Tuesday, April 28, 2009
That's a major hurdle cleared.
Cost, even bigger than the prospect of taking math and biology again, has been my most significant worrying point.
Without aid, I'm cooked.
I should expect my award letter in the mail presently, but I can go online anyway to see what I'm getting, versus what I will be expected to pay. It goes something like this:
They estimate the cost of room and board, books, tuition and travel and come up with a price for each semester. Then they take your need, based on financial data.
I am expected to pay around $18,000 for one year.
My NEED is ... ready for this? ... $18,000.
Meaning, I am not expected to contribute anything financially, based on our income, cost of living, etc. Well, that's a farce of sorts. I mean, I got grants to cover much of it, but I will be taking out student loans that need paying back, when I graduate.
So therefore my first lesson as a college freshmen?
Put off til tomorrow what you should probably pay for today.
The professor's name? Something Madoff.
In other collegiate news...I got a twinge in my side yesterday while reading the newspaper's sporting section. They had an article in there about the possibility of the UMaine system cutting some sports programs in the fall, including soccer.
I played soccer in high school and, every summer, would trudge back to the playing pitch for the ritual preseason training. Lots of running. Shit loads. Miles and miles. Before ever touching a soccer ball, just to get us slacker teens back into shape.
I would die for those days now, the days of feeling like a tuned Chevy. Of stepping onto the pitch and playing 80 minutes of non-stop action. Summer heat turning to the crisp snap of fall afternoons, when the slap of the ball on your thigh left a welt for three days.
I wonder. If they don't cut the program, would Farmington allow me to try out?
Same goes for their music program. It's not at risk of being cut. I mean, I wonder if I picked up my trumpet ... the one I haven't played since 1987 ... would I get a seat in their concert band? Boy that would sound awful. Like squeezing a duck through a straw.
I will say this about the prospect of college. I was thinking back to when I was in high school. I dreaded my days. I never looked forward to school in the morning. I looked upon my coursework with drudgery and harbored malice in my heart toward my teachers.
Now, I see the course selection, and there's not one I am not excited to tackle. Even the maths and sciences, my absolute scholastic nemeses growing up. I am so jacked up about attending again, of proving to myself (and others in my life) that poor grades in high school did not make me an idiot.
Being an idiot made me an idiot.
Poor grades just made me sick.
Monday, April 27, 2009
But while I was thinking, it dawned on me that these past 6 months have been arguably the hardest I have had to face, and yet I'm still standing. Winter 08-09 was a bitch.
The pipes in our bathroom burst, and now there are walls missing behind the toilet and shower; we ran out of fuel and had to resort to using 10 gallons of kerosene on a number of occasions; our 1994 Suburban crapped out numerous times, leaving us to have to tuck tail and ask to use a relative's vehicle; the porch roof, where the porch meets the house, leaks to the extent that there was an inch of ice in the last third of the porch; a new leak developed in the bathroom; the barn, which is three stories tall and connected to the house, is settling in the northeast corner, bringing with it the deck, which looks like the deck of the Titanic just before it sank. I'm the one out there rearranging the chairs...
The list is longer, to be sure, but that's a taste. Which leads me to the subject of this blog entry.
I got to thinking. Friday, we got a call from the mechanic looking over the Suburban. His job was to give it an inspection sticker after fixing the problems he found. Instead of telling us it was done and ready, his comment to Corrine was, and I quote, "If you were ever thinking of buying something new, now is the time."
It seems there is around $1,000 worth of work to be done in order for the thing to be road worthy.
That conversation just seemed to cap the winter. The sky was a crystalline blue. There was a warm breeze tracing down High Street. Buds on the trees were popping. It was spring.
We had survived sleeping on our mattress in front of the wood stove; we had survived having to shower using a bucket of water warmed up on said wood stove; we had survived thawing the pipes in the basement; we had survived another winter of shoveling tons of snow off our precariously unstable deck.
That call on Friday was not good news. We're using my father's truck. Have been since I got stopped by the State Police for having no sticker...and a missing rear view mirror...and a missing side view mirror...and balding tires. The second time I had been stopped in a week's time by the police.
