I might be back, but I’m still reeling. The 10 days that I spent at my graduate school residency were filled with readings, critiques, faculty presentations, graduate presentations and emotion.
How odd it was, at my age, to become awash with nerves as I approached the Bowdoin College campus. Years peeled away with each step that brought me closer to the doors of the building where I would check in. By the time my right hand wrapped around the wooden handle and I pulled the heavy glass door open, I was feeling all of the emotion that typically accompanied the first day at a new school. I haven’t felt that unease for more years than I care to discuss.
Will they be nice? Will they like me? Will I make friends? Am I smart enough? Am I doing the right thing?
I was handed a meal card and a key to the dorm where I would be sleeping. The dorm was still deserted. I was early.
But was I? Was I early or had I begun this endeavor 18 years too late? Those were the questions I posed to an overly friendly squirrel who sat on the steps with me outside of Thorne Hall. His silence reminded me of a therapist I once saw. She had a maddening habit of blankly staring at me when I posed questions like, “Should I marry Steve?” or, “Is it weird that my future mother-in-law still makes her 26 year old son’s bed?” or, “Why would he propose to me at Disney World…right after we rode the Tower of Terror? That’s just not at all how I envisioned it would happen.” The therapist never responded. She simply sat in her chair, nibbling on the end of her retractable pencil and allowed my questions to linger in the space between us.
Just answer my fucking question, lady.
She didn’t need to answer me. I knew the answers to my questions. I knew I was asking because all of it was wrong. For me, it was wrong. I knew it was a terrible idea to marry him. I knew that he would invite his mother into our relationship far more than I would ever be comfortable with. I knew so much, but chose to ignore that silent therapist and marry him anyway. I ignored my intuition and I suffered for that mistake.
Now, at 40 years old, I found myself sitting on the steps outside of a college dining hall and demanding answers from a common grey squirrel.
Am I smart enough? Am I doing the right thing? Am I allowed to call myself a writer?
The squirrel stared at me and nibbled a morsel he found in the grass. He allowed my question to linger in the space between us.
Just answer my fucking question, squirrel!
He didn’t need to answer me. I knew the truth. I knew that I was asking because what I was about to do – attend my first MFA residency – was right.
I sat on those steps and pondered the path that I’ve been resisting for the better part of my life. The squirrel dropped his morsel and, without hesitation, he ran to catch it again. For some reason, that squirrel jumped onto a wall then leapt onto the grass and approached his prize after making a wide arc across the sidewalk. He didn’t follow the easiest, most obvious route.
Thank you, squirrel.
I stood up, brushed the debris from the back of my skirt and introduced myself to the other writers who had just finished checking in.
I’d like to take a moment to thank Diana of BettyShmetty fame, the always encouraging Eden of Evergreen Eden , Amber, that talented writer from http://www.thedailydoty.com/, Mary Lauren from My 3 Little Birds – she makes it all look so easy, doesn’t she? She even navigated No. 7 without suffering any nasty bites. Mollie from OK in UK…I love when a person shares my dry sense of humor, so much so that sometimes we can’t tell when the other is kidding..or not. Mollie truly is awesome. Katie, that talented and insightful writer from Chicken Noodle Gravy. Katie gets me…on so many levels. We share a deep dislike for mean girls and women who seem unable to stop acting like mobs of 13 year old mean girls. Patty from Another cookie, please. Patty who I’ve known for so long – our friendship actually began before the blogs! She’s been my biggest fan, provides continuous encouragement and support and she’s one hell of a writer. Stop selling yourself short. Finally, I’d like to say thank you to Ada from Of Woods and Words . I stumbled upon Of Woods and Words last fall and immediately became a fan.
Thank you, friends! Thank you for babysitting No. 7 while I was off getting edumacated.