between april showers
The phrase “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings” has been applicable to my life lately, although there isn’t a fat lady singing. Instead, it’s an eighteen-year-old cat yowling. And he’s got range.
At the beginning of 2013, my family of three (plus the cat) went from from living in a family friend’s house, to the basement of my grandparents’ house, and finally, my mom stumbled upon a twelve-unit building. The twelfth apartment had yet to be renovated. I walked through the space with her, taking in the dust and chipped paint and cracks in the wall. Truthfully, the place was a wreck. But what caught our attention was the living room, which was nestled in a turret. The room would be bathed in light year-round from the wall of windows. “We’ll take it,” my mom said. Her eyes were shining, the gears in her head already turning. Within a month, as the landlord promised, we were moved in. The rest of our belongings were finally moved from a storage unit in New Jersey. I didn’t have to use a stack of cardboard boxes as a nightstand anymore.
My mom’s vision of the turret apartment was manifested into decorating. With a little creativity (give or take the swipe of a debit card), she can magically turn something ordinary into something beautiful. She spent hours rearranging all of her books, and in the months that followed, carefully picked out artwork and throw pillows and furniture, with sprigs of eucalyptus and neighborhood lilacs sporadically placed throughout the room. Friends from school referred to our place as “The Apartment” because of the pictures that were mercilessly posted. For six years, that apartment was home, with the slanted floors, the leaky ceiling, and the radiators that my mother spray painted to cover up their antiquity. It was the longest that my family had planted roots in one place, even though I left when I was nineteen. My mom announced that she was moving not long after I moved into my new place, which shocked me. I never thought the turret would have an ending in our lives. But my mom had a new vision, and had to see it through, this time at a house about a mile down the street. I wonder who will inhabit the turret next, but one thing I’m certain of is that the new tenants won’t have my mom’s style.
After much debate, it was decided that I would take Mister, our eighteen-year-old cat, off her hands. We adopted him from the Cleveland APL while I was in preschool, and he has been everywhere with us. As he descends into old age, he gets to be with me, which brings me comfort, but his mortality is an itch that I can’t scratch. He can barely hold his head up when I take pictures of him, and I can feel his ribs when I pet him; they vibrate when he purrs. He chews paper and leaves scraps in his path—one day when I was switching out bags I left some of my poetry workshop papers on the floor, and one of my poems fell victim to his teeth. He was literally eating my words. He doesn’t meow; he yowls, at the worst possible times (my mom has taken it upon herself to diagnose him with anxiety and dementia—her version of veterinary school is Google). I was against giving him melatonin, as I was paranoid it would stop his heart or something, but when my roommate texted me “What are we going to do about Mister? I love him but I can’t keep waking up at 5 in the morning,” I broke down and finally asked my mom how to go about giving it to him. And here I am now to tell the tale: I have to slightly sedate my beloved elderly cat every night. Which is to say that somewhere, PETA is quaking.
Part of the reason why I haven’t sat down and written a blog post in so long is that I’ve been grappling with feelings of inadequacy with my writing, and dealing with impostor syndrome. For the past couple weeks or so, I’ve been asking myself Who I am writing for? and Is my voice really mine? and the more egotistical question: Am I not good at this anymore? Is something missing? Couple this with a rejected freelance story pitch, a rejection email from a literary journal, and not getting the summer internship I wanted, and you see my predicament. It’s hard when you feel as though the thing you love doesn’t love you back, that you’re unraveling. But I can’t grow as a person, let alone a creator, without some rejection, which is a hard pill to swallow, but a necessary one at best.
Perhaps I’m too young to have an existential crisis, but I finally admitted to myself, my best friends, and my grandma: I’m scared. I’m scared of being stuck in the same zip code my entire life, scared of being boring, scared at the thought of not being able to do what I want to do with my life. Of course, going to grad school or moving to a different place won’t cure anxiety or insecurity, or add more “depth” to my life; I know this. But deep down I know that I can’t play it safe for much longer. I graduate at the end of the year and I don’t know what’s in store for me. I don’t handle uncertainty well.
One of my good friends, Cece, took her leap of faith and moved to New York. While I’m not following in her footsteps, at least not anytime soon, I admire her for getting herself to the place she wants to be. Since I met her a little over a year and a half ago while we were working at the same downtown restaurant, we’ve had so many meaningful, heartfelt discussions about where we want to go and how we already feel as though we’re running out of time. We connected instantly when we discovered that we were both English majors, although at the time she had just graduated. We’ve consoled each other’s fears, reassured the other that everything is going to be okay. Before she left we saw one of our former coworkers play at a bar in Tremont. Some of his musician friends were there to watch his set, too, and we introduced ourselves. One of them, a cellist, asked me, “What do you do?”
“I’m a writer,” I said. I felt like I was watching myself from above, saying that out loud to a stranger without even hesitating.
It’s different when you put it in a bio somewhere, because it’s more or less a proclamation to a sea of faceless people you’ll likely never meet, yet you want them to know this about you. It’s also different in the world of dating-app trivia, when the person is asking you what you do and you instantly regret saying “writer” because they ask you if you’re a journalist and you just sigh and say “sort of” because you don’t have the energy to explain to them the difference between journalism and creative writing, or get into the specifics of creative nonfiction, because you don’t want to sound pretentious and you know they don’t really care anyway and most likely haven’t read a book since high school. They will probably only listen to half of your explanation, and pass along the half they did listen to to the next girl they go on a date with in an attempt to score some intellectual points.
Later, in the car, Cece said “You sounded so confident when you said that! I want to get there.”
“You will,” I said.
After some more talking and ranting, she said something that I’ve thought about every day since: “I think it’s cool to wear your heart on your sleeve.” Maybe she meant it in the context of our conversation about learning from being vulnerable with other people, but I want to start applying it to my work. Like I said before, I don’t want to play it safe, with my writing especially. I owe it myself to be brave even if things don’t work out. I owe it to myself to not feel small if I don’t write something devastatingly good. I have to be braver with the bad days, the bad writing. So I will.
I apologize for the hiatus, but I promise I’ll be back to posting more often once this semester is wrapped up. Hope all is well on your side of the screen, dear readers. Oh, and Happy National Poetry Month! Enjoy the Mary Oliver poem (pictured above).