Weekly Wonderings – March 8th, 2021

Time keeps on moving. I feel like I am doing a very good job of keeping myself busy most times during this unemployment period. I’ve made a few hundred dollars off work I’m creating for Teachers Pay Teachers, which feels good. We’ve also already started clearing out things that won’t be making our next move with us. There’s a local used media store that we’ve made two trips to and come out with around $250. I’ve also sold a board game on eBay, but I find the online marketplace environment, whether it’s there or Craigslist is slow and filled with idiots trying to rip you off. Within our first week of selling an exercise bike, someone tried to dupe us into this cashier’s check scam. They asked us to pay a person they had hired to come to pick it up, which was really odd. It felt off, but I didn’t know why so I just googled the elements of this sale and found out it’s a fairly common thing. Funny, when we started asking more detailed questions, we never heard from them again. I feel like most of my adulthood, I’ve done a pretty job of smelling a scam when I see one. So far, so good, crossing my fingers.

The newest episode of the podcast is up with all the reviews from last week. I am sketching out plans for something that isn’t so redundant, with me actually on the microphone. Look for that by at least the end of March. I already know what I’ll be talking about in the first one, just a matter of outlining everything.

Also, here’s the Spotify playlist for the week.

While I’ve been working on stretching those writing muscles again, I’ve done a lot of freewriting. I realized that when I was in college, my brain was just not ready to write anything that could have been considered passable. In turn, freewriting has made me recall a lot of those college days. I don’t know if I’d call the feeling I have regret, but it’s definitely a greater understanding of what was wrong with me back then. I had been homeschooled my entire childhood, so college was like both a high school experience and being thrust into adulthood rolled into one. My parents did not do a good job preparing me for adulthood, and I still don’t understand why. As a result, I was both hungry for the amount of social interaction college provided but didn’t know basic things like doing my laundry or tracking my finances.

I have to thank my late maternal grandmother, who died when I was 2 years old, for creating a college trust fund. I never once had to worry about a single bill during my undergrad years, and now I look back and realize how damn lucky I was. I had friends who struggled to cover those bills. It was a private Christian school too, so it wasn’t a cheap ride. On the one hand, if I had gone to a state school, I would have graduated with much more in that trust fund to help get me started. However, I was such a neophyte, a state school would have melted my brain.

Getting to live in a large city was a pretty big thrill, and I loved it. But I can reflect now and realize what a terrible friend I was to so many people. Mining deeper, I see this as a result of some extreme anxiety and likely budding depression. My father was notorious in our house for mood swings, and I either had inherited that or was mimicking behavior I’d seen my whole life. Almost twenty years removed from college, I realize what a different person I am now. That anxiety still exists but has been tamped down so much that I don’t feel it much anymore. I think the COVID fears when I was forced to go in and work in a school building were the first time I’d felt it that bad in a while. I also have to credit my wife for helping me build the confidence I have now that makes all that anxiety and self-doubt fade away.

But having this knowledge can make a lot of college memories so much more painful to recall. I stand outside of myself and see the wrong decisions I was making, how I was so unappreciative of kindness I was being shown because of my self-loathing and sense of inadequacy. I missed out on so many great friendships because I was stuck in my head. The people I considered my friends in college I drifted away from afterward because I was still working through all that doubt. The people I had acquaintanceships with and could have been great friends with I never gave consideration to. Now, I would say everyone I know from college is just an acquaintance, seen only through social media and rarely communicated directly with. In some ways, it’s just too late to rekindle those friendships. These people have moved on with their lives, and it’s completely unfair of me to intercede because I’ve developed maturity and a better sense of self-awareness to try and be their friend again. I just have to learn from the past and use that when moving forward.

That doesn’t stop me from imagining how great it would be to put this almost 40-year-old perspective inside my 20-something body. I know I would definitely savor college’s academic experience so much more than I initially did, but I would also have better interpersonal skills. I wouldn’t spend so much time hating myself alone in my dorm room, wasting all that time. Despite having the trust fund, I didn’t have much spending money, which caused me to feel inadequate. But now, having lived through periods of poverty and finding ways to survive and keep going, I don’t think I would let it get to me as badly. I’d find ways to interact with these friends that didn’t involve dropping money constantly. With it having been a Christian school, having the perspective I possess now, I would have done a better job at questioning things we were being taught.

I’ve been reading The Art of Character by David Corbett as part of the DIY MFA thing I’m working through. He has some really fantastic exercises and structures related to finding and developing characters. Combined with the freewriting, it led me to start thinking about these times. This is yet another reason I don’t know if I would have made much as a young writer. I didn’t have that experience to reflect on. I think I’m pretty good at not just recalling images from my memories but the visceral feeling of them, and that can be an uncomfortable experience. However, I firmly believe good art comes from the artist entering awkward spaces and exploring them. Ultimately, that will make the work relatable when you discover those elements that are universally relatable to each individual’s experience or help someone feel an emotion in a situation that they may have never encountered.

Right now, I am sketching out a short story and intentionally creating a protagonist pretty different from myself. They are female, recently divorced, mother of one. The story centers around an awakening type of moment that is bittersweet, so I’m treading carefully in moments and then daring in others. For the story to work, I really need to hit some emotional notes well, avoiding manipulating the reader. What’s going to be crucial are this character’s relationships with her ex-husband, daughter, and then a third character. So, spending time exploring my own relationships, especially those times I failed in them, is very fruitful ground. I’m sure someone somewhere has said writing is both an art & therapy. I’m enjoying the process, and whether anything of substance comes from it, I will have taken satisfaction in the journey.

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