Somehow, even though that telephone call should very well have sent both of us over the edge, it didn't. Spring does that. If winter is a night of bad dreams, spring is the next morning when you realize you are still alive. The monsters are not as big as they seemed.
This winter did not defeat us. It put things into perfect perspective. Especially for me.
So as I said, I got to thinking. My biggest problem lately has not been broken pipes and broken cars. It's been a broken creative spirit. What I love to do more than anything is to sit in isolation and relative quiet and chronicle the problems - the failures and the successes - of make-believe characters.
And lately, I have even failed at doing that.
And I could not figure out why I was so blocked, blaming it on the overwhelmingly piss-poor winter. One thing after another distracting me away from creativity. Emitting from my mouth the kind of self-defeating, self-pitying blather that only weak people use.
When the answer has been right there in front of me.
I'm trying too hard. I'm working too hard on making believe, struggling to string together fictional narratives about people to whom I cannot relate. It's no wonder I feel like my writing is so fake, because it is.
I'm not putting into practice the number one bit of advice all writers hear when they begin their careers: to write what you know.
Last night I began to jot some notes down. Notes about a man who lives in a house and, over the course of one winter, has to deal with burst pipes, a broken car, haunting debt and coming to terms with his own limitations.
It's a comedy.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Right now, I'm currently working on:
1. My parent's 50th anniversary party
2. Directing the play
3. Preparing for college in the fall
4. Writing three pieces of long fiction
5. Helping to establish a day care center with Corrine
6. Actively searching for a new vehicle for our tribe
7. Looking into adopting a child
8. Building three web sites
9. Trying to save our house from foreclosure
10. Raking, shoveling, wood-stacking and all the other parts of outdoor spring cleaning.
Many of these are with Corrine of course. My partner in crime, for better or worse, sickness and in health. Some of these make us sicker than others. But that's life. A constant parade of to-do items that march through your brain at night in the form of nightmares.
But I don't know a single person not in the same boat, so why is there no solace? We are surrounded by humans enduring the same struggles yet we all seem to be miserably alone. Acting like our situation is worse than everyone else's. And why is there always someone around whose life seems to be going better? Someone who doesn't ever seem to get shit between their teeth? They come out of the woodwork just in time to stand over you as you wallow neck-deep in it.
I know of a few people who got enormous tax returns. In the thousands. One in particular could renovate his bathroom with his return and then go out for a nice steak and seafood dinner afterwards.
My bathroom has walls missing behind the toilet where the pipes burst this winter; the floor sags from a who-knows-how-long leak. My dad refers to the sag in the floor as being "pungy" with a hard "g". A word that does not exist in the dictionary but seems to adequately describe that bouncy nature of rotting floorboards.
We're taking bets on which of us will fall through to the basement and breaks their femur.
We owe the Feds and the State this year. No bathroom remake for us.
It's easy to look upon our current luck and be discouraged. It's as simple as waking up, in fact. They're right there staring us in the face: the sopping bathroom, the broken car, the leaning barn, the empty wallet, the screened calls, the certified mail.
And I know where the pinch comes. It's always in the same place. When stuff is going bad, it hits your closest relationship. You bicker. You snip at each other. Tempers bubble over the dumbest arguments. Like mismatched socks or the dog pissing in the house or misplaced keys.
Your relationship becomes pungy. The sub floor of your love has a little too much give in it and if you don't get in there and replace it, you'll both fall through.
Corrine and I are not immune to it. In our quest to provide a solid, comfortable, meaningful life for ourselves and our children, a lot of times it feels like we're doing more harm than good. It feels like we're just not equipped to raise a patch of grass let alone other humans.
Unpopular food in the cupboards equates to poor parenting. Clothes left unwashed because the washing machine is down means you're pathetically inept to raise kids. Forcing four teenagers into the cab of a pickup to take them to school is just plain cruel and unusual treatment. YOU'RE FORCING THEM TO SIT CLOSE TOGETHER! (cue the woman screaming in the horror flick of your choice).
