Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Still I Rise.

Celebrating the third semester residency with a new class name and Vermont maple creemee.

I've meant to write about my VCFA experience at least once a semester . . . and yeah. A year later, I've only blogged about my first residency.

Instead of backtracking to share last winter semester, I'll skip it for now and write about this past July, my third residency. Even though I don't blog very often, I want to capture some of my feelings about grad school before *poof* another year flies by and suddenly -- I'm graduating.

I can actually feel it now, graduation. It's at my fingertips and in every word I type. I can't believe that only a year ago, I was starting school and the graduating class this residency was beginning their third semester.

Adrienne Kisner, Brendan Reichs and I all wore black when we helped Ally Condie with her graduate lecture on death. I'm going to miss these graduates!
I've already completed a draft of my critical thesis -- thirty pages of a subject that is personal and dear to me. Can I tell you something? I love, love, love school. Even if it sometimes kills me.

When started the MFA program, I knew I was going to grow was a writer. I wasn't aware of how much. My workshop leaders and advisors have helped me reach, deep inside myself. I've pulled out words I didn't know existed.

With David Gill, Melanie Jacobson, Jenilyn Tolley, Alison Randall, Rachel Stones.
After a trip for ice cream (a.k.a. my happy food of choice)
This art has seeped into others areas of my life. Yes, I'm a better writer than I was a year before. I think also I'm a stronger person, too.

People talk all the time about the magic of VCFA in the Writing for Children and Young Adults program. I caught a glimpse of it last July and feel so lucky it continues to work it's power on me today.

During this summer residency, something happened that changed me forever:

I had to rise.

I was picked to do a reading in front of the school. It was the most horrible, terrifying thing that I have never wanted to do. Oh, the fear and self-doubt that accompanied me during those ten days in Vermont! This July, they were my ever present companions.

A sneaky photo taken. Can you see the hesitation in my face?

For my reading, I had to write something humorous and share it with the people who I respect the most. My classmates, the faculty, all these amazing writers -- they were all expecting to laugh.

There was one small problem: I'm not funny.

(Or at least, I didn't think I was.)

At the time, getting selected wasn't an honor. It felt more like, the biggest joke on campus. I was going to fail and die a miserable graduate school death. In front of everyone I admired. Oh VCFA, why must you always push me to the brink?

Like everyone, I have fears. I keep a running checklist in my head of all the things I am scared of.  Fear can paralyze me. It can whisper lies, snake around my heart and squeeze out my last bit of confidence till I forget all the victories and only see failures.
Speaking of fears, these were seen around campus.
I've had it with these motherf*@#ing snakes on this motherf*@#ing plane! (or VCFA)

Since I've been at school, I've developed muscle to wrestle away this fear. Mainly because it pops up every month around my packet deadline. I've learned to look it right in it's beady little eyes and say, "GO AWAY. I'M NOT AFRIAD."

I face it, stay firm, and it leaves. Sometimes it works right away, sometime I have to eat a lot of chocolate chip cookies. Or cupcakes.

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll notice I stress bake. A lot. 

No matter how many times I feel like this will be packet to undo me, remarkably, I will pulled it together before the due date. Last semester, I turned in my assignments hours before deadline (true magic).

Whenever I hit "send," bravery replaces the fear. I've hit the send button elven times now. I've turned in hundreds of pages of creative writing. Ten essays. One critical thesis and read over 100 children's books in the course of a year. Writing has given me the strength to overcome.

Except, when I was asked to do this reading.

I wasn't expecting to have to write something and share it with anyone during residency. Like I do every month when my homework is due, I said to my fear: "GO AWAY. I'M NOT AFRIAD."

"Dispose of all plastic SNAKES put out over residency."

When the time came for me to read, I stepped up and did it. Wobbly legs, shaking voice and all.

After my reading, I felt like my life ended. I felt so exposed. I hid. In my dorm room, I called my husband and cried. I told him of all my self doubt, the anxiety, the feeling of embarrassment.

Allison Ritchie, Marianne Murphy and I. Deliriously funny women.

"Go down to the Wine Pit and socialize," my husband said. "I'm sure it wasn't as bad as you think."

"No. It was worse."

He listened and encouraged me to venture out. I said I would, turned on some LCD Soundsystem for motivation and left my room. In the hallway lounge, I bumped into friends. We talked about my reading, hunting for ghost and I realized it wasn't as terrible as fear had me think. *Poof* my feelings of failure left. I needed to get out of my head and into the hall to remember my victory. I did it.

I rose.

Since I've been home, I've been studying a lot of poetry. Maya Angelou has really spoken to me. Almost, in a really creepy way. I was reading her book at the library and came across this poem:

Thanks for another great residency, VCFA. Only one packet in, and I can't wait to see what the magic does during these next five months.

I'll end with a few lines from Maya Angelou's poem, Still I Rise. It's my fight song to fear, and it's stupid nagging presence.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

1 comment:

  1. How much do I love THIS...and YOU, Veeda Bybee? Thanks for the boost as I head toward my packet deadline. - Mo