Back to the Future

If I had a time machine, I would go back in time and tell 1998 me to go to the Financial Aid office and ask for the 411. I would explain to nineteen year old me that not having a kid, or any major debt, or a life to speak of, was the perfect time to attend college. And that as present me, I would take it as a serious favor.

Of course, that would change everything and break the space time continuum, but I’m not going to dwell on that. Instead, I’m dwelling on hindsight being twenty-twenty.

The irony of this being that I went to school to get better at writing, and have had almost no time to work on my craft.

I steal what I can. Last weekend my father-in-law came up and took Toby swimming with my husband, and I soaked up two hours and wrote 3200 words. Next week I’m taking a continuing education class on copy editing, which may sound boring but will definitely improve my craft a lot. I’m excited to be taking the class with two of three in my writers group. I think it will be a great exercise for everyone.

I can feel my life changing on a daily basis. I thought I was prepared for school, but I wasn’t. For the past three years I worked full time, got home, ate supper and spent time with family, and then when Toby went to bed I wrote. I thought that school couldn’t possibly be more work than that.

I was so naïve.

I got so tired that I bailed on a signing event a couple weekends ago because I couldn’t even. The thought of driving for two hours alone made me want to curl up and cry. I wanted to go, but the level of homework and exhaustion combined grounded me.

Knowing I have two years of this to look forward to, before moving on to my BA and other challenges, are hard facts. Knowing that my future books are slowed to a crawl is tough to accept. No matter how many times I try, I still cannot do ALL THE THINGS, and it still frustrates me.

Limitations are what help us grow, though. I keep thinking that growth happens when we have unlimited time and resources. Honestly it’s when we’re stopped from growing that we push the hardest. Even though it’s hard, and things crop up outside of school and test you, and then things in school crop up and you realize you’ve been doing it wrong, you go on. You just dust off and try harder.

And sometimes, if you’re very clever and your son and your husband are playing a video game together, you may have time to write the occasional blog post.

School Daze

When I started school, I had an optimistic mindset. I remembered being an excellent student. Hermione Granger had nothing on me. I was confident about learning and absorbed facts quickly, while being able to organize the facts for easy access later.

Well.

That was all true, but when you’re a student at 17, you live at home, you don’t have to run a household. Your biggest concern is generally what you are doing on Friday night. Being a mother, a wife, and an author, becoming a student tore a hole in my nice, shiny set-up. My friends have often made comments about the way I Tetris my schedule to squeeze every last usable minute out of my day. Well, I did not compensate for the demands of the day, and nearly ran my brain over a cheese grater in the process.

Like a drunken pilot seized by a survival instinct, I blindly grabbed for the controls and brought everything to a halt. My clockwork precision in ruins, I had to scramble to bring it all back to a medium pace. Lesson learned.

Everything is riding on college right now. I spent six months looking for work, and I barely scared up a pre-screening phone call. I got a lot of nice rejection letters, which is better odds than the last time I was unemployed. That said, I’m getting sick of being unceremoniously dumped out the cargo bay when a corporate entity feels the need to lighten the load. I’ve topped out on my customer service skills alone. I need something with more depth and more challenge.

The irony in the swirl of all this change is that I had just come to a point where I’d accepted my lot with my ex-employer. I’d been looking for jobs and hadn’t caught any breaks. So, I decided that I could keep doing what I was doing – work all day, write all night, live in the margins. It wasn’t a month after I made that decision that I got the boot treatment.

Back to school. I love it. I still have the ability to absorb information quickly. I’m still good at taking notes, organizing them, and turning them back around. I’m not doing as well as I’d like, but just imagine Hermione pulling a ‘B’ in a class. There are stakes. I hold myself to a high standard, and anything less than an ‘A’ isn’t a good grade in my book.

Sadly, I’ve had to put that model to bed, because life. I’ve had to adopt a more realistic model of things, one that gives me time and space for family and writing and sleep. It’s been difficult to adopt that model instead. I’m a perfectionist at heart, but perfection is a state attained only in one’s mind. It’s better in your head, Tina.

I’m hoping that with these adjustments college will be a smoother ride. Ah, platitudes. How would we manage without them?