So this. This has been quite a year. 🙂
I have a book contract with Press 53, a publisher in my home state, and a first collection of short stories that will be coming out this October. I have now taught two semesters of fiction at Allegheny, getting to know some of the most earnest, dedicated, and talented students I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. For the first time, I’ll be attending a commencement ceremony as an educator in full regalia, fancy tam and everything. I’ll get to see students, some of them my students, cross a stage and achieve a milestone, just as I did at my own graduation ten years ago.
I’ve also been doing some looping, some slipping-out-of-the-present, as I typically do when big things are happening. My graduation year was actually kind of rough. I had just had an exceptionally painful falling out with a high school friend, what had been the most intense relationship of my adolescence (not romantic, but still intense). A lot of old teenage comforts had become stifling, and though I’d done my part to discard them, in some cases even abuse them, it was still an experience that, at the time, felt like an exile. That fall, I entered my MFA at UNC Greensboro, anxious and adrift, not really knowing what kind of person I was and carrying around the nagging insecurity that I should’ve figured that out already.
That hasn’t exactly changed. Not really. If you’re like me, you live, sometimes excruciatingly, with a need to make sense of things. It’s most definitely why I’m a writer. Everything in the world is loops and links and metaphors and symbols. Every small thing is connected precariously to every huge thing. This is useful when you’re an educator. But sometimes it’s exhausting.
So tomorrow at commencement, I want to try to turn that introverted energy outward. Out to the students and their families and their future lives. I want to wish them great things, that they should have all the love and support and lucky breaks that I’ve had, that they should know themselves and make themselves while avoiding the paralysis of self-doubt. Cheers, students! Cheers, Allegheny seniors! I know it’s cliche, but this is just the beginning.