The cumulative effect is a resounding sense of utter incompetence. While the rest of the world figures out the Rubik's Cube, you can't even do one side.
I hate boredom. It's worse than hunger. It drives me batty. But I dislike discord more than anything else. Particularly between me and the woman I love. And to make matters worse, my sarcasm and moodiness has the same effect lighter fluid does on a pile of charcoal briquettes. One shot of cynical sourness and the place goes up.
How does one avoid it? I don't think you can, completely. It's inevitable that people who love one another are going to go cross-eyed every so often when they stare each other down over such vital points of contention as spilled eggs or a low tank of gas.
I think the answer is to try to redirect the flue that carries the exhaust of my inner anger that has been directed straight at her all this time - the easy target. Instead of spilling out of my mouth, aim it straight up to the sky. Right out of the top of my head, where the worst that can happen is that it contributes to the depletion of the ozone.
I'm not sure how this is done. Or if I'm mechanically equipped to do the work necessary. But I'll try. I may even break the flue itself, cutting off the air to the fire, until all I am is a smoking bluster.
And that in turn would allow me the patience to work on the pungy floor.
Maybe the bathroom one too, if time allows.
Monday, April 20, 2009
1. College in the Fall
2. Griffin's 1st birthday
4. The day Gabi and Griffin sleep in their own beds
5. Watching the play develop into a production
7. The ability to renovate our home
8. A cruise/trip to the U.K./anywhere alone with Corrine
8 Things I Did Yesterday
1. Moved two cords of wood from one pile to nice, even stacks
3. Blocked the first act of the play for the cast's first rehearsal tonight
4. Drank three cans of Mt. Dew
5. Wished my sister a happy 44th
6. Raked a shitload of winter smegma (dead leaves, twigs, dog turds from September, '08, and the like)
8. Went to bed
8 Things I Wish I Could Do
1. Come up with a genuinely original thought
3. See color at least once
4. Save money
5. Be happy at all times
6. Make others happy at all times
8. Take Corrine anywhere in the world at the drop of a hat
8 Shows I Watch
1. Amazing Race
2. The news
3. The Red Sox, baby!!
4. Mad men
5. Two and a Half Men
6. The Tudors
7. Extras (reruns 'cause it's canceled, the fuckers!)
8. Anything on TCM
1. Midnight Cowboy (theme to the movie)
2. New Moon on Monday - Duran Duran
3. Welcome to the Room...Sara - Fleetwood Mac
4. Hold On - Ian Gomm
5. Speak to Me/Breathe - Pink Floyd
6. Too Hot - Kool and the Gang
7. The Hill - From "Once" soundtrack
8. Caring is Creepy - the Shins (Garden State soundtrack)
8 Favorite Warm Weather Activities
1. Going outside
2. Going for a drive with the windows down
4. Picnic with Corrine
6. Writing by the window
8. Banana splits, mama!
8 Favorite Happy Things
2. My children
3. Those rare moments of writing clarity
5. Pretending I'm on American Idol
6. Talking to myself in the car
8. Grossing out my kids
Right now, I'm working on blocking for the show I'm directing. Blocking, for you non-theater nerds like me, is physical directions the director gives the actors when delivering their lines in a given scene.
Like, "On your line, walk from the chair to the couch," or "When you shout, jump from the balcony, do a tuck-and-roll, and end with a smile with your arms open wide."
So, now, the duality. I am blocking creatively too. And I don't mean I'm planning the physical activities of my characters.
I'm blocking as in, I'm BLOCKED. I'm NOT moving at all.
Ironic, huh? I can block actors playing characters, but I'm completely frozen with my own characters.
There's no correlation. It's just one of those things. I'm sitting here every day, writing, but not creatively. (I try to write everyday, even if it's just nonsense).
It's just the way things go. You come to accept, as an artist of any medium, that you're not going to be "on" 24/7. And being blocked is actually a good sign. It usually means your mind is working through some problems creatively.
And all it takes is time and patience.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I have to be careful when I share anecdotes because, well, there were others involved and as much as I'd like to share that time a 50-something (supposedly) former Radio City Rockette seduced her 20-year-younger cast mate, therefore causing all kinds of awkwardness, not to mention nearly causing the entire local community theater group to disband.
