Category Archives: Non-fiction

On Graduate School

School started again. I wasn’t ready and I’m already woefully behind. It’s been three weeks. I blame this on two things: 1) The two months that have past were the longest break I have taken from classes in the past two years and I got a taste of life without assignments and grades. I had yet to remember how confusingly great and awful it is to not have any regulations on my free time. And 2) This is my last year before I graduate and, as I told a friend the other day, I’ve been hit with senioritis — hard.

I’m ready to be done with undergraduate work. I’m ready to be done with having to meet a requirement. I’m ready to study my heart out without having to worry about whether or not a class fits into my degree plan and I’m tired of that degree plan being so damned broad.

I’m in the process of applying to graduate school and I’m as terrified as I am exhilarated. I’m planning to apply to only one. The look that my professor gave me when I told her this after I asked her to write me a letter recommendation tells me that this is not something that I should do lightly. And I understand entirely. But in truth, I don’t want to get a degree in english with a concentration in creative writing. I want a degree in creative writing. And there aren’t many schools that offer this; two that I’ve found that actually grab me by the shoulders and shake me with rampant excitement.

One is in Vermont and is a low-residency program. This scares me. If there is anything that history has taught me it is that I have just about zero self-discipline. This is probably sign number one that writing isn’t the field that I should be pursuing, but what other options does one have when it is literally the only thing that they have to live for? People make me anxious and working under someone makes me claustrophobic. I actually cried when I accepted my last long-term/full-time job because my heart broke when it heard my mouth say “yes”. I become depressed if I go too long without writing. And I don’t mean down-in-the-dumps, singin-the-blues depressed either. I get to this point where the entire world just becomes grey and pointless, where I question everything and even the smallest of human interaction is entirely unbearable (I realize that’s horrifically cliche, but so is this idea of the broken artist, so we’re already hairline-deep in cliche land with this post).

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Vermont. See, low-residency means that I would stay here in Texas and only go up to Vermont for a ten day “conference” every semester. The rest of the semester I would be communicating with my advising professor online. The idea is that students can work and look after their families with out the disruption of classes and lectures. But I don’t have a nine-to-five job and I only have a cat to take care (and she’s pretty good at fending for herself). What I like about classes and lectures is that I have someone to report to. Someone to physically look me in the eye and keep me in check. Because, like I said, I have zero self-discipline.

So, that leaves the second school. University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Their creative writing program is a fine arts program. It’s not liberal arts. It’s not humanities. It’s not english with a concentration. It’s an art degree. Hell, it’s not even “creative writing”. It’s an MFA for poets and writers. I love that! It makes my heart race and my blood pump! I can’t tell you why, but it does. My heart is already set on going. I’ve even been researching living expenses to see what I should be financially prepared for. I’ve already begun looking around my apartment wondering what I would really be willing to pack up and lug across thirteen states with me. At the same time, I’ve been questioning whether or not I could really live so far away from my support system. If I could handle it emotionally. Which has made me start trying to really, truly eliminate habits from my life that only exacerbate the poor mental health that is my emotional base line (like staying up till the crack of dawn instead of sleeping. Which I totally am not doing as I type this).

As you can see, ever since I signed the application to graduate, my mind has been in graduate school mode. I’m ready to move on and I’m ready to be done with this stage in my life. I’m ready for everything that it will throw at me and everything that I will have to do to make it happen. Thanks to the independent study project that I did last semester, I already have a 25 page writing sample written, critiqued, and rewritten to include in my application. I have one professor on board to write a letter of recommendation and I need to email the second professor I want to ask. I need to request a copy of my transcript for both UTSA and SAC so I can mail them to UMass (because I don’t trust either school to get them there). And, finally, I need to write up my personal statement. Which I have been avoiding. Because when I’m nervous and terrified I avoid doing things. And, as I’ve said twice already, I have zero self-discipline.

Open Letter – To My Mother

I still remember when, back in high school, back in those days when the darkness was heavy like tar that stuck to our bones, we spent so many nights driving home from his office building. I still wonder how many other teens sat in waiting rooms, staring at walls and half-reading gossip magazines, before trading places with their mother on a therapist’s couch. I don’t begrudge you for that. You know I never will, right? It was your journey as much as it was mine. And in some ways I loved those car rides. Delilah on 101.9, the city closing up shop for the night, stars coming out through the haze of the city lights, constellations whose stories I had yet to learn by heart. I had, in those days, never felt closer to you than I did on those nights as we talked our way down the highway.

I still remember how upset you were when our shared therapist told you in confidence not to talk to me about conspiracies and religion, crystals and tarot readings. He believed such new age talks would screw me up and confuse me somehow, keep me from believing in anything, keep me from growing up to be a proper god-fearing individual. Thank you for telling me what he said and not chastising me when I responded by calling him an idiot, though I wanted to call him worse. Thank you for ignoring him and your initial fears that he may be right. Thank you for continuing to discuss the universe with me, to take me to new age shops filled with crystals and tarot cards, to nurture this curiosity that had no outlets other than restless nights on the internet, researching all the questions a southern, cradle catholic couldn’t ask out loud, books on witchcraft bought in secret, and late night car rides consumed with discussions about Hitler and the occult, Atlantis, and past lives.

