I graduated a year ago this past week from a tiny liberal arts college in the very center of the state. I did not pay as much for that education as a lot of people do for theirs - I am in a very reasonable amount of debt. Before transferring from community college (where I had a weird time; I'm glad I did it financially, and because I was as passionate about hating high school as I am about the things I genuinely enjoy, so I got ambivalence out of my system in a cheap way) I studied psychology because I liked its theory and history and how it has evolved - something one does not learn studying psychology as an undergraduate. Graduating with my degree from the college I went to then is one of my favorite decisions, up there with my fixations on Sailor Moon and Courtney Love and my mystifying discovery of Geek Love at eleven. I studied writing incidentally because it fulfilled my desire of higher education: I learned to better communicate my ideas, articulate my suspicions, manage teams, assert myself, implement changes to the institutions I was directly involved in, read what I wouldn't have arrived at independently with at least one person who really likes it or is paid an appealing sum to fake enthusiasm, and - very importantly, to me - feel a sense of accomplishment within a community that has identifiable limits, something I could wrap my head around. I'm not a competitive person. Writing itself is an edifying process and it was never the ultimate thing once something of mine was done to get acclaim for it. I was not exposed to that possibility when I was younger. By virtue of participating in class I received the first positive feedback for doing my favorite thing (and not doing it very well) and I needed that. I felt secure enough to hope to get the editorship at the school's literary journal, and I did. For this I had a perfect college experience, with enough unnerving misadventure and poor dark alleys to insure I would also never want to relive it.
After I graduated, I wrote a short novel. I've done a lot of things, but I made a mad dash to draft that thoroughly before I started working full time, and finished it completely once I started dating my boyfriend. I had pieces of it and had worked on it as an idea since I was in high school. I've sent it four places (three presses and a contest), three of which rejected it. I haven't heard from the last place and it has been a quarter of a year, which I'd think is not unusual for a book, but is a long time to wait for a rejection I'm reasonably certain will be flippant, not because I expect this from this press but because it is the kind of book you kick away. It's weird. Rape, incest, molestation, trauma (personal, national), public execution and murder come up but do not make up the subject of it, and it is such a slight book. And it is a good book. I'm amazed to read it now because it is my first big work and I would read it if it wasn't mine. It does what I want it to do. I fixed the last few things about it that really bothered me today, so now I do not intend to alter it again.
I lose perspective easily. To say I do not dwell on what I've done is offensively off the mark - I don't really notice for more than a minute before I hole back up in the black abyss of what I want to accomplish, what I haven't reached yet. Generally this works for me, but sometimes it makes me sick and crazy, particularly in such situations as I'm in right now where maintaining perspective is vital. My state is so liminal. I think I am unreasonable to feel a trajectory should be more comfortable, but I should definitely recognize that I am on one even if it is vertiginous. I do not always recognize this. Reading my little book made me feel better about this. To have produced something I believe in so much, I should give myself more credit. I have done a lot in a year.