So I got most of my feelings out on this subject over at The MFA Years, so please go over to that awesome site and read about my exploits (www.themfayears.com).
I learned a lot this weekend. I saw how much growing I need to do. I saw how much work will go into this. I am grateful to have this opportunity.
Now it's back to the grindstone, pushing forward and working double-hard to get things done. I have another month before the next conference, and I have three months to graduation. I still need to turn in my thesis, although it sounds like it's good to go on that front. I need to finish my new short stories. I need to send out the short story that's finished. I need to, I need to, I need to.
I graduated in 2006.
On the last day of school, I took my camera wherever I went, snapping pictures of everything and anything I could see. This here was a mural hanging in my AP Lit class, sixth period, right after lunch and right before choir. Or was it right after choir, which was right after lunch? I don't remember. More important things have filled my brain-thing since I needed to know my senior year schedule.
What is not pictured are all of the people in the classroom, or my own self behind the camera. I was dressed weird on the last day of school, because I had an exit interview for my internship at the theater down the street directly after school. So I was dressed up, and by dressed up, I mean what constituted dressed up for me at the age of eighteen.
During ninth period, or I think it was ninth period, we were asked by our Creative Writing teacher to write where we would be in 2016, when our ten-year reunion would take place. What grand things would we have done in ten years? What horrific feats of dastardly adventure and dismay would we have fulfilled?
I knew that I was hard on myself, and I didn't want Future Me to disappoint. So I wrote a stupid Dr. Seuss poem about how I was going to have twenty-eight husbands at the age of twenty-eight, and how I would teach them all how to perform on twenty-eight trapezes and ... it went on for a while. It was a free-write.
But now 2016 is here. And while cleaning out my car today from the honeymoon, my mother asked me via phone, "Are you going to that ten-year reunion thing?"
My reaction was not a normal one that a normal person should have.
"Absolutely not," I said. "Becca's not going. I don't want to go without someone who I can talk to."
"Well how about such-n-such?"
"Don't like them."
"How about who-and-what?"
"Haven't spoken to them since 2007."
All of a sudden, my adult, mature, well-groomed twenty-eight-year-old self disintegrated into a puddle of eighteen-year-old me, and I started one of my world-famous high school vent/rants about the ills of society and how I hate everyone and how, when I was fifteen, some kid called me fat.
"But honestly," I said, "no matter who is there or isn't there, it comes down to me prancing around high school telling everyone that when I grew up, I would go to New York, Chicago, London, Paris, hell anywhere but Omaha. How the hell can I show my face if I'm still living in Omaha?"
As to which my mother responded: "But you have been to New York, Chicago, London, Paris ... you've been a lot of other places, too. And you've done a lot. You're in Omaha because it's your choice to be in Omaha."
I then said I needed both hands to clean the car, and we ended our conversation.
It's my choice.
Now we've all grown up since our last day of high school. A lot of classmates are married and have kids, mortgages, etc. Unfortunately some have passed. Others are living down the street and some others are living in Manhattan. We've changed in many ways. But at the core of who we are, I don't think we change.
I know I haven't changed, deep down. At least one thing hasn't faltered. My stubbornness.
When I was eighteen, I wanted to move to Chicago. So I did. When I was twenty-four, I wanted to get married. So eventually we did. I wanted to go to London, and so we did. I wanted to see Notre Dame, so we did. I wanted to get an MFA, so I did. Whenever I put my mind to something that I want, God help anyone who is in my way.
So why am I still in Omaha?
I don't know if I'm going to go to the reunion. I still have a few months to decide. But regardless, I'm going to use this year to feel good about what I have done instead of always looking at what I have not done.
And there's a million things I haven't done, so just you wait.
So eighteen-year-old me, listen up. In the next ten years, you're going to live alone in Chicago. You're going to get two majors in four years. You'll go to graduate school twice. You'll have your own place and meet a nice guy who marries you. You'll travel all over the world and see all the places you always wanted to see. You'll publish a book, and you'll meet cool authors you look up to. You'll make new friends who really care about your well-being, and you'll go ghost hunting in some of the most haunted places in the country (those two thoughts are in the same sentence but completely unrelated). You're going to come across scary parts, sad parts, parts where you have to say goodbye to people, but you'll be okay. 2016 is a sweet ride that includes a trip to Disney World and graduation from your MFA.
You're going to be fine. So lift your head up.
Like Lin-Manuel says, there are moments where the words don't reach. But I can say this.
Thank you, Scout, for giving me a friend when I was little. We were both little weirdos in overalls rolling around in tires and coming up with imaginary stories. We were both daughters of powerful lawyers that didn't speak much and demanded we listen when they did. We both had to say goodbye to childhood friends, we both had to mourn our brothers getting older, and we both stood up when good men passed.
We also both came home to find things just the way we left them, but now they were different because we'd seen the world and the world had taught us things. We both wanted our heroes to be real. We both realized the hero we'd been looking up to was someone inside of us.
I grew up with you. I learned what a book could do because of you. I always had hoped to meet you, and I actually did try to meet you when we were in Alabama, but you were too far gone by then.
Your life was ordinary and extraordinary. You're lucky, because you were a writer, which means those summer days you spent with Truman aren't dead. We read about them every few years, every couple of months, every time we need a friend and want to remember what it was like to run around outside in the summer. You were brave, you were complicated, you were beautiful.
I'm going to miss you. I'm going to really miss you, Scout.
Now let's all stand up. She's passing.
What is this?
Dawson is a writer. This is her blog. In it, you shall read about reading. And writing. And cheeseburgers. Sometimes there are tangents. Huzzah.