professor haunt and the great anxiety
"Ur Name on a Grain of Rice" by Runnner [I'm getting Pinegrove in the plucking n stuff, I'm getting Kevin Devine in the lyrical and vocal qualities, and in some of the horn instrumentals late in the song, I'm getting Bon Iver]
And I've been sick since seventh grade [LOL same bro same. Rest of this stanza is Eh]
And it's not terrible but it's too long
And we still talk but now it's changed
Does it hurt more to just move on?
I'm shouting it now cuz I can't write it down
I let it pour out from the sides of my mouth
All sequined and stoned sucking in through my teeth
I'm taking it home with me, still learning to speak
December 7, 2020 Monday 2:11 PM
I'm feeling hopeful, I think. Yesterday I was sort of agitated and so I walked to my COVID test instead of driving. But the power was out so I decided to walk to the CVS, not the small one on Thayer, which I don't like, but the one all the way down Angell. So I went there and the cold was pleasant, I got my advil and shampoo (luckily, my, like, month-long headache from November is pretty much gone. Instead of needing advil every day, I am only taking it like twice a week. My body still hurts a lot but I've started exercising again and generally stretching in the hopes that eventually I will wake up Not feeling like shit, LOL).
Actually, I don't know if hopeful is the right word. Something's up. I think I'm just nervous for my exams and, because I've never been very good at compartmentalizing, I am easily mistaking it for a more general and placeless anxiety.
My literature professor sent out feedback for finals today. In mine, he said some very nice stuff. Namely:
"You've consistently found unusual and unusually interesting solutions to the problems I've set the group -- and by problems I mean the prompts/assignments. There is a quality of puzzle solving especially to this and to the scifi piece, and the solutions have been striking and delightful. I'm quite convinced, from this semester and the previous one, that you're a writer, whether that's what you want to be or not (I've never posed the question though the evidence would seem to indicate you are giving it some serious thought), and that pleases me greatly. Remind me where you are in things? Soon to graduate? If an MFA is something you've considered and you would like to talk about it, let me know. When the time comes I'll write you a strong letter of rec. In the meantime, your "nerd essay" (lol) gets an A and you have earned an A for the semester. Well done."
I was really touched at first, but see this: first of all, I don't deserve an A on my final. I have re-read it a few times and I am really disappointed with how it came out. I think I can do better. My earlier drafts were also nicer, I think, but I cut them down a lot for the sake of a tighter thesis. But despite that, it still meanders and is basically shit, lol. If this were an english class (remembering my class on middle literature with that prof that I sort of hated—I did not get a single A the entire semester lololol, it was so hard) and not a literature theory class, I think this paper would've earned me a B or C. So I think my professor is being kind because he knows I am capable of doing better. Or maybe he's just being kind, period. Or maybe he saw more in it than I wrote down. I do sort of bet on that a little when I write—bet on the reader to improve on my own ideas. The reader will do whatever they want anyways, so might as well take that into account.
Anyway. I am also touched by the feedback my professor has given me this semester in general. It has all been very kind. On my last creative piece, the one he references in the above quote as "scifi," he said:
"Veronica, I remain impressed with what you bring to the page and now you are showing a range that is striking. You've leapt into this and its convincing..."
That was another submission I was pretty disappointed in, because in terms of plot, it doesn't really resolve itself. In other words, it's kind of a pointless vignette more than anything, and to me that feels incomplete. It's a pile of flesh with no bones. But I was glad he saw the potential in it, because at the very least it was really *really* fun to write. I've been trying to do that lately—have fun with what I'm writing. I've spent a long time being so serious. I go back to my own work and struggle to continue it. I mean, I still do, even if it *is* fun. But these little short pointless things are a good exercise for me, even if they aren't very, uh. I don't know. Even if they're amateur. They're not much worse than my "complete" works anyways, now that I think about it. Either way, I feel my writing is overwhelming and aimless. It never feels *empty* really, or untrue, it's just that I have a very hard time exacting control over how it gets onto the page and what shape it will take once it does. Sometimes it never even makes its way into written words.
I don't know what I'm talking about. I guess I just feel... I should be really glad and bolstered by his compliments, but instead I just feel anxious (once again, the failure to compartmentalize—it's probably not *this* that is making me anxious, self, it's probably that my anxiety is making the whole thing seem terrible).
