Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Do what I do. Hold tight and pretend it's a plan!"

Blog title is quoted from Doctor Who, season 7
I found out last Sunday night that I was accepted to Eastern Washington University's Masters of Fine Arts program in creative nonfiction. I'm still waiting on financial aid and other financial assistance, i.e. a teaching position, but I feel hopeful that this will work out. Classes start in September, which means moving back to Washington at the end of the summer. Moving is a big enough deal, but moving back to Eastern Washington is a REALLY BIG DEAL. Washington state is like a lot of states and the U.S. generally where there are urban, liberal areas and rural, conservative areas, and Eastern Washington is the more rural conservative part of the state. Actually, outside of Seattle but still on the western side is a lot of small logging communities that are not all that liberal either, and where I grew up, Pullman, is a college town and somewhat liberal compared to other parts of Eastern Washington, but I digress. I haven't lived in that area since I was eighteen, which in case you are wondering, was 25 years ago. I never in a million years thought I would move back there, so just the idea that I will probably be living in Spokane by the end of this year is mind-boggling. For me. And most people who know me. Like I can hardly wrap my mind around it.

There's the, I have a lot of tattoos and I'm a liberal weirdo who is completely unremarkable in Los Angeles but probably not going to blend into the Spokane culture, aspect of this, and then there's the moving from the second largest city in the United States to a city that is 3% that size. Even Seattle is almost 20 times larger than Spokane. It's hard for me to imagine, and I was born and raised in a town that is 20 times smaller than Spokane. Small towns or cities are different in so many ways from large urban areas, too many to list. So I'm expecting a significant degree of culture shock. At the same time, I feel like I'm getting a do-over. Even better than a do-over, because I have the benefit of years of experience, having lived my life in a completely different way than I would have imagined before I went to business school. Now I'm going back to what I always believed was my calling in life, to be a writer. I go back to writing with a skill (accounting) that most writers don't have, and a bunch of related skills that I developed while working in accounting, like training and managing people. Then I have what I learned in business school, including the art of faking it until you make it, or bullshitting your way through, if you want to say it in a less generous way. This is a skill that some people learn as they are growing up. If you are moderately privileged, you might assume that you will be successful in life and in the projects you undertake, including school and careers and relationships, and setbacks can be overcome, so if you don't totally know what you're doing it's fine, you'll pick it up. Or, like me, you might have grown up expecting to die in a gutter somewhere, but were lucky enough to gradually learn that you could accomplish your goals like other people, even if inside you felt undeserving and fraudulent most of the time.

Ironically, some of us pursue goals that seem purposely difficult, while maintaining a belief that we are losers even as we work harder and do better than those around us. Plus, those goals that we work so hard at proving we can do despite ourselves tend to not reflect what we really want, rather what we think is expected of us or what is safe. As much as I genuinely like accounting and the feeling of accomplishment it gives me, I chose it as a career because it seemed safer than to do what I wanted, be a writer. A professional, full-time writer. I thought it was easier to get into business school, get hired by one of the five top audit firms, pass the CPA exam, and work in a fairly technical, complicated, and specialized field that is super-conservative and has a culture that doesn't reflect me at all than do what I have know I was born to do from the time I was able to write words. I was so afraid of failing at something that defines me that I succeeded at something that was only hard for me because I didn't believe in myself. But I get to try again, realizing now that I didn't exactly make it easy on myself while I was trying to make it easy on myself. Turns out denying who you are is hard work, and not a satisfying goal to accomplish. Regardless, I am still alive, which means this game isn't over.