I hate writing.
"Interesting," you're probably saying. "What exactly are you doing this for then?"
Excellent question. Why am I still writing after making that statement? I guess it's because I'm starting to get the itch again--I finished my final writing class six months ago, avoided putting my thoughts to paper this whole time, and then, as always happens when summer turns to fall and the air becomes crisp with a sense of clarity, began to feel like I could write again.
I say "could," because recently I've been feeling like I can't. I used to write all the time. I have a stack of old notebooks filled from cover to cover and stuffed with scrap paper, spilling over with writing I did in high school, and my freshman year of college, before I declared creative writing as my minor. Maybe that, my short spiral into an unpleasant area of my mind, and feeling like I was being stifled by school, is how I lost my taste for writing. Or maybe, as I thought for a while, I was just not meant to be a writer.
Writing classes solidified that train of thought. I know that you never get better at anything if you don't work with people who are better than you, but next to my classmates, I felt this crushing sense of inferiority. I couldn't shake it. All I felt was they were getting better, motivated by some source drive and passion that I couldn't seem to find, and I was sitting in the corner of the room, wondering what I was doing there and hating every word, sentence, and paragraph that passed through my brain.
So I stopped writing.
I mentioned this to someone the other day and they asked if the classes had at least made me better. If they had asked me six months ago I would have spat out a quick and bitter no, but looking back from where I am now, I think I can say yes. Or at least a solid maybe. I learned new things about perfecting the craft I want to call mine, but what I've been lacking is the practice. I've spent the entire summer dodging questions from people about what I'm going to do when I graduate, avoiding the lurking shameful feeling when someone says, "So you still want to be a writer? How's that going?" and just questioning everything I've done for the past three years.
"You should start writing again," I was told. And I've been thinking--why shouldn't I? I could start writing again. I should start writing again. I will start writing again.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
I like making plans for my future because it makes me feel like I have some measure of control over it.
The first plan I ever made for my life was when I was a senior in high school. This was around the time when I was starting to apply to colleges, and getting ready to finish one phase of my life and move onto another, bigger, scarier one. I only applied to three schools: NYU (my reach), Northeastern (my sort-of-reach-but-fairly-certain-I-would-get-in first choice), and William Paterson (my safety). When I got into Northeastern, I checked that off my to do list, and crafted this elaborate plan for my college career.
Since it was a five-year plan that I was on that was going to involve two internships/co-ops, I had to decide on a major/career choice fairly quickly. I picked journalism. In my head, everything happened like this: I would have a wonderful, easy transition into college life, living in Boston on my own, oh how exciting, and then my three co-ops would be as follows: some small newspaper/magazine, then the Boston Globe or the New York Times, and then Rolling Stone. Yeah. I know. I dream big.
Before my freshman year was even up, I had applied to another school, and in the fall of 2010, I was a student at Montclair State University, home of the Red Hawks. I went in as an English major, and expected my love of reading to come to my assistance as I read book after book for my classes. And yet, somehow, after three years of English classes and analyzing all these great works of literature, I feel nothing but contempt and hatred for every new reading assignment. I had gone from being an excellent student who was on top of all her work, ahead in all her readings, and excited to learn new things to being that person who shows up to class because they have to, skipped more often than not, and found myself skimming Sparknotes in the hallway because I hadn’t even cracked the novel open yet.
Somewhere in those first two years of college, I lost myself, and for a while I was simply floundering. Nothing seemed to be going right, and the worst part was that I couldn’t even bring myself to care about what happened next. It was a very low point in my life and for a while, I thought I wouldn’t know what it was like to feel happy and fulfilled again.
But the one thing about being closer to home and commuting to school was that I had two fantastic opportunities right in the palm of my hand: I could play competitive hockey again, and I could study abroad. So I did both of those things.
Somehow, hockey became my life. It gave me something to be passionate about. I loved it. Hockey was, and still is, a huge thing with me. A lot of people, I think, dream about doing things like traveling the world, going to foreign, exotic lands, becoming rich and successful, or famous, but for me, if I could just play hockey for the rest of my life, I would be happy with that.
Which brings me to the next part of my story.
In the beginning of 2012, my parents and family started to pressure me about life after college. And even though I knew that there was, in fact, life after college, it came as a bit of a shock that I had to think about the “real world” so soon. I didn’t want to jump right into a career immediately after graduation, so instead I started talking to my friends about going on some sort of trip, like to Europe or something fairly stereotypical like that. Plans were being made, once again.
In the fall of 2012, I went to England. If I had to choose a few defining moments of my life, those almost four months in Europe would be on the list. The places that I went to, the things I did, and the friends I made were all incredible. And yes, when I came home, I became that person that brings up their travels whenever possible. I try to do it in moderation.
