The View From Here

As I get ready to defend my poetry thesis "Phoenix" in a few weeks, I find myself thinking back over the road that has brought me here. For me, this road to even get to my MFA program was more of a series of missteps and wrong turns than it was a menopausal rebirth in which I discovered a new-found desire to pick up something from my youth.

This road of life is a hard road for everyone. No one I have ever met has had an easy way of it. But for me, the most significant factor, as far back as I can remember, is the reinforcement of the lie that I was not worth the time, the money or the education; that it should go to someone who would use it for something more "important" than studying literature or creative writing.

I know I am not the only writer out there with this kind of tape running in their head. I'm also not the only person to ever try to beat the odds, or even not have a supportive family as a young child. What I am talking about is the insane and ridiculous reality that, even as I was marching for women's rights, signing petitions for passage of the ERA, burning my bra and rebelling against everything, this is the one thing they said that I believed.

I knew my family did not see the world as I did; they could never understand why I wanted to write and teach and study literature and creative writing; never understood that for me, sitting curled up in a chair reading some fantastic story was more real to me than the world they gave me. As a result, I questioned everything they ever said to me.

Everything, that is, except for my worth.

That one thing I absorbed like a parasite digging into my skin. And what is worse, is that I nurtured its negativity and allowed the echo of it to stop me from doing what I knew I wanted to do since the first time I picked up a book and felt my world open up into new realities and new possibilities.

It's a terrible thing to fight yourself as you attempt to accomplish what you want. To hear your own brain question your timing for attempting to start a new career. To worry that school, now, in the middle of one of the biggest housing, financial and jobs recessions, is just crazy.

I hear that little voice asking: is my writing good enough to have risked it all for a giant pile of school loans and a stack of rejection slips. Or, more importantly, is it that same little voice from the past asking if I am worth all this?

And, I have to wonder if, after all this time, that questioning voice will ever go away?

I have no answers to these questions. And I imagine I will still continue to do battle with myself about these and many other things.

But I do know one thing: when I stand at that podium during my thesis defense, reading from my collection of poems, that little girl that thought how wonderful it would be to grow up, live at the beach and write poetry will be right there beside me, grinning from ear to ear, because we both will realize that we are more than halfway there.

8 comments:

Jennifer O. said...

Hoe wonderful that you had that relaization, stopped right in your tracks, and made a turn to a more fulfilling, rewarding life.

I'm a new follower. I looked forward to reading your future posts.

Jennifer O. said...

Omg. My sorry about all the typos!

Annie Boreson said...

What an inspiring post! Yes, in a few weeks you will be grinning from ear to ear and halfway to your dream of living at the beach and writing poetry. So glad that you stopped listening to that awful tape running in your head. We all have one, but it takes a strong person to send it packing. Congrats to you!

April Morone said...

This is April Morone (aka 'Annika Doe') of 'Poetry Corner group on WD site. Wonderful blog post, hon. :) I can so understand the part about having listened to parents' comments and letting those negative comments reflect our self-esteem. I've been there, as well. My father still on occasion, calls me stupid. I had a 3.941GPA in college, and now host Writers' groups (now plural), including a poetry group that I'd created for poets (as you already know), and still I feel stupid cus of what he was telling me about myself. I know it within my heart that I am not stupid. But all that bad tape/saying in my mind that plays that bad message from ym father about me being stupid has its effect, at times, still. I relate, hon, and I feel for you about this, hon. Hugs. I like the last part of your blog post, here, about that you let yourself be that positive and happy little girl who dreamt of growing up reading poetry as you stand up there at the podium reading your poetry, now, as an adult.

Joan Hanna said...

Thanks so much to everyone for posting. To be honest I thought this was one of my lighter posts and didn't expect the responses!

I so appreciate when others share their stories with me. I think we are all in this confusing cycle of life together and realizing how intricately we are linked is always such a comforting thing.

Dora Dee said...

Congratulations on following your dreams! I definitely relate to you as well because I heard and hear the same tape. I did everything I could to distance myself from the artist that I was - I drew, painted, wrote poetry and short-stories yet my talent was laughed away and I was called a good-for nothing, someone who'd never achieve anything. Slowly I'm also reclaiming that part of myself which I've hidden away from the world. I hope one day the world will hear of her too. I'm sure the world will embrace you and your talent. Best wishes.

Elizabeth Marie said...

Joan, I'm heading to Ashland tomorrow for my first residency (also poetry). My story is a little different from yours, but it's taken me a long, long, long time to allow myself to begin this adventure. I'm so glad I discovered your blog. I sure hope the power goes back on in Ashland SOON! I'm heading there tomorrow regardless. :) I'm only 90 minutes away. I'll make sure to track you down and introduce myself (Elizabeth Christy - white haired and awkward). Oh, heck, you probably won't even see this until Aug. 7.

Joan Hanna said...

Welcome to Ashland Elizabeth!