That would get me in hot water, I would imagine.
And then there's the risk of committing a classic Guess-You-Had-To-Be-There kind of offense. You know, you're having cocktails with friends and telling them what you remember as being the funniest friggin thing that ever happened to you. You've got tears in your eyes and can barely tell the story, but when you're finished you straighten from a bent-over-clutching-your-sides-position, and everyone is staring at you like you've just shit your pants in a public place.
So ... I'll try to stick to stories that don't damage the reputation of others (more than they have themselves anyway) or stories with a lot of inside jokes.
Ok. Here's one.
I was cast as "Prez" in the musical "The Pajama Game." This is a rollicking good show, with big songs, quirky characters, and a really typical 1950's plot. Meaning, cheesy.
It takes place in a pajama factory in the Midwest. Our set, therefore, comprised three or four rows of desks, maybe four desks deep, lined up at an angle to the audience. The first row of desks were adorned with honest-to-God sewing machines. Big, ugly, cast iron and steel machines.
The desks in the rows behind them had mere plywood cutouts of machines, to properly extend the illusion of being in a pajama factory without having to go out and find 40 of these machines.
Well, we produced our musicals at the local private academy's auditorium, which meant that after our mid-run Sunday afternoon show, we had to clear the stage for the school. So, at intermission, we moved the biggest items off the stage, down a flight of stairs to the basement beneath the stage.
We had a fire brigade set up. Two hands to each desk. And one by one we lugged these things down the stairs.
I got paired up with a lovely older woman whose name I will not mention here. But she was a lovely person, very quiet, very friendly. A nice Vermonter. The kind of person who bakes things for people for no reason.
We had the misfortune of being last in the fire brigade line, which meant we got saddled with one of the front desks. One of the real sewing machines. Heavy as a Chevy.
She and I grunted and groaned our way off the stage, to the back set of stairs, and proceeded to descend. I opted, chivalrously, to be on the bottom so that she did not have to risk hurting her back going down the stairs. I had the desk resting on my angled back while she took much of the weight off by pulling toward her as we descended the stairs. It was a pretty good partnership. Until I lost consciousness.
Here's what I remember.
From my meek, lovely, quiet, baker, lifting partner.
Then there was a very angry-feeling thud against the back of my head and then I was standing in the women's dressing room staring at the Miss Former Rockette as she primped her fishnet stockings (okay, remember that image: a 50-something, unnaturally blond woman with NO right to be showing off her legs, standing there in fishnet stockings...it comes up a little later in the story).
What happened was that the crew had failed to brace the sewing machine to the desk itself. It was unhinged. It was free to float. Down onto my head.
And my shrinking violet moving partner tried to warn me the best way she could when she shouted (in a whisper of course) "Oh. Dear."
It hit my head so hard that I don't remember putting the desk down. I don't remember walking to the women's dressing room. And here's the "kicker."
I was in the number to open the second half, singing and dancing in a number called "Steam Heat" a Bob Fossi, hands-hands-hands jazz number, with the gloves and vest and hat and cane and legs kicking.
The former Rockette (yeah, sure, and I'm a former porn star) choreographed the number and led me and three other male cast members in it. She was the talk of the show. And I'm not being nice. the point is ...
I DON'T REMEMBER DOING IT!
Later that night, after the show, my wife said it was the best she had ever seen me dance.
This was before I told her I had been hit in the head by a Freightliner.
"It was kinda neat," she said. "You were, um, really kinda loose up there."
I wish there was a video of it. I could have urinated right off the edge of the stage into the orchestra pit and not remember it.
But, true to my professionalism, I carried on despite the concussion which, by the way, ends the careers of most professional athletes.
At the end of the show's run, my non-loud friend baked me a pie because she felt so bad about it. She truly felt like it was her fault. At the cast party she presented the pie to me and said "I'm so, so sorry," (whispering of course) and I said, "Thanks! Um...sorry for what?"
"Dropping the sewing machine on your head."
