Monday, June 18, 2012

Have Patience, Apply Pressure, Reflect, Repeat.

It was Rick Warren who said, "God changes caterpillars into butterflies, sand into pearls, and coal into diamonds using time and pressure. He's working on you, too."  This quote really touched me in a way I wasn't aware possible. As a newly college graduated young woman, I find myself feeling situations of pressure on almost a daily basis. Thoughts and questions tumble around within my head like fresh laundered whites in a worn out dryer: Should I already have a job since I've graduated? How long will it take me to find a job now that I've graduated? Am I going to be able to accomplish my writing goals? And the beat goes on . . .

I suppose it would be unfair to say all these questions and pressure-filled situations started just a mere two weeks ago upon my last drive to Wright State University - all these questions and pressure-filled situations have been whirling and swirling around my head and existence for far longer than my college career. I am a self-acknowledged and medically diagnosed person of a panic disorder, I am disordered with a great amount of panic. Yes, it is unfair to say college graduation led me to these ceaseless questions and immense amounts of pressure. It is safe to say I've been in a high compacted, pressure situation since I hit puberty.

In a recent conversation with a dear friend I was reminded that my concerns, my worries were not trivial, as I had deemed them, in comparison to larger personal and worldly issues with the people and space around me, but relative. What is trivial in my life is monumental in another, and vice versa. I am very quick to simultaneously talk down at myself for worrying about finding a good job, meeting the right man, and finding love before I'm thirty and tell someone off for not taking my concerns seriously. "God changes . . . using time and pressure. He's working on you, too" says Rick Warren - and I buy it, I do. I know that every situation I am put through that is not "easy" is because He is testing me, He is pushing me to become the best version of myself, but I also realize that these situations in which He is using pressure and time, I am not doing anyone any favors by putting even more pressure on myself.

As I walk around in my own pressure filled bubble questioning whether or not I am making a difference in people's lives I have to remind myself to step back from time to time and 'smell the roses,' if you will. I am a nanny to two beautiful children who look forward to seeing me every week, I am a friend, a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a granddaughter, and a niece to people who love and support me unconditionally, and although I don't work full time, I do have two jobs and money coming in every month. Not so bad, in reflection.

So I will continue to walk around in this bubble of mine, trying to alleviate the pressure I put on myself and wait patiently to grow those wings like a butterfly, become a lovely pearl, to shine like that faceted diamond. And I will take pleasure, not pain, in knowing that nothing of this sort of value comes to anyone without a little time and a little pressure.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Revise, Revising, Revised.

It has occurred to me, in the last ten weeks of my final quarter at Wright State, that not only is writing, in large part, made possible by revision, but also, life. When I was younger, my mom would always say to me, "Give it time, Stephi, you're going to change, your tastes will change, your desires will change, your heart will change. You'll totally change." I remember thinking, in a state of utter horrification, that I did not want to change; my tastes, desires, and heart were just fine, thank you very much. At this time in my life I look back on those feelings, I remember that conversation, which I assure you has been had over, and over, and over again, and I realize that, surprise, surprise, mom was right.

My feelings towards re-working my writing has been, in large part, very similar to my initial feelings on any emotional or bodily change - I didn't want to do it and no one was going to make me. I have always been a girl that keeps journals; I have journals from elementary school that are filled with secret crushes that never came to be, who my current best friend was and why, and dreams I had that seemed appropriate to be writing about. When I look back on journals I've kept through the years they have progressed from secret crushes, to real life heartbreak, to poetry, and now to prayer. Since my Sophomore year of high school I have known I wanted to write for a living. Even now, having finished a degree in Creative Writing, I still answer with "I want to write" when asked what I what to do with my English degree, and still, I get a typically shocked response of "Well that's interesting . . ."
Only recently have I taken these dreams of wanting to write and applied them to actual writing. Wright State's Creative Writing program found me wholly unprepared at receiving critiques and terribly defensive of the art I put on the page. My first actual fiction class proved to be more enjoyable than I first thought, but still with an unwavering sense of dread at the idea of revision - so I simply did not do it.

At twenty-one I was facing the end of a relationship with a boy and a great deal of time ahead of me spent trying to figure out who I might be without this person, who I might be with a new person, or just who I might be, period. It occurred to me that I was going to be 'changing,' I was going to be having to partake on an adventure of revision. It is clear to me, in looking back on this time of my life, that I realize it was meant to be an entire few years filled with revision. From twenty-one to twenty-four I have changed my tastes, my desires, my heart.

My final quarter at Wright State I had the privilege of taking Creative Non-Fiction and it awakened and affected me more than I could have ever imagined or hoped for. I've always been a big reader, but memoirs and non-fiction books weren't really on my radar in a large capacity. Entering this class I expected to work more on my "craft" and walk away being thankful for workshop practices; I couldn't have been more wrong. An entire genre of writing was brought to my attention; masterful, beautiful writers were placed in front of my eyes and I found myself so hungry for essays, memoirs, anything that would fit into this genre. With each essay I produced for this class I was met with a feeling of confirmation that I had found my niche.
With this new genre found I also realized how much I enjoyed revision, for the first time in my life. With each essay I was exploring changes in my life, in my personality and I would read and re-read pieces and try to think of ways to make each word, each paragraph, each page better. It occurred to me that I had, in fact, found my place.

I won't go as far as to say that I look forward to change, I just don't think that sort of feeling is in my DNA, but it has slowly been revealed to me that change and revision aren't as bad as I had thought it to be in the first place. It is apparent that without change, without revision, each piece of writing is just a fragment of a thought and each person is just a fragment of a heart.

So I stand, or sit, before you today, typing this and realizing that, I am made possible, my life has been made possible, by revision. Lots and lots and lots of revision.