Recently a school friend, Amye, posted a “Goodbye Letter” to gradschool (the same program I’m in). I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently, especially in light of my own hopeful graduation this June. In the letter Amye touches on how fantastic it is to go to residency (we go once in January and once in June during the course of our program). There’s a certain feeling you get when you’re at the program. Within four or five days of my first residency in Jan of 2010 I had a classroom full of friends. For the most part people who I’d probably never associate with (no offense guys), but who I love and think of often despite our differences.
But why? What is the “magic” that makes such things possible? Is it Wilkes-Barre, PA? Heck no. No offense to the good people of Wilkes-Barre, but if I never have to see snow again in my life it’ll be too soon. Several members of my cohort and I nearly froze to death trying to find the Creative Writing office our first day. It’s not the town.
Is it the program? Honestly, no. As wonderful as my professors and mentors are, I was (and still) l am burned out with “school.” I have to talk myself into sitting in classes all day, every day we’re there.
Then, as I was watching Supernatural, it hit me. The reason I love going to Wilkes is the same reason I love being a fangirl and going to conventions. Do I love the massive amounts of crowds? No. Do I like the ticket prices? No. Do I love sleeping crammed into a room full of a bunch of other people? No. The reason I go to conventions and try to hang out with fans as much as possible is because that’s where I feel less insane.
I’ve felt slightly freakish since jr. high summer camp when I was having a conversation with some of the “cool” kids and I included in my response a $20 word. I can’t remember the word, I know I picked it up from reading Sherlock Holmes, but the kid just balked at me when I said it. I remember feeling so out of place in that moment. It was the same feeling I got when I talked with my older cousins. I knew I didn’t fit, but I didn’t understand why. You just feel… different.
Then, flash-forward, to the day I met my bestfriend in college, Andrew, and Mark and Allan. They were interested in making movies, outside of our normal college homework. They made me feel less freakish. I fell in love with my geek side and knew, beyond a doubt, that I wasn’t as different as people made it out to be.
If you stop and think about it, being a writer and being a geek aren’t too far off. You isolate yourself, on purpose. You sit and you type (or hand-write) stories. You work hard in the dark (not the literal dark, mom, if you’re reading this I’m not killing my eyesight). It’s not until months, maybe years later that someone will read and maybe appreciate your work (odds are they’ll never fully grasp how long and how hard you worked to bring it to life). You obsess over little details, things no one else would notice. You long for acceptance. Tell me I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy for spending hard-earned money on a new piece of tech that will make my writing better. Convince me that I’m not insane for switching careers to become a full-time writer or a teacher. These are two of the most-sought-after jobs in the country.
Then you hit that convention or you go to Wilkes’ residency and you realize, with a sigh of relief, you’re not crazy. There’s a roomful of people who are being crazy with you. So, in June when I’m at residency I’m going to try and remember that these times are precious and few. Not every day is ComicCon or WriterCon. You’ve got to hold on to the time you have there while you’re still sane. And carry out with you the idea that you’re not as crazy as when you came in.