"Wait. There were sewing machines in this show?"
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Therefore, if you're keeping record, I have three in the proverbial literary hopper.
The two I spoke of in a previous blog. And now I've added a third.
This is par for the course for me. I'm hell at ideas, shit on execution ... unless you count that one time I published a novel. Remember? Back in 2006?
This new story springs from a couple of different ideas, as most ideas for me often do. Over here I have a neat idea about such-and-such, and then over there I have a completely unrelated idea and then one day - BAM! - they collide and form, by a sort of creative particle acceleration, a brand new idea.
This new story, when I'm not working on the other two slightly older stories, gives me goosebumps. You know you're onto something worthwhile when you get prickles.
The prickle index on this one would be a low 8, on a 10-scale. So, a workable story then.
Why do I get all schizophrenic about writing? Jumping around. Doing the whole WADHD (writers attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder) thing?
I guess it's based on an unrealistic fear that : 1) THIS one is even better than the LAST one and therefore 2) If I don't jump at it NOW, it'll somehow go bad. Like bread left in the cupboard for too long.
In completely unrelated news...
I was formally accepted to attend the University of Maine in the fall. Woo hoo! I got in, man, I got in!
Now ... I have to send them $250 to "reserve my spot."
Meanwhile, I await financial aid news and news of last week's pitiful testing.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I met with officials of the University of Maine, Farmington, the college to which I have applied for admission into their 2009-2010 academic school year.
As part of the meeting I was asked to take four tests to help the college determine the winner of this year's Most Likely To Be Mistaken For A Narc On Campus award.
Actually, the tests were in reading comprehension, writing, algebra, and biology.
I aced the reading comprehension, answering questions from a series of small essays. One was about Arturo, the non-traditional college student who commutes to school everyday, leaving his wife at home to take care of their six children. I liked Arturo the most out of all the essays. The multiple-choice questions were something like, "In this passage, what do you think the author was trying to say about Arturo's decision to go back to college, leaving his wife behind with their six children?
A. That Arturo is a bad man
B. That Arturo had his chance 22 years ago but fucked it up and should have to breast feed the children himself
C. That Arturo is a stupid name and he's probably here illegally
D. That Arturo has as much right to go back to college, as long as he has the money to pay for it
The writing test was actually just an essay. You were required to read an essay, then write your own, arguing for or against the subject presented in the original essay. The essay I read was about tattoos and body piercings. In response, I wrote a story about the day I took my oldest daughter to get her bellybutton pierced. So my essay was decidedly "pro" flesh abuse.
You were required to write your essay in longhand, with a pencil, on wide-ruled notebook paper, in a 45-minute span of time.
What do you think the author of this blog feels about that?
A: He hates longhand because it makes his hand ball up into a fetal, arthritic curl
B: He hates wide-ruled notebook paper because his handwriting is so small that the wide rule makes it look like it was written by a serial murderer
C: He thought pencils were just cute relics of a bygone era. Say, 1986?
D: He hates essays-as-tests because, as a writer, the best quality is in the rewriting, where you can refine your thoughts and fix your glaring blemishes
E: All of the above and a whole lot more
I'm not sure, but I think, in my haste, I actually wrote the sentence "If I ever go to prison, I would get a tattoo on my ass of a ship in a bottle."
Now, in real life, I would have recognized that as inappropriate to the overall context of the essay and would have changed it to say "Tattoos on some people look stupid, like, for example, ships in a bottle."
But NOOOO. I was under duress. I was being tested. I had to get the thing done.
The latter part of the day's tests, administered at Guantanamo Bay, were in algebra and biology. Both subjects I failed in high school.
The trauma from which was so great that today, years later, whenever I see an algebra or biology text book I have the same nightmare for weeks where I'm late for school, completely naked, forget my locker combination and walk into the girls bathroom by mistake and run into Marly Johnson, the varsity cheerleading captain who I have fantasized having sex with all school year, but who am I kidding, I mean, let's face it, there's no chance in hell that she'll hook up with me now, after seeing me blow a snot bubble during track while attempting the long jump.
