(This is sort of loosely inspired by this really great article by Tawni O’Dell, about being proud of who you really are (as a writer, especially). Please read it!)
I was never cut out to be valedictorian. Too much work. I almost made the top ten, but didn’t. I was having too much fun. #28 in a class of 400-something. I could just never get it together enough to really buckle down the way I needed to, to make those top grades every single time. You know, those kids who never got anything less than straight A’s? Well, I got a couple B’s. I surely did. I was busy falling in love (a good few times…), breaking up, making friends, having jobs, quitting jobs, being a teenager.
My college experience was much the same. I did well. But I didn’t quite make the grades I needed to get my magna cum laude cords. I was so jealous of everyone who had them. I got my honors cords instead, had just “cum laude” listed after my name in the program. Again, I was too busy… working two jobs to put myself through school, falling out of love, falling in love with my honey, making friends, losing friends, getting married, watching people die, changing my major a good dozen times.
Some day, when I have to write an author’s bio, I want to remember to say that I didn’t get my MFA because I didn’t want one. I got married and pregnant instead, and that was what I wanted. I know they’re going to think of me as a lesser writer because of it, and they’re welcome to go fuck themselves while they’re at it. It’s just a point I want to remember. I’m not very good at remembering these things in the moment. I’m a sensitive type, in the moment – more likely to ball up and cry.
I suspect the rest of my career, my life’s ambitions, my successes will follow that pattern. #28 in a class of 400-something. Almost the smartest, but not. Almost the best, but not. Almost popular, but not. Almost successful, but not.
Obviously those things aren’t the most important to me. I made decisions along the way that demonstrated the fact that I didn’t really want to be all of those things, but instead, wanted to be a little bit of them. I wanted to be close to them, but not. It left me the space to live a life, have experiences, make the connections that inspire all these stories I’m able to write.
I remember being so hard on my little eighteen year-old self, for not making that top ten group. And as a ripple-effect, not getting into the college I wanted. Not getting the scholarships I wanted. I felt like such a failure. How was I supposed to know I was doing everything exactly right? How was I supposed to know, that looking back on it from here, I wouldn’t change a damn thing?