Budget Rental Vans squat curbside on the street. College boys with sinewy arms and authoritative expressions hoist their hastily labeled boxes up and into efficient stacks. They are leaving. They are through with this college town. New places and new challenges await them elsewhere. I know not the distance any of them will travel in the coming days, but it is clear that changes are afoot, and each young man is looking forward to a change.
I walk. I know that I do, but I can't hear the sound of my steps on the crumpled brick path. I cannot hear anything except my own breathing, shallow and strange.
A moment ago, I exited a beautiful Georgian inn after two hours of critique, the last one dedicated to me. My writing lacks intent.
I've been thinking about this for three days. Without a doubt, it's true. My writings about my travels have been journal entries. That's all. Flowering, verbose journal entries that are pinpricked by subtle humor only recognizable to those who know me and can hear my voice reading them. Not funny. Not deep. Not unique.
It's taken three days of hard thought, notes on scraps of paper, restless sleep, and an entire package of Keebler Fudge Stripe cookies to figure out why that's true.
When I write without intent, it is because I have lived without intent.
The things I care about in advance, sweat over and fight for, those things I have written about well. When it furthers the cause of my life, I treat the writing of an event or insight with deference. I select my words; I conserve my energy.
Many times, I sit down to write for the sake of writing. Worse--I sit down to write because I feel that I must, because I haven't done it in ages, because I don't feel the call, because I'm avoiding it, because writing is hard. And the reason writing is hard is that it forces us to answer questions we don't want to admit we hear, questions that we are ashamed to admit we know the answers to.
Heretofore, this blog has served multiple purposes. It has given me an avenue for my writing, allowing me to keep my hand in the craft whenever possible. It has been a platform for sharing my experiences in life with my closest family and friends. And it has allowed me to argue my opinions and strive for my ideals.
It has not been entirely honest.
I sugarcoat my life. My stories shared are edited, you might even say censored. This is the virtual world I can manipulate at my whim. What you see is a young woman who prioritizes her writing and states her arguments succinctly, shares the tales of her travels. I know that because it's what I've opted to show you.
What you don't see are the hours I spend sitting on my broadening backside while I stuff cookies in my mouth, gorging myself until the pack is empty. You can't tell that, as I do this, I don't even taste them. Nothing past the first bite has brought me pleasure. As I do this, I am not writing; I am not imagining. I am making excuses for myself.
You don't see that, in real life, I would more likely say "sitting on my broadening ass" than "sitting on my broadening backside." I was brought up to believe that swearing is not a pastime of the ladylike. I'm not ladylike, not most of the time. Only when people are watching do I move within the general bounds of etiquette.
My house is often a mess. I rarely cook, and I even more rarely do dishes. Glasses crawl with mold before I plug my nose and douse them with hot water. I am a slob.
A couple of months ago, I signed up for the Disneyland Half Marathon, a race I last completed in 2008 after training for many, many weeks. This year, I haven't trained once. I am in utter denial, and I have ten thousand excuses for why I haven't started that training. I am the kind of person who is willing to put in effort to avoid work before she puts in the effort to do the work.
Jonathan and I fight. You can't see it behind the veneer of happy stories of young marriage I've posted here. You can't see it behind the trifling hedge of travel pieces I've propped up alongside pictures, all of them of our smiling faces. We do fight. I'm the yeller. Hell, I've screamed at my husband. Over the course of our nearly six years of marriage, we've both reached the point of being stubborn, vexed, jilted, domineering, condescending, sarcastic, distant, cruel, and just generally pissed off multiple times. But you don't see it.
You can't see it. I choose not to let you. And you probably wouldn't read the truth if I put it out there anyway. You're too polite for that. And then, why would you bother to come back? It's not nice. It's not perfect.
If you know me, you also know I put a great deal of weight on perfection. Expectations marble my life like a fatty steak. College graduation was my last, major success. I set a goal and took a shot and achieved it. Since then, I've been fully intent on having a happy, productive, fun-loving marriage. Even though we fight sometimes, and even though I occasionally feel taken for granted, and even though Jonathan sometimes feels put-upon, we're well on our way. I'm proud of us. Much prouder of us than my blog would have you believe.
After all, it wouldn't be tough for the couple you read about to be happy. They run all over the world holding hands, make good money at their jobs, find humor and insight in the same things, and agree on absolutely everything. That's not real life. That's so abbreviated I don't know where to begin. In all honesty, six years of marriage has been tough. We've overcome my own depressions and Jonathan's hatred of change, our combined arrogance, and we've arrived time and again at something good. We're succeeding in the face of great obstacles, and so I'm rightfully proud.
There are many things I struggle to write about. I have a feeling that will change this semester. It won't be about being brave; it will be about determining what is important to me, the first item being Honesty, and moving ahead even if I don't want to. I must develop intent. I must take responsibility.
Coming to Lesley University to pursue my MFA in Creative Writing is a start. I fully intend to work hard and graduate in two years. But I need to be honest about what I intend to do during and after that time, too. Do I want to teach? Do I want to be a travel writer? Do I want to write a memoir? Do I want to be a journalist?
Asking questions is healthy, but only if I ask them all, and only if I answer them. That's the other dishonest quality of my blog. Questions are tossed into the void and never answered, as though locating them and transcribing them is sufficient for personal growth.
From my dorm window, I watch the young men drive their moving vans away. I don't know their destinations, but it doesn't matter. I have witnessed both an end and a beginning, separately important, but entangled. This initial residency at Lesley is the beginning of my program with them and my journey toward an advanced degree, publication, and enlightenment about my future. As of today, I want that Beginning to be tangled up with an End, as well.
I want to live a life of intent; I want to be open and honest about my desires as an author and as a woman. I want to stop ignoring the future that is formulating before me. I want to stop pretending that there is nothing I can do about that future.
Today's critique was even more intense than the first, but I didn't whimper over my wounds. Instead, I nodded and struck whole paragraphs, winced as I agreed with my poor words choices and inelegant overwriting. And then I heard something important.
" Death Valley stands entirely on its own. It needs nothing else. It is poetry. You held nothing back."
I've been holding back. I have no intention of holding back ever again.