I was looking forward to reliving THAT chapter in my life, let me tell you.
A typical math equation:
2(4 -7) / 2.45(F) + X = Chevrolet
What the fuck does that mean?
There's no explanation given. I kept flipping the paper over to see if there was some key on the back. They don't tell you what they want from you, either. Am I supposed to say, yes, that does equal a major automobile manufacturer? Is Chevrolet an algebraic term? And they were all like this.
Some asked to find percentages. Some dealt with basic fractions. Some dealt with adding a percentage of a fraction. Others required multiplying two fractions and then finding the percentage. Some asked, in word form, for me to find the percentage of a fraction of a whole number, divisible only by itself, when purchased at a sales tax rate of 5 percent.
Jesus Christ. What? I've never been to Wal-Mart and had to make such a calculation. The lady with the three and a half teeth, named Norma Lou, just scans my shit and tells me what I owe her.
Fucking percentage of a fraction on a slope within the circumference of a goddamn isosceles triangle at noon going in opposite directions at different speeds bullshit.
Biology was okay. I mean, at least there were no fractions or volume calculations involved. That doesn't mean I did well. Come on folks, haven't you been paying attention? I had to answer questions about zygotes and nuclei and protons and photosynthesis and something called "the scientific method" which I thought was a sexual reference. Like the rhythm method, you know?
There were questions about human reproduction, ecology, global warming, and Charles Darwin. Quite the spread. I never thought biology was such a big, you know, thing. Such a wide assortment of living stuff. Mammals and vertebrates and warm-blooded, single-celled osmosis.
But, I expected this, which means I did not set myself up for disappointment. In fact, I anticipated getting not a single question right. I left, however, knowing I had probably gotten a third of them correct, thus raising my hopes. See how that works? I was a winner for failing two more tests in my lifetime. I turned a potentially depressing episode, one that could crush my fragile ego into dust, into a victory. That makes me a genius.
Monday, April 6, 2009
This time, however, I'm directing the show rather than acting in one.
This will be the second show I've directed. The first being a co-directing stint with my very good friend, Gianna, in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
Tonight's auditions are for a show called "Never Too Late" and the basic line is this: a grown woman, with a domineering husband and a 23-year-old daughter, finds out she is pregnant again.
It's a funny, funny piece and I think people here will love it.
I have to be honest though. I've got mixed feelings. Not nervousness. how can you be nervous directing a show? I mean, come on, I don't have to remember the lines or blocking. I get to direct everyone right up to opening night, and then sit back and enjoy.
If I'm nervous about anything it's that no one will show up for auditions. I have a persecution complex when it comes to the local theater group. I feel like none of them like me. Well, not all of them. but most of them. It's not based on anything, which is why it's probably entirely not true. But haven't you ever walked into a room of people and just felt like they didn't really want you to be there? You can't fathom why, it's just a gut feeling.
Anyway. Back to those mixed feelings. I'm torn because I really enjoy performing. When I was in high school I wanted so badly to be part of the drama club but I chickened out. That and I really could not relate to the whack jobs who were in drama back then. they seemed so ... out there, to me. So ... over dramatic. So ... fucking weird.
It wasn't until I was 30 that I got up the nerve to try out for a show. this was when i was working as a reporter for a newspaper in St. Johnsbury. A fellow writer was trying out for a show with his then-girlfriend and asked if I wanted to go. I agreed to.
The play was "The Rainmaker" (which was a movie starring Katherine Hepburn back in the day, FYI.)
I remember the audition. I remember the electric feeling of reading my lines against the others auditioning. I remember being thrilled that I got the part when I had no expectation.
I defied my own inner demons about public speaking and performing and, at 30, finally got on stage.
I have loved it since.
I upped the ante in the next show I was in, The Pajama Game, by actually singing. It was a horrible show, and not just because of my singing. The production was bad, the in-fighting among some of the cast, it was not well-attended.
In fact, on opening night, the very first opening number included everyone in the cast singing and dancing around sewing machines (it takes place in a Midwestern pajama factory). And when we finished the number with the usual grand flourish, there was a one-second beat, a smattering of applause, and then, from deep into the auditorium a woman's voice, saying "That was horrible!"
