A new direction on an old journey

The search for more sophisticated words. Too many? Not enough? Just the right mixture of casual and formal speech with words that you may have to look up but do have some idea about from context? I have books – many books – to track down words in, but none have been written by me. I have had poems and essays published in university publications and collections, but none lately. I once was paid $759 for three climbing articles, which were never published, but still, they were purchased. I guess that counts for almost as much. I am not sure. I was angry that they were not published, actually. I felt cheated – swindled out of my precious stock and left with thirty pieces of silver. At least I did not hang myself over the deal. I was later fired, but that was long after the writing part of my short “career” had ended with that individual. I know a writer that I have the utmost respect for as a person who cannot spell to save his life! He gets published by the fellow who fired me all the time. I guess I spell too well. That is all I can make of it. So, yes, I am now a freelance writer out of work, like most freelancers at some point, and sometimes most points, in their lives.

I am working toward a graduate degree in creative writing to give myself some credentials and learn “the right way to do things” so that I can do it the wrong way and get paid for it. I do not even need to be paid for it. I would be happy with simply being published and critiqued and recognized as a great writer. I have to become good at something in my life at some point, I would think. I am good at school – at learning, that is. I do mostly A’s with the occasional B+ work (the B+ being because the professor simply thought I deserved to be challenged in some regard, because it could have just as easily have been an A- on the books and figured into my grade point average if the mood had been right). I have academically sparred with most professors, save those who truly were masters of their domain and those I simply asked a lot of time, energy, and questions of.  Hours upon hours have been spent in professors’ offices getting the inside scoop on surface topics that piqued my interest and philosophical talk that amounted to conversations that two good friends would have if they were able to be friends, barring the professor-student relationships present that kept a sheet of, at times, microscopically thin glass between us. Boundaries are always important, and I have always respected them, even when the glass has been removed. Respect is earned, as is trust, and to those who have earned mine, I will always show it.

I was keeping a low profile with the fact that I am attempting another graduate degree because I already have three degrees – two B.S.’s and one M.S. – and none of them are in anything related to English, though I took creative writing courses for fun and to fill up my summer schedule, ending up enjoying them much more than I ever imagined I would. I did as much reading as I did writing, which surprised me at first, but then I understood the concept. One must know the classics as well as remaining current with the trends and what is and is not acceptable. It is all part of breaking the rules in a prescribed way of sorts. Interesting, to say the least, and my creative writing professor, Wilbur Wood, allowed me to do quite a bit of exploring with my creative writing wanderings. That was how I got published in the university’s yearly writing publication…twice. I thought it was good, however I did not fully understand the weight of such an accomplishment. It was highly competitive and I, of all people, secured a page (or two) on not only one occasion, but two, for myself. I understand now, but I certainly did not understand then. That seems to be my life story. Understanding way too late. It is a pattern that I hope to break so that I can actually celebrate when I accomplish something. I have trouble believing that I have achieved anything in my life. My doctor and I are working on that, of course.

This pandemic has forced me to take a hard look at what I really enjoy, what I am really good at, what I can really develop, and what works for me. It is a different problem set, and I have come to realize that climbing and writing are my main two passions. Reading goes with that, as do photography and artwork, but I have narrowed down what I can do with this mental illness that sabotages everything that I attempt in my life. It cannot sabotage climbing as long as I do not harm myself, and it cannot sabotage writing because I can always write about it. Yes, I can write about mental illness, and I can expose its dirty tricks and nasty ways with me. I do not care if people believe me or not, or even if they care, because not all of them will. Some need to hear what I have to say about the demons in my skull, though, and for them, I will write. Be warned, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Anticipatory Grief, Anxiety, and the host of other minor demons that accompany these! I will expose you. I will ruin you as you have ruined me. I was going to be a VA psychiatrist. That education will now serve me in my writing and climbing careers as I prove to the world and to myself that mental illness is no match for the human spirit. I mean it. There is no stopping this train. There is only the journey to look forward to, come what may.

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