but not

(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?

8 thoughts on “but not

  1. That article definitely makes me nervous for anyone (especially women) going into publishing, and I get a little itchy even getting near to contemplating the idea of publishing. The idea of people around you suddenly trying to make you marketable– scary.

    Personally, I’ve always been a stubborn sort. I’ve always known who I was and understood that the decisions I’ve made were the ones that suited me best at the time I made them. I think I’d be a publisher’s nightmare. “You want me to do what? Glitter? Naked? No.”

    Just so we’re even, I was #4 in my high school class. 😛 But I had issues and so I think I just funneled everything into school work (and even then, I didn’t really try that hard– I was still a slacker and a procrastinator most of the time, preferring to hide out in the background and not be noticed). And then I actually went to community college, lol. Kinda embarrassing, but I knew it was the best thing for me at the time. I really wasn’t ready to go off and be on my own until I was ready to go off and be on my own and then I couldn’t be stopped.

    So here’s to being proud of who we are! *raises fancy glass filled with grape juice*

  2. Loved this – I identified with almost everything you wrote! I have never been able to fully push myself for things like being valedictorian, graduating top of class in college, etc. – they never seemed important enough to me, although doing well was important, always. But yes, acting in plays and reading “for myself” and trying to draw and going to yoga…in the moment those things always battled with the kind of fortitude it takes to be “at the top.” I have, actually, always been at peace with that, as I am today.

  3. I found your blog through Lakeside Heights and I must say what a lovely post. I always try to make my posts as insightful too. I was a bit of a nerd in school too and always wanted to be as good as possible in whatever I was doing, despite sucking at it (like Math). Sadly I think that allowed me to miss out on a lot that I feel like I’m still regretting to this day. I wish I learned to live a little but that’s another part of life’s conundrums. Good for you for living it up and continuing to do so.

  4. Lunar, oh, I’d be declining the naked glitter too!!! 😮

    Oh man, #4! I’m sure if we’d have met at 18 I would have been very resentful of you, lol! But not now. That’s awesome, and I’m very proud of you! 🙂

    I kind of did the same, with a local university, rather than one of the more prestigious ones I could have tried to get into. Oh man, but my reasons were even worse (… for a boy… x_x). A shameful thing indeed. But you know, some mistakes are meant to be made? (note: see below comment about regret.)

    Courtney, I’m so envious of your peace! (You see, just the state of being envious is such an unpeaceful thing, lol!) We can feel what’s important and what’s not though, and everything else comes from outside influence. So I’ll have to listen to my own inner peace a little more 😉

    Fabiola, hi and welcome! Glad to have you reading! 🙂

    Ah, regret! I think I could write a novel on regret, and maybe some day I will. It’s fascinating to think about. I think to regret is to admit that there’s something you would have changed about the way you did things. I have to say, I’m happy where I am, so I can’t regret either, even if there were things I figured I did “wrong”. Even the wrongs got me where I am today. So there really isn’t any “wrong” way of living. Not really 😉

    Oh look at me trying to be philosophical on two glasses of wine, lol! Don’t try this at home, kids!

  5. I think I was 13th or something. I took an unweighted Interdisciplinary Honors class sophomore year instead of the weighted Honors World History, and then of course I took regular math classes. Also I never really cared about grades.

    And umm – I rejected the Honors Society, lol. They even told me I got in, but I was like “I never turned in the application.” Because I was in honors and AP everything but math with the people who did get in, and I knew they got good grades but they had to work for them and they weren’t actually that smart and I had to define “exonerate” and “angst” for them in class, so whatever.

    Oh man, I probably sound like such a snob.

    I will join you in saying “Fuck you” to people who will look down on you for not having a MFA. 🙂

    Oh, I thumbed through some Franzen. It’s dreck. IMHO. 😉

    That paragraph towards the end – my answer to those questions is you guys. You guys create the haunting stories and the wonderful characters and teach me.

    As for me – went to UNC, failed out because I didn’t want to go to class and was somewhat suicidal, went to community college, didn’t go to class the first semester there either but they let you come back, worked in fast food and then in the computer lab, then back to fast food for two years after graduating with a two year degree, and then I found my current job. Which I love, so there!

    I don’t know – I’m happy with who I am and what I’m doing. What bothers me is when other people try to impose their views on me and look down on me and judge me and don’t take me seriously because I publish for free, don’t have a MFA, have ovaries(of steel!), whatever.

    So I’m still looking for peace too. I think part of the point is that you never find it, though.

    *hugs*

  6. Stacy, lol, you’re so right, there’s such a science to getting those top high school graduating spots! You’ve got to have all the right honors classes, and if you even miss one, you’re out of the running! It’s kind of ridiculous, lol!

    Yes, I rejected the Honors Society too, lol! How funny! I was *such* a rebel in my youth 😉

    I’m still hoping for that peace though, even if it is elusive. Maybe it’s one of those things we keep striving for, but never quite get there.

  7. You know – I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the people in VSS have done the same thing. Making the choices that bring us to where we are, can be hard to see in advance, but easier to look at from behind.

    I have a simliar story – not quite top of the year, because I had other things to deal with. Would I change it now though? Sometimes I still would, but other times no.

    And as for peace? I think it’s an intermittent thing. Every so often we get the eye of the storm, where we can breathe, before we have to go back out into the chaos again. They’re moments to be treasured and remembered.

  8. Kiri, you know, it would make more sense that peace was intermittent. It’s just like us to idealize something like lifelong inner peace, and think we could achieve and sustain that forever, and completely lose sight of these small but important moments of peace we come by all the time. Yes, you’re right, when you’re tossed back into the chaos, it does make the peace more memorable! I’ll have to remember that the next time I find myself peaceful, lol! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *