Spring has sprung – the kind that swings the pendulum of unpredictable weather which somehow, inexplicably motivates me year after year to clean out every drawer, replace what is worn with something new, and muddle over the idea of a drastic change to my hair. It is inevitable.
Still, this Spring brings an extra punch by laying down a vast amount of unpredicted change, or, in some cases, change that’s been less routine in recent years than it has been in the past. While vacuuming under the couch and turning over those precious closet items I’ve had for most of a decade can be derived as both good and necessary changes, consolidating my laptop/desktop duo and being cleared of any further excuses to have to venture to Southern Utah 2-3 times a year weren’t as welcome. Yet, change is good.
It is good to not be committed to working on a large, iMac-centered project now that I have consolidated my little Air and large iMac into one, simple docked laptop station. I still get the benefits of the oversized, pristine screen while the even greater benefits of being truly on the go. It is good that I came down from a 3TB haven to a 256Gig portable device. Who really needs that much music, collected for the nostalgia of late 90’s teenage angst, at your fingertips at all times? And who really needs 10,000 old modeling photos from a time in my life I thought I was pretty hot stuff and now, you couldn’t convince me to be that girl again for any reason at all? As a result, my iTunes and iPhoto collections have been sent to the outer darkness of a portable backup drive hardly to be seen or heard from again, except in overly nostalgic times of need.
This process has quite literally lightened the load although the transition made me as distraught and ill-tempered as witnessing the passing of an old friend. Div@ 2.0 truly was just that. Three versions of her have resided on my desk since 2001, partnered with a laptop since 2005. I buried each of them in their respective boxes and sent them on to another life as I stood in memorium of younger days.
Likewise, it is good to be free of any obligation to travel so long and so far medical updates. I never thought I could be so lucky as to have a team of such attentive, personal doctors with experience beyond some medical text and fumbled practice. As a result, I am in the clear for a potential life time of being “in the green” as far as the health spectrum is concerned. I get to live a normal life, even if that means choosing between feeling young and looking young (a subject for another time, in another place).
This Spring has pushed me outside of my box in more than just a few worldly ways. In bigger news, this has been the Spring of publications! Aside from numerous blogs published professionally across the web (my second life as a digital marketing prowess doesn’t count), I haven’t been published… I mean truly published… since mid-2007 when I was a journalist for a handful of publications (NowOnTour.com, NextXNews, etc.). Even then, being a journalist isn’t that far fetched from online blogs and articles. That’s precisely why I didn’t go into journalism. The life of a journalist used to be challenging and in-your-face, whereas by the end of my journalism reign, it was all about who knew who and who sponsored what. The more influential and well known you were, the more a “bad review” could never be allowed. So I said, “Eat it” to the world of Rupert Murdoch and hadn’t gained any real momentum in the writing world since.
A first draft novel in November, a new drafted short story in December, an old completed story by January, and a last minute story written in February – like the planting of winter bulbs, these moments have now blossomed in the Spring of an entirely new era of life.
The Spring of publications began just a few weeks ago when the annual Sine Cera, published by SLCC’s sponsored, local Community Writing Center, pressured (thanks Shuana 😉 me to read my included short story, Wakefulness. I literally did not commit until the day of the publication party/reading. As a result, I hadn’t truly looked over my short story or ever tried reading it out loud. With a few quick, last minute tweaks, I stood up to read. I was 2/3 of the way through the program, despite insisting I go as close to first as possible, before any truly great writer stood up there and gave me something I could never compete with. But I stood. I read. And half way through my reading it occurred to me that all those group emails begging anyone with long pieces to please cut theres to a five minute reading… were for me. And I hadn’t cut mine.
I wasn’t nervous. When it comes to public speaking, I hardly ever am. The piece was better than I remembered, which was a relief to any nerves I could possibly have about sharing my work. But it wasn’t something as easily understood out loud, in long drawn out minutes, as it was when reading it to yourself. So I hurried. I rushed through the second half in respect of everyone’s time, and somehow, the rushing all made sense. The story itself has a rush of several things that happen across brief moments, easily forgotten. So I read it just the same. While my first joke between the lines went over with a chuckle and the first F-bomb was met with a LOL, the rest was fairly silent, and I can’t really be sure if anyone got the power of that final line. Still, it doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that, as I sat down and let the next writer go on, the next writer made some sort of comment about my being hard to follow at the same time that my Stark leaned over and told me he was proud. The short, heart felt compliment was far from anything I expected. I expected maybe a brief squeeze on the shoulder or a pat on the back like any other time I gave a speech or taught a lesson. Happy to have pleased the only person that truly mattered to me, I started to cry. The tears were happy. The moment was perfect. I truly couldn’t ask for more as I held the book in my hands and thought about all the times I had joked that it wasn’t a “real” publication. It felt real enough…
At the party/reception afterwards, some of my favorite CWC employees were there to tell me that I did a fantastic job and that my story was one they liked, especially. To me, these are great people and amazing writers. The compliments were not anything I would have expected. It was hard not to meet them with instant sarcastic judgement of, “REALLY?!?” But I toned it down and learned to accept the smiles, knods, and brief passing, “Great story!” I laughed out loud when someone asked me to autograph my story while exclaiming, “It’s not very often you hear someone use the F-word around here. Seriously, it was a relief and really did add to the story.”
I didn’t have too long to recover or become reclusive in my self doubt. It was only six days later that Stark and I would be back, for another reception/reading party. This time, the party was for the Race Card publication, sponsored by a handful of important names and put on by the CWC. Race has always been something I have been distinctly passionate about, long before I exited stage right from the Utah bubble and found myself being reprimanded in North Carolina for pronouncing the country, Niger very, very wrong. I was eight. I didn’t know what I had done. But I was familiar to a reaction of what was and wasn’t appropriate. Even more so, I was familiar to the reaction of what hurts other people after a few short years of dragging my cousins up and down the street of their neighborhood on bikes and wagons while wandering eyes assumed what this mixed family was all about.
Having spent my most primitive years growing up in the South, North Carolina taught me many great and saddening things. I remember very distinctly a little girl I played with on the short plane ride from Atlanta to Fayetteville. It made no difference to me how different we were, but I remember how apologetic her mother was and a little skittish at first that I would want to ask her daughter to color with me. After relaxing a bit, our mothers let us play. We spent the rest of the plane ride sitting on the floor, using her seat as a desktop and chasing rolling crayons down the isles. Talk about an age of innocence.
Racial differences were not blatantly apparent to me for years. It was only after many “run ins” my older siblings had with fights at school and various comments that I started to piece it all together. In my own life, any fights I had at elementary school never equated to, “This happened to me because…” of anything in regard to skin color. To some, it did. I even heard the excuses thrown around the first time I sat bloodied up and covered in mud after a playground “accident.” Maybe it was just in my own, twisted nature to somehow think it was all a result of something I had done. But that’s just it. So much of what happens today is two or three generations removed from the bigger problem, and still, the younger generations hold themselves responsible for the ghosts of the past. Young adults and teenagers today are still so weighed down by how things “used to be” that what we all mark as “stereotypical,” is more or less someone feeling as though they are being culturally responsible in the defense of their name or their family. These kind of fights have been going on since the start of time and have always been marked by a difference in location, religion, or race.
While it is a subject I could go on and on about forever, the story I wrote was about the first real time I saw something as a “racial issue.” After many experiences, it was on my very first day of High School that I watched a kid die at my feet. I didn’t know him. I didn’t know anyone directly involved. But I do know I had the same feeling of anger and regret in that moment as I did when I held my cell phone to my ear in September 2008 and learned that my cousin had been shot down on the west side of Salt Lake City.
So much of life is distinctly unfair. To have been born a white, middle class female does not feel like a “blessing” to me or a stroke of luck. So I wrote a story. I made it brief. And I chose, this time, not to share it. I didn’t want to get up there and talk about my own experiences when, in my mind, almost anyone else published in this Race anthology should be honored for their experience. I suppose that in and of itself is a racial issue. To me, my white girl opinion truly didn’t matter. Then again, it wasn’t race at all. By not reading my story (“Welcome Back Students”) at this publication party, I chose to not associate any “color” with my story. My pen name is discrete. My words describe only a little of who I am or where I come from. To me, that was the best way to honor what I had to say. To me, it was the only way of truly being heard for what I really wanted to say.
Last but not least, the third and final publication party for the Teens Write anthology will be celebrated on May 31. While this publication is meant to honor the mentored teens, none of the mentors will be reading their stories. This is, after all, a celebration of the teens’ accomplishments and not another excuse for adult writers to toot their own horns so to speak. But this is my longest story, by far. It is the strongest story out of the three and one that took me ten years to complete. Since the teens involved in the Teens Write group are all 16-17 years old, the story is simply called, “When I Was 16…” I look forward to seeing the story at home on its brand new, crisp, white pages.
Thank you to any and all of you who encouraged me. I hope this is evidence of things to come.