From mid-April till last week, I was, body and soul, the property of the 80 or so students in my writing classes. Their end of semester workloads were coming due, and anxieties were crescendo-ing. I offered to meet with and help anyone who had 10-15 minutes to spare. I held more conferences than an airport Radisson. Offered more advice than an airport Radisson conference full of Dear Abbys and Ann Landerseseses. I learned much about the Keystone Pipeline, a couple viruses I’d never heard of, and how depleting the global population of tigers can negatively impact human civilization, too.
Now, however, the semester is over. I tried to find a clip of someone bowing solemnly to mark this occasion. But on Youtube, when you enter “bow” it gives you a video of a girl bowing a violin, a clip of someone bowing a deer, a Beyonce video called “Bow Down,” and a bunch of options for “solemn vow” rather than “solemn bow.” So let’s go with another appropriate analogy for the feeling of classes being over.
Only the Richard Jewels and Belle Knoxes of the world can relate to what it’s like being a writing professor at the end of a semester.
It’s been a helluva year.
I don’t mean that as some vapid platitude (vapitude?). It really has been. I’ve lived in 5 different places, and where I am now will probably only last till the fall (it’s a basement apartment, one that’s always much cooler than the outdoor temp…which is literally cool this summer but which’ll be a prob when temps ain’t always 60-80). I lived with an ex after it was over—that was a first (and, having now experienced it, a last). I lost a child, lived with family, with friends, with strangers who became friends, lived above a couple who couldn’t stop hurting each other, and now live below a bunch of people who pretty much do their own things and keep to themselves.
I lived in a beach town, a few miles from the ocean. Lived upstate. Lived in a town with a lot of crime, and now I live in a pretty uppity community (albeit in the basement of that community) a few tenths of a mile from the water.
Some friends who used to be important no longer register on my radar. Some have grown in importance. There are new friends on the way in and undoubtedly old ones on the way out.
I want a dog. I want to do community theater. I love the work I do but I wish it was more stable. I miss my piano. I hope to learn how to make more soups and sauces this summer. I’m experimenting with Indian and Thai dishes.
I hooked up with prior partners (which was new) and new ones (which was new by definition). I mostly avoided repeating old mistakes with new people and making new mistakes with people I already know. There are moments I will never forget. There are moments I will never remember. I’m grateful for each.
What is the point of this blog entry? I always tell my students when they write anything to know two things: what is your purpose? And who is your audience?
My purpose is confessional. I’ve talked to a few writers about this, so I know I’m not alone in my feeling. But it’s hard to admit. So. Here goes.
I don’t know what to write. At all.
For so long, I have felt* a pressure on me to block out any thoughts or feelings that didn’t relate to the task at hand. This pressure has been so constant, on an everyday, every-minute, keep-your-nose-to-the-grindstone-or-you-will-fall-into-a-bottomless-pit-and-never-make-it-back-again level, that it’s like a prosthetic limb that’s become real. It’s difficult to imagine it not being there, despite it not really being there.
(*in some languages–Gaelic being one–a speaker never claims an emotion as a part of their identity. One does not say “I am sad.” Feelings were seen as external to the identity of the speaker, and temporal, thus one instead says, “I feel a sadness upon me.” I like that. So I won’t claim the density of “being” pressured. Rather, I’m experiencing something external and temporal, but significant in the moment, regardless)
Every time over the past year that I thought about an idea for a story, I defaulted to, “Worry about that later. Right now you have to do this other thing”…no longer the case. I can write now. I have an infinite canvas. All the time I could ask for. All the space. All the freedom.
I just don’t know what to write……