Archive for May, 2011

“These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.” -Red, The Shawshank Redemption

A year from now, maybe a few days less than that, I’m going to be walking across a stage for what might be the final time in my life and being handed a piece of paper. It will be lovely, filled with frilly script and my name, and it’ll suddenly jack me up a few pegs on the grand scale of life importance in the eyes of capitalists everywhere.

I will receive my Bachelor’s degree, and I will leave my career in education that day for the last time.

I have been in the education system for fifteen years thus far. Heck, if you count preschool, then by the time I hold that degree in my hands I will have been in school for nearly twenty years…

…and then what?

What happens when I wake up that next day, having walked that stage, and realize that I never have classes to go to again? Will I be relieved? Excited? Scared? Will I be given a handbook from my good old alma mater explaining to me how to adjust to life on the outside? Will I be given hints on where to go? Provided a job? Provided a home? Provided a chance to make the best go at it possible? Or will I do it all alone?

Is graduate school a possibility? I realized this year in one of my college classes that I never had those two words spoken to me until I was in that class. No one had ever brought up the possibility of it. No one had advised me either to do it or not do it. I don’t know anything about costs, options, the paths open for me in it, how to pay for it, where it would be best to go.

What about marriage? I’ve been dating a brilliantly wonderful man for the past three years, and truth be told when I see myself waking up having graduated I see one thing on my mind following it: wedding bells. And yet perhaps 50% of the people I speak to will tell me that I’m too young. They will tell me to form a little nest egg, to be comfortable, to make sure that nothing will ever go wrong once I get into the marriage. But is that even possible? For a woman like me who has been comfortable, satisfied, satiated, for her entire life, shouldn’t I be challenged to take a few risks instead? Will those people be satisfied at my level of preparation after I’ve been dating this man for eight years? Twelve? Fifteen? Will that be enough to say “All right, now you’ve made it. Now no matter what financial difficulties you might ever face from accidental bumps in the road, you are set to have a great life with him with few disagreements no matter what because now you’ve got a little chunk of money to sit on. Also, you’d, uh, better start having those kids right now, because time’s running out, you know.”?

What about housing costs? Insurance? A car? Food? Medicine? Is there any way that a girl with a degree in music will be able to afford it on her own, coupled with those loans she has to pay? What risks will I have to take to pay them all? How do I even get started? When will someone teach me all about this too? Or is this yet another thing I’m going to have to learn on my own?

When I leave college, what knowledge will I hold? I can spell properly until the cows come home. I can sing just about anything you throw at me and do it well. Simple math? No problem. I even know a smattering of Spanish. But how’s my life skills? How’s my preparation for trying to get a good stable job? If I was given a test right now, with questions all about what I’m actually going to face in life, would I pass?

I fear I’ve been institutionalized. I fear that when I wake up that day on the outside, I’m never going to be able to merge my way into society, to find my place in this world. I fear that I am as unprepared as I possibly could be, but that no one will ever see fit to teach me.

…then again, “Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.”


Wayward Thoughts

“You don’t need motivation to keep writing if you’re a real writer. You just do it because you aren’t complete if you don’t.” -Terry Brooks

I read that quote today and wondered exactly what it meant to me. Did I think it was true? Yes, definitely. Did I think that I was the real writer embodied therein? Ah, now that is the question.

My classical vocal teacher in college sat me down in lessons one day when she saw how much I was stressing about my decision to be a Commercial Music major. “What do you love doing more than anything else in the world?” she asked me. “What is your favorite thing to do in life? What is your passion?” I remember being scared my it because it wasn’t an easy question to answer. I finally realized it was difficult to answer because there wasn’t one answer. There were two.

Music and writing exist in tandem in my life, and I can’t imagine my life being happy or fulfilling without either of them. Every time I learn something new in my music classes, I feel full to bursting and I can’t sleep until I share it with someone (most often my long-suffering boyfriend; I’m sorry, sweetheart). Every time a plot bug bites me, I will stay up until 4am just trying to flush it out of my body and onto paper. They’re both strange feelings, and I feel them so intently and emotionally sometimes that it scares me.

But does that make me a real writer? Does it make me a real musician? If I sat down and said “No, I’m going to put these aside,” would I be all right? Or would life be as miserable as I think it is?

Another quote today that got me thinking:

“Writers are the ultimate fakers. We sit there looking clueless and innocent, staring into space, doodling absently in our notebooks, and all the while we’re planning multiple murders, robberies, the overthrow of modern society. There’s things clicking and turning and being generally strange in our heads. It may look like we’re carrying on a conversation with you, but the odds are that as we’re answering your questions and ordering our lunch, in our minds someone has just shown up with a note that says: Actually the mysterious man with the gimpy leg is Alonso’s half-brother, which would explain why Lucille got so freaky when she saw him, as she thought she had accidentally smothered him years ago when he was thirteen and came after her with a pair of garden shears because of the chemical imbalance.” – D. T. Kastn

I miss that. I miss carrying a notebook with me to every function, filling it with ideas and pages upon pages of fiction until I sat there grinning as I filled the final lines along the back cover. But I think most of all I miss having people to experience that joy with.

National Novel Writing Month gave me that. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people doing something crazy like writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days not because we were forced to, but because we wanted to. It was a support group. It was a family. Every time you reached a milestone, you were surrounded by people who squealed, high fived you, and hugged you until you were blue in the face. Every single one of your accomplishments was celebrated because they understood. I miss that.

These 700 or so words are just me contemplating what I need to do next. Music is my major, but it isn’t the only part of my life. The view where I sit now that I’m not writing as much is rather gray. Something has to change. I have to find that support group again. I have to find that confidence that I used to have. But, upon everything else, I have to write…because if I don’t, I’m going to lose my mind, and that’s not pretty for anyone around me.

Am I a real writer? I suppose we’ll find out very soon.