In September, I logged onto WESS and went to check my Analysis of Academic Progress (basically, that thing that tracks all the classes I take and the number of credits I have). After a lot of calculating, I realized that I was 12 credits shy of graduating. Considering I had been making plans for post-graduation, banking on the fact that I would be done with school in May, I sat in stunned silence and then began stress-crying, thinking that this was it, my life was over, nothing was ever going to go right, and how was I going to tell my parents and family about this—because in my head, having to do an extra semester was a sign of failure, that I did something wrong, and I should be ashamed of it.
But there was a silver lining.
My good friend, Lauren, who I played hockey with for the Quarry Cats, had been hard at work at good ol’ Montclair State, trying to bring a women’s ice hockey team into existence. All of a sudden, this whole “graduating a semester late” thing didn’t seem so bad because I could play college hockey. Almost anyone and everyone who knows me today knows that I will drop plans, reschedule events, and give up almost anything to play hockey. This was a big deal. Yeah, sure, it was only going to be a club team, but it was still college hockey.
And my plans changed again. There would be no traipsing around Europe with my friends, no grand stories to tell before I jumped into whatever job was offered to me. This time, I would be graduating in January, but I would spend that last semester mostly playing hockey, and taking those last twelve credits I needed to finish school, and then here comes the part not everyone knew about: I was going to fly to Georgia in March and hike the Appalachian Trail all the way to Maine. That was my plan. I was determined to see it through (kind of like how I was determined about all my other plans, so I bet you can guess what’s going to happen next).
Just recently, at the beginning of March, I found out I was going to be able to graduate in May. As in May of 2013. This May. This should be a cause for celebration, yes? I should be jumping around and cheering and happy to be done with school (possibly forever). I should have been overjoyed. I hate school. I despise college. I hate people who love college because it makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong, because everyone says that college is supposed to be the best four years of your life. If that’s the case, then the rest of my life is going to be miserable and I should probably just give up now, because college was not the best four years of my life. If I didn’t have hockey, and England, I would probably put it down as being the worst four years of my life. Whenever people tell me about their great college experiences, and all the great friends they have and the awesome parties they go to, I want to tell them to shut up and see how miserable college really is, because I don’t want to be the only person who feels that way.
My parents told me to just graduate. Graduate in May and get a job and be done! I feel like that’s what I should want too. All my friends are graduating. They’re all moving on with their lives. Some are going to graduate school, some are getting jobs, some are making plans for moving out and living on their own or with a significant other—all their lives are getting started. They’re all looking at the big picture, and starting to step towards it.
Then there’s me. There is no bigger picture for me because
I chose instead to delay my graduation because I wanted to play hockey.
Two weeks ago I found out that one extra semester wasn’t going to be enough for me to play on the team—I needed to do a whole extra year. Right then and there, I almost gave it up. My two extremes were at battle with one another: my hatred for school and my love for hockey.
Somehow, my mom gave me the push that I needed to make my most recent decision: go to grad school. If you actually read this whole post and didn’t skip the last few paragraphs, then you know how I feel for hockey. I’m applying to grad school at Montclair State so I can stay and play hockey.
I feel like I have missed out on a lot during my college career. In four years, I have been to three universities. I live at home. I drive to school every day. I don’t go to parties. I don’t have friends that have been made at school—I have friends from high school, or friends from hockey that happen to go to the same school as me. I don’t have a job with a steady paycheck. I have a major that everyone likes to remind me is useless. I have a passion for something that isn’t going to give me a career. I feel listless about all my classes, about my work, about trying to figure out where my life is going. I haven’t applied to grad school yet, but I assure you that if I don’t get accepted, I will be devastated once more.
I wish I had some sort of moral lesson at the end of all this. Like if you just keep persevering, everything will eventually fall into place and you’ll figure it all out. But right now, even after getting everything out there and talking it through with multiple people, and thinking over and over and wondering if this is the right choice: I still don’t know. When people ask me what I want to do with my life, I say I don’t know. Because I don’t. For some reason, those people asking think that if they keep pushing it, I’ll magically figure out the answer. I won’t. I’m 22 years old, and I should probably be moving on and letting go of all my hockey dreams. But I can’t. Without it, I feel purposeless. I feel like I have nothing if I don’t have hockey.
I am lost and confused and sad a lot of the time, about everything. I feel like all my friends are moving forward and I'm getting left behind. Playing hockey is what keeps me going, and even if my family, or other inquiring people, don’t agree with my motives for staying in school longer just to play, I have to do it. I’m trying to find my way in this world like everyone else, and I have to believe that somehow, this is all part of my bigger picture, and everything will work out in the end.