It’s raining for the first time since I planted seedlings.
I woke up at eight this morning, and before having a cup of coffee, cleaned all the dishes, the literbox, the back room, watered the garden some and potted seeds. I ran water through the coffee maker, because it jammed up yesterday and I was too lazy to fix it.
I received five birthday cards, from my biological father and youngest brother. My birthday is on Monday, but they were sent via FedEx overnight. I thought it was odd that the delivery guy placed the envelope on my front step and never knocked, then watched from the van as I retrieved it. It felt a little like being in a film noir, at the moment when someone realizes they’re being watched.
Four years ago my first poem was published in a literary journal to scant attention. It didn’t matter because I hadn’t written a word for about two years, so anything was water. It was a love poem for a married man.
The mind is a precarious and uncertain thing, like the rest of the human body.
I like stories about pop stars and artists who bounce back from something devastating, not because it reminds me of myself, it doesn’t, but because resilience feels so much more culturally resonant than talent or virtuosity alone. Frida Kahlo is a good example.
Four years ago I had to give up attending a PhD program to which I had a full ride because they took my assistantship away when I was hospitalized for three weeks. I’m certain that what happened was illegal and have never sought legal retribution for it, though I think about it frequently.
Every time I’ve been in school, I’m struck with a dichotomy—analytic mind vs. poet’s temperament. I tend to procrastinate whenever I can. I work better with deadlines, but even then, I like to run it close.
Three years ago I moved from Rhode Island to Brooklyn in order to get a Master’s degree. I had $9 to my name and was forging online bus tickets to get between New England and NYC to make it to practices for the Providence Slam Team.
I wasn’t always sure I’d see thirty, at least with my brain in tact.
Last year, I was in Providence at Callaloo Creative Writer’s Workshop unlocking secrets I was keeping from myself. It was there, a year ago, that I applied to Write A House. I had toyed with the idea of applying, considered what I would send. My essay answers were honest, simple and true to what I felt.
Last year, I remember the flowers and sun most of all. Four years ago, it rained constantly. The whole time I was in the hospital. Grey, slick, unremarkable.
Today it’s been sunny and warm, and dark and rainy alternately.
I’m not sure if the sunflowers are going to make it, and they were the flowers I wanted to see most. I misgauged the amount of sun they see daily in the spot I planted them.
One year my friend Kit made me three coconut cream pies for my birthday. It was three to make up for the years she had promised to make them but didn’t.
I try not to expect much, it cuts down on stress and disappointment. I had forgotten about the promised pies until they were right in front of me, and then I had to carry two of them from Boston to New York on a bus.
I didn’t expect to win a house. I didn’t expect to be viewed as a writer in this way, but it hasn’t stopped me from trying.
One year my mom called me on the day after my birthday, because she forgot. It was the same year I was in the hospital for three weeks. I didn’t care she had forgotten. After being sick for that long without her visiting me, it seemed miniscule.
There are a lot of wounds I’ve learned to treat like paper cuts.
Sometimes survival looks like avoidance, like coping, like an untied shoe.
I deal with anxiety and depression. I have some other unspecified diagnoses too. I think psych professionals end up filling out most of my paperwork with question marks.
Stigma is boring. It’s a synonym for hiding.
It’s confusing when your brain is your most valuable asset and also an enemy lying in wait. I do the most I can on the days I feel capable just in case. I have felt good more days than not over the last year. This concerns me and it shouldn’t.
Earning a house hasn’t saved my life. It has granted me a kind of grace I couldn’t have anticipated. It has also forced me to learn that a broom handle can fix a garbage disposal.
A year ago, when I committed to trying to earn a house, I felt vulnerable. Callaloo is like a two week long intensive group therapy session. Maybe that pushed me into being more honest.
You’ve got eight hours left to apply this year. If you were looking here for inspiration, I’m sorry to have disappointed you with my knockoff Maggie Nelson tone.
It’s trite, but in many ways I think humans are better not knowing what their fate will be. If you knew you weren’t going to receive a house, you wouldn’t try. You’re better for trying. You can keep waiting forever, for a better time, or for better writing to come from your brain. Writers always think there’s will be a later and a better. I wonder sometimes if other artists have this same affliction.
If I catalogued the plot points of my life over the last ten years, none of them might have suggested that I would find myself here, next to my gold accent wall, sipping a cold cup of coffee in Detroit, thinking about possibility like it’s a luxury I have.
What I mean is, go for it. Sometimes you plant seeds in non-ideal locations and they flourish anyways. Sometimes the soil is fertile, and conditions are prime, and still nothing takes.
What I mean is that I’m young, and have seen what discouragement can do. I worry about people who give up, or quit before they’ve started.
What I mean is that worry is only so useful for so long.