Wednesday, March 26, 2014

19-Years A Slave

Writing has become like a gym membership that is never used.  It is paid for, month after month.  It is referenced, I talk about writing like I talk about doing squats or dreaming about a beach-body.  I want to do it, like I want to go to the gym.  I know it will be good for me, like I know a beach-body will not magically replace the soft doughy parts of me without some significant time on the treadmill. 

And working as much as I have only widens the gap of time since my fingers last struck the keys of my laptop in any real and meaningful and creative way.  

I've felt adrift.  I've felt purposeless.  I have this new project started, loads of ideas for it, plenty of experience at researching and drafting and compiling.  But I haven't started doing any of the work.

I wonder, so often, what was the point of going to college.  Nine years.  Ninety. Thousand. Dollars.  And I'm still doing what I did when I was fifteen - working in a restaurant - working myself to death.  I am envious of people that have the savings account and cushions and families and jobs and partners who provide security for them.  It is my own, harsh reality knowing that I have dug myself into this hole. I have put myself in this place of 60-hour work weeks because I wanted to go to college.  I wanted to go to grad school.  If I didn't have student loans to pay back, I would work four days a week - no doubles - and I would write.  I would have a savings account.  I would have new clothes and shoes.  I don't buy new things until it is absolutely necessary.  Partly because I've become pretty minimalist in my mid-twenties and partly because I can't stomach forking over several shift's-worth of cash for shoes or jeans or anything else because what I have is working out just fine for right now.

It's pretty fucked up that I went to school to learn to do something that I don't have time for BECAUSE I have to work to pay for those lessons those years those classes those experiences.  It makes me want to scream.  It makes me want to go back.  It makes me wish I could have a do-over.  Or at the very least, have picked a double major that would have gotten me a better job than this one.

And yes, yes few (if any) readers out there, I am aware that I am qualified for some things - thing I might even love.  But I can't afford to work there.  I can't afford to relocate.  I can't afford it.  Sallie Mae and ACS Education Services and Grand Valley State - they own me.  I am their indentured servant for the next 19 years.  "19-Years a Slave" will be the title of my collected essays.  Essays about the tragic irony of receiving an education only to realize it will do nothing for you - for me.

So I am off again, headed to work,again.  When I all I want to do is stay home and write, stay in and research, try and find motivation to live creatively beyond the sick desire to write the next Gone Girl so that I can pay some things off, take a break, not work so much when I should want to write only for the joy of it.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Why not?

Before and during this trip, I've been asked "why?" a lot.

                               "Why are you going?"

                                                                                              "Why are you here?"

"Why now?"

                                                            "Why there?"

But when asked, what other answer could I possibly give:

Why not?

I don't remember much about our first few visits to New Orleans.  We only lived an hour away then.  I was eleven.  I remember the flower crowns with colored ribbons blowing out behind our small backs.  I remember the book of houses describing the histories and rooms and gardens and inhabitants - both past and present of the Garden District.  It was a green book with a white house, outlined, like a house-ghost.
But I do not remember the houses themselves.  I remember walking and walking and sweating and thirsting but not the houses we were walking around to see.

Just the book.

Just the heat.

Just the thirst.


And now, as an adult I decided to come back.  To see it now.  To remember it again.  I brought my momma, my sweet and enthusiastic momma.  My encouraging and adventurous champion.  Swollen feet be damned, she walked everywhere with me.  Throngs of people drunkenly stumbling out of the bars, she and I walked downtown on a Friday night.  She wanted to see the lights.  See it at night.  See it after the sun had gone down.  Her cheeks pinked when she saw the naked girls.  She heard the shouting drunk men.   She saw the sticky wet concrete and the homeless men and women and dogs and beads, everywhere beads.  But she came along.  I took the turn down into the madness of Bourbon Street and she followed, eager, curious and willing.  We walked six blocks through that alternate universe, that foreign land, and then returned to our nook, our safe haven, our refuge of escaping somewhere together.


I don't think a person needs a reason to travel other than for its own sake.  If I had stayed home, if I had worked, if I had slept in and walked the dog, and done laundry and washed the car, I would have felt accomplished, but I wouldn't have recalled that weekend as being any more special than another.  If I had saved my money, put it towards retirement or another, bigger vacation, I would have felt a little bit more secure.  But I wouldn't have gotten to catch up with my mom.  I wouldn't have been able to see the tombs and mausoleums and statues and river and trolleys.  I wouldn't have seen the voodoo dolls and the oysters and the washtub bands on the street corners.  The break dancers in the square.  The Faulkner House.  The masks the colors the beads the art the tattoos the coffee the beignets the history the haunted condos the sky the breeze the people the place.




I fly out in seven hours.  I am already planning my next trips (New York, Boulder, San Francisco).  But like every other place I've visited, I try to picture myself living there.  Could I make a home here?  Could I work here?  Could I write?  I bet I could.  If not forever, for a little while.


 Why not?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

When She Sleeps

Some of you know that I have started working on a new collection, a continuation of sorts of my thesis.  I arbitrarily set a goal of ten essays about ten different subjects making up a collection that I could theoretically submit as a whole to be published, or each piece individually to journals and what not.

One of the essays, one of the subjects that I randomly made up as part of a writing prompt, is based upon my sister.

Here is short bit that I am lucky enough to have experienced first-hand while visiting her here now, in her new city, in her new life, in the wintry and chilly hills of Pennsylvania:

"When my sister sleeps, she becomes eight-years-old again.  Her face becomes flushed, her breathing slow and deliberate.  I noticed tonight, as we watched show after show on Apple TV, that just before dozing off completely, before succumbing to the pull of exhaustion that inevitably hits her each time we watch movies late into the night, that she, like a ritual, removed each of the many pieces of jewelry from her ears, fingers, wrists and neck.  And because of this, she looked much younger than she is today, she looked like the sister that I knew when we were both small, the sister that slept above me in our bunk bed, the sister that slept in the pillow forts that we made in the living room, the sister that slept on the pull-out couch in our great-grandmother's home as I watched Peter and the Dragon, the sister that I have known her whole life.  She sleeps the same as she always has.

We are blood.  And no matter the distance, no matter the new people in our lives, or the old ones that have taken so much that we sometimes feel like shells of the people that we once were, we will always have each other.  Writing this I cry quiet tears (so that I do not wake her) welling up with the love and hope and excitement for what is in store for this sleeping babe.  I only want happiness for her.  I know she only wants happiness for me.  We are the lucky ones."