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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Random thoughts on a sunny winter day

So, I have received more than a few responses to my Christmas letter this year. Everyone keeps saying the same thing: "You should be a professional writer." I have heard that a lot in the past, especially when I was keeping my Tour de Pink blog (which I sincerely miss and plan to start up again when the biking moves outside...I can't wait.)

I am always flattered when people like my writing. It brings back an itch in me that I had since I was a kid. I alternately wanted to be a writer (because I loved to read) or an artist (just like my Grampa). Those were my dreams. In fact, I would often read my stories and poems to my family out loud. It's really one of the few things that I would do that made me feel that I was connecting with them (especially my parents) on a real level.

Many people don't know that I had a hard time choosing between these pursuits when it came time to go to college. I couldn't decide between art or writing. I knew I had some talent for writing; after all I won a James Michener Scholarship to help pay for college. But I also wanted to be an artist; I think because that was what had signified true success in our family. Everyone admired my Grandfather and spoke about him in terms usually reserved for geniuses. So the pull was strong. But I remember my sister trying to help me decide. She frankly told me that I was not that good of an artist. Ouch. But she was probably right.

So, I ended up at the University of Michigan for my first year of college as a pre-English major. The U of M was a huge mistake for me (that's a whole other story) but the English classes I took were top notch. My favorite were the reading and appreciation courses. But I also took a very important course my second semester: poetry. I didn't know it when I signed up but it became pivotal in the direction of my life. There were only a handful of us in that class (an anomaly in my experience at U of M) and I was the only female. There were some really good poets in there. And some not so good. I never knew where I fit. They all had problems with my "emotional" style, my vocabulary...I believe it was all code for "femininity". They weren't being nasty, it was all in the interest of constructive criticism. But I found myself trying hard to write like someone else. Pretty soon I doubted any talent that I might have. (In their defense I occasionally read those old poems I wrote, and they are overwritten windows into the soul of a teenage girl filled with issues and angst. But of course, that's what I was.) Anyway, I started to return to the comfortable desire to draw and do art. It was private and comforting. Eventually I got up the courage to approach my poetry instructor one night after class. It was getting dark, and he was in a hurry to get somewhere. I asked him point blank if he thought I was good enough. (What a question! And so typical: like life is a yes or no answer!) He said "Maybe if you have to ask that question, you know the answer." Ouch again.

Eventually I transferred out of U of M for my sophomore year. I went to the Cleveland Institute of Art because that was where my Grampa had taught; and my parents had attended. (I always assumed I got in because of Grampa.) I can tell you the same worries and creeping thoughts of inadequacy plagued my entire time there. In truth, I never felt at home. I was an academically minded student in a place with people who never showered, enjoyed French black and white movies about nothingness, and never read a book unless they had to. (Of course I'm over-generalizing and mean no disrespect, they were just so much more "artsy" than me, and confident about it.) I know I made the literature and art history teachers very happy: I was probably the only student they had who was truly interested! I enjoyed my time at CIA, and grew artistically. But I was never sure I belonged.

In truth, this feeling has plagued me my whole life; like I have never truly delved into the depths of me. I suspect it is common for all of us. So when people say I should be a writer, I agree. But I say to myself, "Writer of what?" I only know me. I honestly have no idea how I would start. If I'd stayed the course way back in 1985, maybe I would have learned. Regrets. They are everywhere I look. They are in my thoughts when I fall asleep, they are on my mind in the morning. It is impossible to live without regrets. But at the very least I can say I have lived. The search for me continues.

In the end, life has dealt me a big, giant practical joke of sorts: I have a soon-to-be college bound daughter who has her eyes set on....drumroll...art and writing. She is conflicted between the two, doubts her abilities, but is also proud of them. It is all so familiar. Too familiar. She at least has come up with the novel idea to study both at once. She is, unlike her mother, a genius. Of course, I am little help in this discussion. It's too close to my bones. I just hold my breath and believe that she will find her way and have faith.

Life. That's my pursuit. My major. And, truth be told, it may be the only thing I'm good at.

4 comments:

  1. Hmm, please don't tell me I was the sister who squashed your dreams! Maybe it is the drag of the winter doldrums that has brought you to this place of mental torture. I am suffering with you. Although, my strugglings are to be the best homesteader in town. In hot pursuit of chicken coop plans, maple sap taps and buckets, heirloom seeds and beekeeping goodies my fractured direction is sending the family into a headshaking tailspin. Alas, it is what we do best. Enjoy life.

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  2. NO! You weren't the "sis"...and now I feel bad for writing that. Ouch. Note to self: gotta be more careful. I honestly didn't think anyone was reading this :)
    Hey, if you need assistance with the sap thing, it's very big here. My friend Julie cooks up a HUGE batch of syrup every year. Some people have some pretty elaborate systems for production! Now that I know you're on this track, I'll see what I can find. Seriously! It all sounds like so much fun, and totally you! I picture you in a floppy hat, strewing feed for the chickens and singing to the bees. What a nice image!

    Love,
    Lanie

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  3. It is all about the hat! For years, I have fantasized about "that hat." A big straw bag or basket to put the flowers and vegetables in too. Naturally, to market they would go. I suspect the young folk will whisper and giggle at the crazy lady in the hat who drives the old beat up pick-up truck with the dog up front. Yeah, I have issues.

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  4. I don't think you have issues. I think you have wonderful dreams!

    You were born to wear a floppy hat! (And b the way, the old pickup truck is my dream too!!!!

    Love you!
    Lanie

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