A graduate student confession

Some days (like today), I have no idea why I’m in graduate school.

Well, ok, I shouldn’t say “no” idea. I have some idea, but its vague and perhaps foolish to some and perhaps confusing to others.

But anyways, I honestly spend a decent amount of time wondering if I made the right choice pursuing my Master’s.

Sure, I had good intentions when I applied for Master’s programs. I have a nice, neat little answer to the question, “What made you decide to go to grad school?”

“Well, I was teaching a lot in Milwaukee after undergrad, but all of that work was temporary. It was inconsistent and my career path wasn’t really growing. I wanted to pursue my Master’s to expand my knowledge and my opportunities. One day, I think I would enjoy being the Education Director for a Theatre Company.”

And most people smile and nod along with every word spilling out of my mouth. They give you that look where their eyes squint with the force of their grin that’s screaming “Good for you” while simultaneously their brain begins cycling through all the reasons they think I’m foolish for pursuing a Master’s in the arts.

But….this tidy little answer doesn’t always suffice. For me. There are days where I wonder,

Did I make this decision because this is what I was taught was the natural next step in one’s educational career?

Did I make this decision because I equate success with an ridiculously expensive piece of paper?

Did I make this decision because I don’t know how to function outside of an educational environment? If this is the case, why in the hell do I want to perpetuate the educational environment that causes students to struggle in the outside world?

and then my heart bursts in, “But isn’t that why you want to be a teacher? To BETTER teach students how to survive in the outside world?”

Silence. My brain halts (for only a millisecond or two, but still that’s a freaking miracle).

Yes, yes that is why I want to be a teacher.

 

 

But, you’re right brain, this program is not giving me my teaching license. It’s just a damn Master’s degree, but it’ll be my Master’s degree.

I don’t have a concise reason as to why I chose to go to grad school. I don’t have a crystal clear plan (because, NEWS FLASH, plans never go according to plan – knock it off with that bullshit). I don’t always know why I’m doing what I’m doing, but I’m doing it. I’m learning every day. I’m connecting with teachers all across the country and I’m getting out of this program what I’m putting in (and I am putting in the work, I’ll tell you that much).

Grad school is a complicated experience. It is a major decision and you never really stop deciding. You can quit at anytime. I’ve seen people do so for various reasons. It’s completely acceptable to walk away.

But it’s also completely acceptable to stay. To stay floating amongst your own confusion as to why the hell you made this choice, as to why the hell you want to do anything at all. It’s acceptable to struggle and cry and ponder quitting multiple times throughout the course of your program.

Do what you have to do. For me, that’s this Master’s program that may (or may not) totally change my life. Either way, it’s a place where I can grow like I haven’t before.

“Wonder Woman”

its the ordinary things
that make her extraordinary

the way her hair settles unevenly –
tousling in all directions
after letting her thoughts run wild
against the canvas
of midnight

the way make-up quickly smudges
with every smile and laugh
gently falling away
to open the world
to that natural and under-appreciated
beauty

the way her smile
takes over her entire face,
distorting any attempt she may make
at appearing
‘symmetrical’ –
reminding you that
truly beautiful things
are always off-kilter

the way her attempts at
dressing formal
are always at war
with her comfortable and causal
ways of being –
a single dress never stopped her
from feeling free

the way she writes and talks
about those she loves
with such vigorous admiration

while constantly forgetting

she’s worthy

of the
same
praise

 

I want to be my own Wonder Woman

his 4-year old world

“I’m the draw-bridger”

the proclamation settles in
to a leather couch cushion
quickly recruited to play the part
“bridge”

tender tiny hands
hoist the bridge on its side
until it leans delicately
against particularly placed
kitchen stools
(assigned the job “castle walls”)

slowly

tediously

the living room transforms
under the touch of grimy fingertips
compelled by
the vivid workings
of a mind I can
no longer
seem
to
grasp.

A wedding at the tides

the ocean’s rough spray
is gloomy and grey
on a wedding day
at the tides

charming groomsmen smile
as if they’re on trial,
waiting to defile
their young brides

before the affair
begins, on the air
floats the stench of their
suicides

“He Cleans”

Three p.m. on a warm Monday afternoon. The air is thick with the stench of holiday celebrations: alcohol swirls on the breeze intermingling with the smell of smoked foods and sunscreen. Alexis sits, twitching every minute or so, in her burnt orange hammock. Strung up on the back porch beneath a hand-made turquoise tarp (an unnecessary preparation for rain that never seems to come).