He asked me if I am considering an MFA. Of course I am (I direct this at myself, not at him). I've been looking to do an MFA since I was in high school. But an MFA does not a writer make, and as it is, I feel entirely unprepared to be a person with a degree, let alone two. I still can't help mourning my junior year, and how wasted it was. I should've been preparing for my future, but I was lying on the couch playing Mario Kart for hours in a depressive state. And I know that wasn't my fault, but I just... And I know I don't think I can stay here. I love Brown, but I've had enough of school. And besides, this is barely school anymore. This is me half-in half-out of the adult world. I can't help wishing I had tried harder—been better. If I'm a writer, then why have I failed so much? Why am I not good enough for Advanced workshops? Beyond that, it's my fault. I haven't had the courage to cultivate professional relationships with peers and teachers. I never bothered applying to competitions, never worked for a magazine (except for my brief stint working in the Station's editorial department before I switched to Videography), I never tried to publish anything. I spent my college career distracting myself, studying things with empty motives, hoping I could find a handhold more concrete than being a "writer,"—maybe I can study neuroscience, maybe I'll like it enough to make a living with it, maybe I can get hired as a science writer, maybe I could be an english teacher in Russia, wait, no, maybe I could be a freelance videographer, maybe I can get hired to edit people's movies and documentaries.
Every time I took a step forward in those paths, I backed out. All the connections I made with scientists in high school? Gone, smothered, I don't talk to my old classmates and I don't talk to my old professor, who adored me. I dropped neuroscience and I felt so ashamed and I couldn't go back to them. Then I picked up videography and it was technical enough that it felt like a useful skill, and it gave me a chance to enjoy music in a new way (since I worked mostly shooting musicians). I was director of the video department for a year. I filmed a lot of live performances, edited a bunch of them, held workshops on how to use a camera and what all the terms meant, etc. etc. I learned how to shoot on film, learned how to foley, how to do basic color correction, how to do some basic audio stuff, I helped Matt shoot his music video in my spare time. Hell, I worked on editing a woman's documentary this summer! And then I dropped all of it. Well, I dropped the Video department a long time ago and I sort of didn't speak to anyone I knew after that. Like, at all. I couldn't stop associating videography with that terrible summer where I kept lying in the grass and crying, or sitting in the bathroom at work and crying, or standing behind the camera with my hands shaking so bad that Melvin gave a condescending sort of laugh and told me I was doing fine and I pretended not to understand that he was trying to assuage my anxiety. I quit my job working on the lady's documentary, because I began to associate it with lying half-catatonic on the couch this summer, twitching and crippled with relentless anxiety, and because I felt my head empty when I stared at the Premiere Pro screen for too long, and because I wasn't sure if the enjoyment of piecing together a narrative was enough to keep me going, I just... felt so inferior. So useless and young. I almost didn't want her to pay me, I felt like such shit.
I regret having spent so much time investing in false futures instead of admitting to myself that, after probably a decade of *knowing* that I love to write, I just... didn't try. Because I was afraid. And I'm still terrified and I don't know what to do.
I don't think I want to go into my MFA right out of college. That was actually never my plan (I don't think). And it seems especially dubious now, seeing my writing and my workflow and what out of those things can be considered "complete" (spoiler alert: the only work I consider sort of "complete" is my short story Whenever You See Fit, and even that, I have some doubts about).
I think if I were to try and earn my MFA I would lose the opportunity to just... work on it. Figure out what I want. And work on discipline. But what if I'm just lying to myself again? I tell myself I want to go to Chile or something so I can get better at my spanish and, you know, not be my mother's regret (not that she regrets ME, per se, more than she feels a lot of regret over not having taught us to speak spanish properly). I want to get a real job and a real apartment and I just want to. Be somewhere else and feel like my life is... mine? Completely?
Is this even a reasonable wish? I don't know. I don't know anything. I shouldn't really be upset. My professor said some really nice things. And besides, my grandpa told me—in a phone call last month—that I should look for a mentor. I told him I would try and talk to this professor (who, if I haven't mentioned it, is my favorite. I will call him uhhhh Haunt. Professor Haunt, lol).
But I didn't know how to reach out or ask... anything, really. I'm glad Haunt seems to believe in my work, I really am. I desperately need that, in a way that makes me think I should really slow down and take a breath. I want it too badly. I want to sob. Anyway, I suppose this is my opportunity to tell him I graduate at the end of next semester and I can ask him questions about career path, whether it seems like a good idea to take time before getting an MFA or to try immediately after. Because if he says it's better to do it immediately, god knows I will try. But I don't think I'm ready and I don't think my applications will look good and I think I will get a lot of rejection letters.
The dreaded rejection letter, a hallmark of the Writer Experience™, one which I do not look forward to, lololol. But I have to get started on it at some point.