Yikes. Welcome to live community theater.
I still loved the experience though. And a year later got the chance to co-direct "Into the Woods" with my friend and Pajama Game dance-mate, Gianna.
It was, and I believe still is, considered to be one of St. Johnsbury's most-loved shows. No, not because of the directing. Because it's a fantastic musical and we had an amazing cast. Down the line, every cast member seemed capable.
I ended up moving to Minnesota and did not get back on stage until a few years later when I auditioned here in Maine for a part in "The Nerd." It was fun, and as exciting as ever, to get back up on stage. I followed that with "1940s Radio Hour", a musical. And then, "You Can't Take It With You" followed by "The Odd Couple."
That was a few years ago. I've taken time off. Gabrielle was born, we bought a house, we had Griffin. Life takes a front row seat. But now I'm back to directing.
Tonight will be the first time at the helm, making decisions about the cast, the blocking, etc. And my big worry is that no one will audition.
This is community theater. Either they come or they don't. I suppose that's the charm of it.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
In an earlier blog I told you I had applied to college, 22 years after graduating from high school.
Well, I was accepted. With conditions.
I knew this would be the case, so no surprises there. And I wasn't really that worried about getting accepted. The catch is, when you've been out of organized education for as long as I have, you can't expect to just start up again without being intellectually rusty. And if you were as poor a student as I was, as evidenced on my transcript, then you really need help.
I'll be interviewed by the admissions staff, it seems, to get a bearing on my life up until now, and my college aspirations moving forward. My 12-year career as a journalist; the publication of a novel; ten years as a web developer will all - I suspect - be counted in my favor.
But it doesn't preclude me from needing to take tests in math and science, my two weakest subjects. In order to keep pace with the incoming flock of freshmen - most of whom are fresh out of four years of English and science and math and history and computers - I will be required to catch up, in the form of "bridge" coursework.
The bridge program is non-credit coursework in areas I'm behind. Like math and science. A "bridge" to span the gap between the years.
I knew this was coming. I've always known that if I ever went back to school, this would be expected. To tuck tail and withstand the embarrassment of just not having the chops for certain subject areas. At 41, though, an amazing sense of determination has risen up in me. When I thought I would feel reticent and indignant about having to take "prep" classes just to be in the same room with 18-year-olds, quite the opposite has taken over me.
I'm not the least bit intimidated or embarrassed about admitting that I just don't know the subjects. I didn't at 18, why would I now?
It's strange being in this position. I am argumentative, stubborn and proud. I have always been resistant to authority. And I hated classrooms.
On the other hand, as I've aged, I've gotten better at staring down demons and admitting the lesser appealing qualities of my personality. Ten years ago, had I been told I would need prep work to enter college, I would have walked away, arguing, "Jesus I've been a regional news director for a major daily newspaper; I've been the manager of the ecommerce department of the third largest telecommunications company in the world. Screw this."
Suck it up and make it count.
One personality trait I am proud of is my ability to take on challenges in the face of ignorance. I thrive best in situations in which I am clueless. I tackled stage fright by trying out for a play. Now I love acting. I applied for a newspaper job back in 1990 without a lick of formal journalism training, and I grew it into a career; I drove 1600 miles to Minnesota with my family to take a job in ecommerce, a field about which I had no knowledge. It paid off.
I was stark raving scared in every case, but I hated the idea that fear or ignorance of something could beat me. Boy do I piss myself off sometimes with the whole fear thing.
So it is the same with college. It's going to be tough taking the math and science classes. It's going to hurl me back to my days in high school and force me to relive a particularly difficult emotional chapter in my life: I never fared well in lecture-centric learning. I was easily bored and if I didn't understand something, my wall went up and I stopped listening.
So - like acting, journalism, web development, novel-writing - I am throwing the gauntlet down at my own feet, and double-dog-daring myself to go to college, especially if it means doing classes that any high school sophomore could teach.
Hell, at the very least, it'll give me some GREAT blog material.