Deep Reading

I got myself behind ony posting schedule, but it was worth it for the last couple of days. I went and did some learning.

When I graduated from my undergrad career two and a half years ago I left without any real sense of what I wanted to do next. I think this is a pretty common feeling for folks at that age, especially those of us who spent so much of our lives thus far fighting for survival against mental illness. It felt like the floor had been taken out from under me. I was floating between levels, not crashing or falling because I got a job selling books and an apartment rather quickly, but because I wasn’t touching the floor and couldn’t get the traction to move forward. 

Sure, I could throw out vague ideas when in a group conversation that veered towards the future, things like “grad school”, “teaching”, or “freelancing”. I was fortunate to have a group of friends that talked more about conventions than careers, in general. I had been proud of myself for jumping into the world of full time jobs right out of college but the more time that went by the more I questioned whether I shouldn’t have just kept going to school until I figured myself out. 

That’s not a solution, of course, I know. My mother calls that strategy, perhaps a little unfairly, being a “professional student”. I’ve always struggled to find the same disdain for the idea that she has. I understand that, largely, college today is  a tool for career getting, but I can’t quite shake the romantic notion that we’re there to learn for knowledge’s sake. And, yes, saying you’re in college throws people off from assuming you’re some kind of loser for just a little longer if you really don’t know what you’re doing. 

Beyond all that, I crave the structured pressure of deadlines and the kind of analytical conversations I that were few and far between, even at a bookstore. Then again, grad school was scary. I knew almost no one doing it and getting in seemed like a lot of the same stress and work that I’d been glad to be rid of after high school. So, I hovered for two years. 

Then Konner joined Solstice. I spent the months preceding his graduation decrying, sometimes angrily, his idea of going straight to grad school. I’m able to admit now I was being mean. Yes, he felt very pressured to go to grad school by his family, wealthy peers, and some professors. Yes, the application process was giving him anxiety, and yes most grads take some time off to work and throw some money at their debt before going back to school. In the end, however, he did what he wanted, because he knew I was being a jealous asshole. I wasn’t consciously trying to get in his way, but a part of me knew that I’d feel better if we were both just doing the “job thing”. 

Of course, he went and did what he wanted to do, because he knew I was being an asshole, and it wound up working out in both of our favors. He’s awesome that way. Seeing him thrive and succeed in the writing environment the program provided was the kick in the ass I needed, once I got over being a jealous asshole. I also chalk it up to having a particularly terrible 2016 and wanting to do something, anything, to change the headspace I was in for the better. 

It took only a little coaxing at all to get me to check the program out, even if I spent the whole time quietly screaming. I’ve mentioned before that my self-confidence took a nosedive after college and even just auditing a class (on revision in memoir) put that on full display. Konner pulled me along though, and I went. I had an actual panic attack during the class, as my brain decided keying in on my phobias was a good way to channel my writing anxiety, and I was convinced pretty much everyone had inflated ideas about me because of Konner. And still, I want to go back. I’m working on the application, and that says something. 

Under all the anxiety that has so characterized my post-graduate life, I felt like myself again. I was listening, and learning, and talking about the area of academia I love. I don’t feel like I’m completely off and running yet, I don’t know whether to apply for fiction or non-fiction, but I can touch the ground a bit now and give myself a push forward.

At the reading on Wednesday night, because that’s how they finish their days at Solstice, one of the speakers talked about deep reading, about how closely, obsessively  examining the stories you love makes your art better. I think it makes a person better too, or me at least. My self is more the person that read Harry Potter over and over than the person who’s been anxiously making it through adulthood the last couple of years. I have 100 days to  get the application in. I’m going to spend some of that time deep reading things that aren’t the inside of my head. 

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