Editing later and pausing meanwhile
Anne Lamott reminds us, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” I actually created a watermark in Word with this very reminder in purple lettering that went diagonally across every page I typed for one of my finals a few weekends ago. I get stuck sometimes as I try to figure out the right way to phrase things or just try to get the words swirling around my head into some sort of coherent format. In these moments, I remind myself that it’s okay be a shitty writer — at least in that moment. The editing will come later.
I’ve been trying to think about the coming semester in a similar manner. I made it through this one with an A and some B’s, somehow surprised at how anticlimactic everything has felt lately. I finally got back to the local open mike night after having coffee that afternoon with a friend. I wrote a few poems at open mike night and shared one of them. Things are slowing down a bit; although I’ve been working a series of part-time jobs until summer school starts. At that point, I’ll work when I can and experience half-days of classes, meanwhile looking for a fall part-time job. It’s funny to think that I would have been done with school after this summer if I would have stayed in my previous program. But I have a feeling that I would have been miserable there — that wasn’t my fit. I feel a bit wistful knowing that people in my previous grad program will be moving in a few months and I’ll still be here, figuring out what I’m doing with my life.
I think sometimes it’s easier for me to keep moving rather than slow down and ponder what’s bothering me. I have to make lists or brainstorm solutions — it’s hard for me to just sit in the muck for a bit. I remember my therapist mentioning that I talked more quickly when I wasn’t sure I wanted to be heard. That made sense to me. I avoid things that scare me, which includes presenting my ideas to others. I wonder if they’ll have enough context to understand where I’m coming from at that moment.
I’ve realized that sometimes I just need to pause things for a bit. I attend events where I know I won’t be left alone with my thoughts — people will find me, ask how I’m doing, and I can respond honestly. I just talk, and they listen. I know I’ll still be in the PhD program this fall. I know I’ll have some departmental funding. I have no idea where I’ll be working then, and the next few months are a bit tenuous. Editing my seemingly shitty rough draft of a life is a process — one that takes a series of drafts covered in variety of metaphorical pen colors. I’m learning to be okay with that.
But for now, I’m watching How I Met Your Mother and later hanging out with a friend who has leftover ice cream in her fridge. That’s enough somehow. The last scene in Stranger than Fiction resonates with me for this very reason: “And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties which we assume only accessorize our days, are in fact here for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives.”
So dear readers, I’ll leave you with that clip, and we can sit for a bit together, musing about these little things that bring a sense of calm amongst uncertainties.