Inside Cory moves with precision, a ghostly figure behind the closed screen door, cleaning the one-bedroom apartment in comfortable silence. He wanders between the kitchen and bedroom in a seeming random pattern, fluidly cleaning the bedroom light switch, kitchen counters, and bathroom mirror in what seems to be one extended movement.

Alexis has often wondered what Cory’s mind fills with as he cleans the space. Every Sunday afternoon, without fail, he pulls out the neon pink duster and grey rags to brush away whatever dust has gathered in six days. Alexis rarely partakes.

She sits and observes his movements. Watching the same dance with fresh eyes, always wondering if she should be a partner in the whole affair. Yet, the dance seems to be intimately choreographed, a secret language Cory speaks with only himself.

“Do you need help?” Alexis shouts through the screen door. Her body tenses as she waits for his answer. Her toes point to the concrete pavement beneath, her fingertips curl into themselves, her neck arches towards the door – she appears like a lion prepared to pounce, but desperately hoping something or someone else will intervene.

“No – I’m fine” Cory’s response floats from the kitchen where Alexis can hear the silverware clanking against their marble counters. Alexis’ body relaxes, her head falls into her hammocks’ embrace. Cory is never angry with her for not picking up the cleaning supplies, he’s never bitter or passive-aggressive. It’s become a source of humor at parties and family dinners with their respective parents, but Cory never seems to hold it against her.

 

Equality

I think of it as a
natural right,
so what is revealed
by the fact
we are fighting
to obtain it?

Does an artist ever stop being an artist?

When paintbrushes are tucked in the way back of the closet, when canvases grow dusty, when notebooks filled with old poems become bent and battered from being moved between a variety of plastic boxes, when you answer in an interview “I used to be an actor, I haven’t acted in a long time”. . .is that where it ends?

Or is the life of an artist something that never quite comes to a close? Does the artistry stay alive internally even when the external choices don’t reflect the inner fire?

 

I have considered myself an artist for as long as I can remember. I have canvases tucked in my bookshelf, I have notebooks filled with mostly crappy (occasionally gripping) poetry and anecdotes, I have photos upon photos from plays I’ve been a part of. I went to college for Theatre Arts, I’m attending grad school for Theatre Education – art seems to live within me, but I ponder this question because externally my artistic habits are waning. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been on stage as a performer, I haven’t seriously taken the time to paint in longer than that. The only remnant of artistry I have is my habit of journaling and writing crappier poems than when I considered myself a poet.

But – will this artistry die? As I step away from the stage and towards the classroom – will my own status as an artist fade away? Will I become the epitome of “Those who can’t do, teach”?

Obviously that is a sentiment I don’t believe in. I want to teach because I love to teach not because I can’t do anything else. I love to teach theatre, I love to share this art I have fallen in love with.

But more and more, I find myself wondering – am I losing my artistry? Will I lose it if I keep going down this path? Am I letting go of my artistic side because I’m afraid…..afraid of putting myself out there in this new state, afraid of not having financial stability, afraid of not being “good enough”?

Or is it merely that my artistry is resting and waiting? Is this merely a time in my life where I have other things to accomplish before my artistry can resurface?

5/15

the serpent’s deceit

the world coils tightly
burrowing beneath the skin on my back
a snake

winding
around
and
around

delicate curvature
forcing
arches
and
valleys

hunches collapse

with every blink
every sound
every distracting chirp of technology

the serpent grows aggressive
anxious
tearing at my ligaments
urging a union (a cyborg relationship)

begging me to forget

“I’m human”

 

it knows
if I remember

 

I could destroy it all.

the tragedy of mufasa

claws tangled deep
in the thinning flesh of his face
as he clung desperately
to the crumbling edges of his life

his eyes locked with those
he thought he knew –
emerald eyes laced with a hatred
he’d never seen
never noticed
never grasped

his lips slowly formed
words of love
syllable by syllable
scrambling to save. . .

 

 

with a scarred wink
everything fell away.

Advice from a 4-year-old

“We’ll just take it easy”
I say to the limping young man at my side

“. . .like a rock” he replies

 

“what makes being a rock easy?”

“. . .because they’re still. . .”

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