In the past month, I have been to three graduations. One was my own from St. John’s College where I earned my MA in the Liberal Arts. The other two were my students’. I have also been to one of my oldest and dearest friend’s wedding. And I have been to countless celebrations for each of these momentous occasions.
Graduating from St. John’s was a bookend for me. I started my higher education career at St. John’s in 2001 as an undergraduate in their “Great Books” program when I was 18. I left after two years to go study Physics and Writing elsewhere, but it felt like I had completed something important in my life to come back and complete the St. John’s Master’s program. I feel like a stage in my life has finally come to an end.
And that’s what I want to talk about today. The in-between space when one stage of life has ended and the next is just thinking of beginning. Because that’s where I am right now. I have been teaching and tutoring for nearly 15 years. I have been a student my entire life. And I have finally decided to, at least for the foreseeable future, leave both of these ways of being behind. I have decided to write full time now. And almost the second I made that decision, I discovered two very important things: 1) I will have no trouble getting enough paid writing work to survive on. I already have more work (non-glamorous) freelance writing for the educational market than I can handle. So that’s kind of neat. 2) My fiction, which I have been writing for more than the ten years folks often say is what you need to put in before you’re good enough to publish, is not, quite simply put, good enough. It has some merit. I will keep working at it, but I will not be making a living as a novelist any time soon. At all. Which is a bummer.
But something deeper is going on over here than a career change, and that’s where this blog comes in. The wedding I went to was really lovely. My friend was a beautiful bride. And she seemed so grown up. Anyway, I was watching her up there, and I realized that I really respect this particular friend, and I always have. The entire ten years I’ve known her, she has always been good. Quietly good, not flashy. She’s just a good person. When my mom died, she bought my plane ticket home, never said a word about it. And other people at her wedding had similar stories to tell. And besides being good, she’s always been just really full of life and utterly herself. And I watched her up there, and I was so proud of her. And then I thought: hey, I want to be like that. I want to be a person I respect.
So THAT got me thinking about just how I do move through the world, and how I want to be. And that got me thinking about this blog. I started this blog because I think a lot of kids go through a lot of really hard stuff, and I wanted to raise awareness about that hard stuff so that people who have some influence in children’s lives are more aware of what they’re struggling with and can maybe do a little something to help. And I still believe in doing that. And I do it because I feel like it’s something that I can do. It’s something that I feel called to do. But I want to change a little bit how I do it.
I’ve been fairly free talking about my personal life and history on here because it’s simplest. My life is the life that I know. My childhood is the one I lived through. And sometimes, I think that talking about my personal experience creates a vital connection with others that’s useful. But I really didn’t start this site as a sort of therapy or a reaching out to others in that way. And writing about my own life has had some unintended consequences because people who I never counted on finding this site have and have read it.
My extended family, for one, have found this blog and have on occasion read it. And I think some of them have taken some of the things I’ve said as some sort of indictment of them, perhaps? For what? For not saving me as a kid? I’m not really sure. But I never meant anything that I’ve said to be taken that way. I’m not writing these things to blame them or anyone else. Even the people who really did hurt me as a kid. Those people are all long dead and gone, and I don’t see a point in holding a grudge.
And then, friends. They like me. They know I’m a writer, they’ve gotten on this site, and read it. And that’s fine. They continue to read it, I assume, because they like to know about my life. But that feels strange for me, honestly. These are people I talk about Heidegger with, who I laugh in the coffee shop with. I have one friend who obviously thinks I’m very strong and brave now. Another, who, when I apologized one night for being less than polite to, said to me, “that’s OK. I read your blog. My gift to you is that I’ll never take anything personally.”
And that is really sweet and all. And I love all of these people very much. But frankly, I don’t actually define my life based on my traumatic childhood. I don’t really see myself as a “survivor.” I don’t think I’m particularly strong. And I certainly don’t want others to think I need to be judged on a curve because of what I’ve lived through.
The take home? Yeah, stuff sucked growing up. Majorly. I was hurt in most of the big category hurt-ways. I struggled with depression and a lot of “mental health issues” as a result. And I have, on occasion, been a fairly crazy grown up while I struggled to figure all of that out (the state of Vermont–you know who you are–I love you, and I’m wicked sorry). And I’m pretty sure I feel called to raise awareness about these types of things because of what I went through. But I’ve decided to stop talking about my personal past at length on here, because that is not what I want the people in my life to focus on. And I’ve gone through my site and taken down some of my more personal posts. I’m sorry if that disappoints some of you who really have gotten something useful out of reading them. This just isn’t how I want to move through the world anymore.
And those of you writers and teachers who do read my blog: please chime in here if you can think of any way I can make this site more truly relevant and helpful for actually writing for and helping hurting kids. Wishing you all well, Me.