It took me awhile to realize: I was making it. Despite the odds, and working harder than ever before in my life, I was holding my own, and then some. No doubt the Registrar's personal "welcome" had something to do with that. I had approached her before the start of my first semester with a question about transfer credit. The first words out of her mouth when she laid eyes on my transcript? "Don't expect to see these grades here." Who'd asked her? Not me. But I considered myself challenged, and I met that challenge.
Besides a perfect transcript, I had also come away from my Community College experience with a first-class therapist. "Knowing you," Martin had said during one of my sessions, "you'll graduate Phi Beta Kappa from an Ivy League college." I must have been sharing some doubts about continuing my education--or about my future in general. In any case, his words stuck like gum--probably in part because at the time that he spoke them, I had no idea what Phi Beta Kappa was. When I fulfilled his unwitting prophecy, I wrote to acknowledge him for having planted that seed. He responded by sending a dozen red roses with a congratulatory note. He hadn't remembered saying those words, but couldn't have been more pleased with their result! No risk of impropriety (therapists ought not send roses to their ex-clients, no?) would interfere with his celebrating me and my accomplishment, and I loved that. I made a boutonniere of one of the roses and pinned it to my gown. Martin had supported me all along the way, and I wanted him with me right to the finish line, from secret handshake to the tossing of the mortarboard.
It is easy to thrive under the light of Love. Why ever do we offer otherwise? When a few years previous I waved my newly-conferred Associates degree and pronounced in full smile, "One down, three to go!" my mother could only groan and roll her eyes. I felt it. But it didn't stop me. The halfway house position stopped me after the Bachelor's. But that was as it should have been. The world of writing took over, and that was that.
I made a niche for myself in the Boston writing community. All went relatively swimmingly, however incrementally. Too often, though, the balance sheet would tip to the red. And just as I would start to engage the thought of getting a "real" job, the phone would start ringing. Literally. Remarkably. It happened enough times that I eventually surrendered. "Okay, okay!" I said, looking up to the unseen powers. I committed to keep on keeping on. As long as they'd keep the phone ringing, I'd be there to answer it.
Other than this slipping into the red, the only other sign I ever saw of trouble (i.e., being off track) was when I would read Poets and Writers Magazine. It depressed me, much like reading my alumnae magazine had depressed me. But it took me awhile to recognize it as a pattern. Once I did, it took me another bit of a while to figure out why.
In an invented life there really are no markers. Doctors have markers. Lawyers have markers. Internships, residencies, bar exams: these are signposts to and by which one can orient oneself. I tried to steer myself by the equivalent markers in my field for a time. Eventually, I wised up. "Oh, I see. I am a writer, but not that kind of writer." This liberated me to go my own way.
Then Janet quit teaching--at about year two or three, I think. She wanted to write books, professionally. She felt she needed an M.F.A. to do that. Her choice placed me at a crossroads. Should I keep teaching? Should I be getting my MFA? Find the right questions and clarity follows. My clarifying questions turned out to be these: Why did I teach? How was it for me? How was it evolving me?
My ultimate answer was nothing short of revelation. Beyond the obvious pleasure of passing on a brilliant and foolproof method, and the joy and gratification of seeing and hearing lives, hearts, minds, visions open up in the process, something else was afoot. Timed writing by timed writing, read and recall by read and recall, I had been unwittingly cultivating, in life-altering proportions, an invaluable practice. Classroom by classroom, over the accumulating years, I had become engaged in mastering the fine art of presence.
I felt no need to matriculate elsewhere. I was already deeply involved in an education, a ripening, a refinement that no sum of money could buy and that I knew would reward me beyond measure. I embraced teaching newly--solo this time--with all my heart, infused by a fresh passion.
That my landscape was taking shape differently than that of others in my profession no longer concerned me. Mind probing? Yes. Psychologist? No. Wordsmithing? Yes. Novel writing? No. Instead of trying to change, to conform, I would inquire more deeply into differences. I gave my inclinations and disinclinations just as they were all my love. I listened, and I found my way.
to be continued...