Friday, April 12, 2013

Midlife Crazy, Or You Can't Jump Halfway Out Of An Airplane

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Things have been a little crazy around here lately

Life has been a little crazy lately.  I’ve been trying to organize my ideas finally to start a MASSIVE renovation on our house.  I’ve been trying to figure out my travel agenda for the rest of the year (from Louisville, KY all the way to Tunisia in North Africa).  My geriatric dog has developed a little problem with making it outside in time.  We had a few tornadoes touching down in town recently.  You know, just a little busy.

And so, well, I guess all of this activity overtaxed my brain and warped my perspective a bit.  Or maybe it was hormones,* because I decided to go back to school and get yet another college degree.  The three I already have simply couldn’t give me what I needed.

Starting a blog when you’re not trying to sell anything but your stories and your infectious (I mean it – best to keep your distance) personality is like dipping your toe into the water.  “Will anybody read me?”  “Will anybody say anything to me?”  “Which bloggers will let me sit at their lunch table?”  How insane is it to even start writing that first post when there are tens of millions of blogs on the internet?  How would I ever be found?

But some of you wonderful people found me and stuck around.  You shared your stories in the comments and encouraged me.  You made me think I could write.  I met other writers online who inspired me and made me feel guilty for not doing even more with my words.  And then I finally told myself it was time to step up to the challenge.  So I filled out the first college application I’ve completed in over 30 years.

I want to create long-form essays.  I want to improve my travel writing skills.  Perhaps I’ll even try poetry.  Someday I’ll finish a book, maybe two. I might even go back to teaching.  However, it’s difficult to achieve any of that without a writing community to give feedback or deepen my understanding of the practice.  Spending a recent weekend at the AWP Writing Conference surrounded by people who could not only talk writing, but who could also talk writing theory and history of writing (I’m a sucker for that academic stuff) showed me how far removed I was from doing what would make me happy.

I don’t want to dabble in writing.  I want to be a writer who talks regularly with other writers and constantly expands her range of writing skills.  That’s when the decision to earn an MFA burst through my walls of doubts about not being talented enough to get accepted or not having the time or the stamina to produce yet another thesis.  Finally fear was conquered by desire.

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At least this time I don’t have to live in a cheap, buggy apartment surviving on hamburger and canned vegetables.  Universities have developed low-residency programs for people like me who have made the crazy decision midway through their adulthood that they need to live a writing life.  With two weeks of intense on-campus time for three summers, followed by constant online conversations and massive amounts of writing being passed back and forth for the next three years, I’ll be well on my way to finally earning the title “writer.”

You might remember the little barn quilt tour I took you on last summer.  That was near Ashland University, which so kindly decided that I qualified for its MFA program.  It will be my haven where I’ll get to talk Creative Nonfiction ad nauseum.

This does feel a bit like jumping out of a plane.  Someone will now expect something from me in this game.  I can’t waffle and stall by giving five hours a week to serious writing when they’re expecting five hours each day (yikes!).  I’m not going into this simply to try it on for size, not at the current price of college tuition.  Like jumping out of a plane, I can’t do this writing gig halfway.

For reasons I don’t quite understand myself, once I hit mid-life I’ve felt like jumping out of that plane more often.  I dare to say I want to be a writer.  I not only travel across the ocean, but have a home there. I talk with my husband about returning to the Scottish Highlands to finally make it to the top of mountains I failed to climb when we were there ten years ago.  I have plans that will take me long past the day of my death to check off my “to do” list.  This one’s exhilarating.  And scary.  But the door to that plane just opened.  One . . . two . . . three . . . .

*Today I saw a face serum for women that said “for skin hormonally affected.”  I think that means “for wrinkles.”

What have you done that’s like jumping out of a plane?  Inspire us in the comments box.


Nadine Feldman said...

Wow, you ARE busy! I think midlife can be an incredible time. We start to lose our inhibitions about life because we see that it's finite...might as well go for it!

You already are a writer! You get to make that claim here and now. However, I get that an MFA program can create a structure around the writing life that is helpful. It's a great idea!

For me, the cross-country move of last year was a real airplane-jumping moment. I've dropped into a whole new way of life, and a year later, the dust still hasn't settled. I think the move was just the beginning! Now I'm getting back to writing my novels, and each one is its own leap into the unknown. I think that's part of the fun.

Anonymous said...

Julie, I share you wish. I also feel the lack education in creative writing and I'd have gone back to school to get a degree, if ... my financial situation were different.
As it is, I read writing books and take classes once in a while to educate myself.
I leaped 'off the plane' only once, when I left my secure and well-paid job of a computer programmer and concentrated my life on becoming a published writer. I'm almost there, and the journey has been fascinating so far.

Muriel said...

Well, good luck to you! It looks like you have a lot on your plate and that's how life should be, right? You only live once anyway!

Julie Farrar said...

Thanks for the well-wishes.

Olga, so inspiring to hear that you're still chasing that dream.

And you're right, Muriel. We should always have just a bit more than we can handle to keep life interesting.

Things that make me happy said...

Three cheers -- I really enjoyed your travel piece on "Better After 50" this morning -- and I enjoyed your writing today. As a longtime writing coach, I will tell you what I always tell my students: Whenever you sit down to write, you are a writer -- and it doesn't matter where you publish, or if you publish at all. When you write it down for anyone else to read, you are a writer. Thanks for inspiring me to hit the road again. After so many years of caring for an elderly mom with dementia, it's hard not to feel "stuck," so yours was the kick in the pants I needed today!

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