Thank you for accepting with such outstanding grace and understanding when, as an adult, I proved him right and failed to grow up to be a proper god-fearing individual. Thank you for listening as I transitioned over the years from agnostic, to deist, to pagan. And thank you most of all for the day, once again in your car, you asked me what I was believing in these days. For adding, “No judgment” when you sensed my hesitation. For listening as I explained my beliefs in the nature, in the universe, in energies and karma, that the gods are nothing more than a way for us mortals to explain those energies, that the only word I felt summed up my beliefs was witch. Thank you especially for calling me a tree-hugger with pride and excitement when I explained to you how touching a tree alone in the middle of the woods filled me with all the unexplainable feelings everyone expected of me as I was, at thirteen and already doubting my beliefs in a Catholic god, being primed for confirmation.

But more than that, thank you for teaching me how to question the world around me and how to not take anything at face value, and at the same time not to take anything too seriously. The words you taught me, “even if it’s not true, it’s still fun to think about,” have become a mantra I find myself repeating when met with naysayers, a mantra I reconfigured as a teen to ward off accusations that my tastes weren’t “cool” enough, a mantra that has fueled my writing for all these years. Because what fun is fiction if all we write about is the truth, and what is the point of this gift if we can’t use it to dream up impossible possibilities? You taught me that. And no thanks to that therapist who, in some alternate reality, convinced you not to speak to me of such things, leaving me to be half the person I have become in this reality.

For that, I will thank you every chance I get.

With gratitude and love,

Your tree-hugging, ghost chasing, tarot reading, conspiracy theorist

On Feminisim

I am a feminist because decades before I was born women took a stand to better my future, not just as an American, but as a woman; because women throughout the world still think of themselves according to a man’s wants &”needs”; because I want my daughters to grow up with their heads held high knowing that their gender does not define them.

I am a feminist because I believe in a human race united by our shared makeup of bones, blood, & heart rather than our skin, gender, or culture. I believe that every human is created equal with the same human right to be happy, loved, & respected. I believe that their is no such thing as “gender binary”. Only people living their lives.

I am a feminist because, even though men & women are equal in vote, property, & money, the two are not equal in their right to live their own lives according to their own hearts & their own passions. Until we as a society can look at a man who is not “masculine” and a woman who is not “feminine” and see who they are rather than what they are not, a feminist’s work is not done. Until an act of sexual violence is seen not as the fault of the victim but the perpetrator, what ever the gender, a feminist’s work is not done. Until a woman’s sexuality is her own to be flaunted or hidden as she sees fit, a feminist’s work is not done. Until a man can stand up & take action against the abuse of his significant other without having to fear ridicule or questioning of his “masculinity”, a feminist’s work is not done.

I am a feminist not because I hate men or because I enjoy yelling into the wind, but because I believe a person is a person regardless of their gender and I believe every person deserves to be happy, loved, & respected, and until these things are no longer defined by gender, sexuality, or the ability to fit into some preconceived binary, my work is not done.

A Call for Betterment

As a student of literature I have learned many things. I have learned that literature and the act of writing is more than just telling a story, it is more than entertainment, it is more than words upon a page, it is the recording of the fluidity of human nature, human psychology, humanity in its entirety. I have learned that literature goes beyond race, nationality, gender, sexuality, because to create literature is to create a record of a human being and how that human being functions within the world they find themselves in. I have learned that to study literature is more than reading a work created by a human living in a realm since past, it is to study, capture, and further understand what it is to be human. I have learned that we are a strange, complicated, and tightly wound group of individuals who yearn and search for something, anything greater than ourselves, because as humans we are all missing something small and entirely significant within the labyrinth that is our inner selves and all we want in our short, fragile lives is to fill that missing space and that, my dear, is why literature exists; because not a single on of us has the answer and though some may come close, it will only fill the space until we find it riddled with holes, holes which will never be filled quickly enough for our insatiable need for fulfillment to be satisfied. Writers write not as a solution but as a path that maybe, someday might just lead to some sort of semblance to the solution for someone else’s empty spaces. Writers write to fill in the gaps of silence between spaces. Gaps that will never seem to be filled.

What gap am I attempting to fill with these words, scribbled frantically across a page when there are books to be read and assignments to be finished? I am trying to fill in the gaps that it seems we have, in our contemporary collapse of advancement, allowed to fall by the way side. Where is the beauty writers once strived for? Where are the perfect combinations of perfect syllables and perfect images that once left a reader perfectly breathless, unable to continue without first catching her breath, allowing the dizzying spin of life to sink in and calm enough before moving on along the page? Where are the final words that leave her clawing for air, questioning her existence and everything which surrounds it? Don’t just tell her a story to pass the time, tell her an epic tale which will lead her down the path to something more, something greater, something that will force her to search her soul for that missing piece. For numb is not an answer but the fingers you hide your eyes behind and just because you cannot see them does not mean that your gaps and your holes and your empty spaces are not still growing. And one of these days, while you are busy hiding, your empty spaces will swallow you whole and numb is all you will be capable of being because numb will be all that is left.

This is a call for betterment. Betterment of the literature we place into the hands of our daughters and our sons. We must learn not to settle for less than or for numb, but for beauty and fear, for something more, something that rattles us to the core and sets us back down upon that path to find pieces that will some how fill these spaces within. For even if we are unsuccessful, at least we tried and at least we have begun the path for another to continue. For I do not have the answers and neither do you, but maybe, if every one of us puts all of our terrified, fragile, collapsing cards out on the table we can piece together some sort of path, with all its twists and turns and traps and digressions, that just might, maybe, someday fill someone else’s spaces.