll find every secret it keeps
The sound of the branches breaking under your feet
The smell of the falling and burning leaves
The bitterness of winter or the sweetness of spring
You are an artist
And your heart is your masterpiece
And I’ll keep it safe
Even though this band’s been around in some form since 1999, O’Neal chose to set out on his own when the group dismantled and start the artistically unmatched Atlas albums—thematic collections of songs released consistently since 2013. His music has been featured in The Fault in Our Stars, Grey’s Anatomy, and Turner Classic Movies, but because I apparently live under a rock, the first time I heard it was during Episode 1 of Mike Foster’s Fun Therapy podcast. Foster uses instrumental music from Sleeping at Last as a backdrop for his podcast sessions (which really are run like therapy sessions), and he interviewed O’Neal for his pioneer episode. After hearing the artist dialogue about the inspiration behind his songs, specifically his latest song-a-month Enneagram project, I was smitten. (If you’re into podcasts, O’Neal uses his to talk about his creative process in-depth, and it’s the stuff of magic. On his Enneagram songs, he actually only invites musicians who identify as that month’s particular type to record with him. How cool is that?)
The Enneagam was already a hot topic in my friend group, but Sleeping at Last captured the spirit of these types in a way that completely blew my mind. I pulled up “Two,” and never had a song felt so personal.
During these months when it felt like I was almost sleepwalking, this music offered a healthy escapism and carried me along in a daydream-like state, helping me transcend the chaos and tap into the beauty that was buried underneath.
Teaching as an adjunct professor was an incredible opportunity, and I absolutely loved learning alongside our students—and learning from them! But when co-workers and friends ask if I’m teaching again this fall, the answer could not be clearer.
More than ever before, and especially after exploring the publishing industry in this course, I’m confident that the task the Lord has set before me is writing my book. That’s another story in itself, but there has been confirmation after confirmation that the time is ripe. This is my best yes moving forward, and I couldn’t be more excited. Thanks to my wonderful friends and family for the encouragement you gave during this amazing adventure the last eight months.
Also, do yourself a favor this week, and add Sleeping at Last on Spotify post-haste.
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Bailey Gillespie works as adjunct faculty and Director of Academic Engagement at William Jessup University. She lives near Sacramento, California and loves connecting with people over health, creativity, and faith. Recently, her writing has appeared on Real Hope Rising, Voice of Courage, and The Rabbit Room. Read more at baileygillespie.com or follow her on Instagram and Goodreads.