Graduation

So. It’s done.

After eleven years, two schools, two majors, three countries and a war, I am now officially a college graduate.  I am twenty-eight years old. I was confirmed the holder of a Bachelor of Arts in English several days ago, during a graduation ceremony attended by some 1200 students and many more thousands of well-wishers.

I’ll admit after so much time and so many detours, the fact of what’s happened still hasn’t entirely processed.  The surreality of the events – the packed crowds, the floodlights, the speeches and wild applause — felt overwhelming.  I was one in a phalanx of caps and gowns, an achiever within a massed army of achievers.  I never thought I’d manage to earn a degree, and yet there I was, and even stranger still: that this fall I’ll move to Washington state in pursuit of an  MFA.

Funny thing is, I hadn’t even planned on going back to school.  I took my first hiatus from education in 2003 for financial reasons; roughly a year after that I joined the military.  After finishing my term, I moved out West and settled into a position working tech-support. Good work, good pay, let me come to work in jeans.  The military had made me much more serious about my writing, but I still viewed it as a personal pursuit, rather than a professional one.  For the first year after I got out; I worked my day job and focused on my writing whenever the opportunity arose. It was only after some extended haranguing from my wife, however, that I finally decided to return to my studies.

Now, understand: when I say haranguing, it isn’t to say that my wife is a nag.  Rather it’s that, like so many veterans, I had earned the ability to pay for school with my service, but become unwilling to go to the trouble of collecting on it.  Excuses welled up like a spring: It’s been too many years, I’d say, or I hear the paperwork is hell.  I was comfortable in the new life I’d made for myself; throwing in a complicating factor like school just seemed like too much trouble.

Never underestimate the benefit of a spouse who’ll call you on your bullshit.

I enrolled in at a local public university in May of 2009, enrolling in classes again after a six-year absence.  Like a lot of nontraditional students, I think I was most concerned about the difficulty of transitioning back to that lifestyle.  It’s funny,really; as a culture we spend a lot of time talking up our schooling years as the best of our lives, but nobody ever seems to want to return that period.  At any rate, my fears were unwarranted.  The return to school was actually the best decision I’d made in a long time Balancing both school and work felt like leading two lives: one immersed me in other people’s technical difficulties, the other in the lofty realsm of academia.  Though the workload was certainly rough, I enjoyed it;  I felt like I was thinking with both sides of my brain for the first time in recent memory.  More importantly, I rekindled my exposure to literature and poetry, which got me thinking in a much more serious way about my own writing.  I studied under accomplished authors who pushed me to re-examine my art, take it seriously, and find ways to innovate.  I not only started writing new stories, but exploring new ways to tell stories. Since then I’ve gotten several works of short fiction published, and been accepted into grad school.  Both of these milestones came about as a direct result of my deciding to enroll.

Now, that period of my life which did so much for my craft is over.  I’m a degree-holder and a soon-to-be Master’s candidate.  After ten plus years of blue-collar and service-industry employment, it’s difficult to conceive that I’m no longer limited to these sorts of jobs; moreover that I’ve been accepted into a course of study which typically accepts fewer than 10 percent of applicants.  It’s a trip, and yet it feels somehow alien to me. How do I respond? How do I feel?  Am I happy? Sad? Nervous?  I am something now which I was not yesterday, and with that change  a major part of my life has just ended.  It was two years, sure, but the sad fact was I’d missed college all that time that I was away.  Coming back, I felt engaged, stimulated, alive, and even if I was too old to be interested in the all the partying and self-discovery that marks the undergraduate experience, I still felt energized by bearing witness to it among my peers.  Now, however, it’s done, and though I’ll be continuing in my studies, those studies will be taking on a radically different form.

I sometimes feel like an impostor wearing the clothes of a wordsmith; I write reasonably well, but it doesn’t spring forward the way it seems for most. A former professor of mine talks about writing to answer the unresolved questions within himself; from a thematic perspective I’m not even sure what those questions for me would be.  Now I’m graduated with the degree that says otherwise, getting ready to pursue another, and now I find that a short story of mine has been picked up by a major publication.  It feels great, but also somehow like a charade.  I wonder if other young writers feel this.

We’ll see.  In the meantime I have a rare day off with my wife, and it’s a lovely day in the Pacific Northwest.  I’m just going to enjoy it.

The Narrativist

My name is Seth.  You can call me The Narrativist.

You might be wondering about the moniker — reason for it is I enjoy playing with words, often cobbling them together as needed, and I feel like this title really best suits the vibe I’m going for. Professional yet vaguely archaic.  I’ll admit I have a fondness for Art Nouveau and steampunk aesthetics, so there you go.

I’m a writer. Not one you’d know, likely, at least not yet. I’ve published a few works of short fiction, even gotten paid for the pleasure, but understand when I label myself a “writer” I’m referring to identity, rather than vocation. Writing is a part of who I am, what I do; it’s where I go mentally to indulge, play, explore. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to earn my keep harvesting words, much as one might harvest from an orchard.  Still, I’m sad to say I’m not quite there yet.

I say: yet.

A few notes about me: I’m in my late twenties, married, on the cusp of earning my university degree.  My entrance into the world of writing has been largely by increments, largely by accident: an errant remark about a grade-school essay, a gentle suggestion from a freshman TA, the urgings of an English prof trying to steer me toward grad school.  It wasn’t until I joined the military that writing really emerged for me as an avenue for personal expression.

I served in Iraq for a better than a year, during which time I was witness to a lot of things I didn’t necessarily square with.  After coming home — thankfully with my body, spirit and marriage mostly intact — I got out and moved to the Northwest, devoting myself to the pursuit of my studies.  In addition to making a pacifist of me, the war turned me toward writing as a means for compiling my thoughts, making sense of them, beating them like the proverbial sword into a creative plowshare.  Initially I kept up a warblog, which earned some acclaim but which I really don’t feel was my best work. Then later, when I started getting depressed and angry about my deployment, I turned away from blogging almost entirely and instead focused on writing a novel for young-adults.  That novel is currently in its third round of revisions, and one day, after I’ve gotten my MFA and come up in the world, I’d like to see it maybe find an audience.

Pipe dreams, I know. Then again the only difference between a dream and a goal, I’ve found, is having the courage to take it seriously.

Which brings us to the now.  As mentioned before, I’m about to graduate with a BA in English, and in the last five months I’ve had three pieces of short fiction published, both online and in print.  As of this fall I’ll be moving up north to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, a goal which I admittedly never expected to see fulfilled.

And yet…  here we are.

So… what else should you know about me? Well, I’m angry and political, as befits any good veteran. I’m also a tech-junkie and shameless gamer-nerd, and I’m moved forward in life by a host of unsavory habits, not least of which are a smoking habit in deep remission and a tendency to curse like a sailor in mixed company. Not to worry, however; I’m going to try and use this blog to express my more reflective tendencies.  I’ve started this page as an opportunity to “talk shop” about the art of writing — to discuss current projects, examine craft, share favorite readings and just generally create a digital extension of my personal creative space.  I hope you’ll enjoy it.  It’s a place where words wheel like stars in a vast clockwork nightscape; where lines of prose spring up rampant underfoot like weeds.  If you go deep enough, you just might find a garden, a place framed by walls of wood and glass and steel.

And at the center of all that? A writing desk. A chair. A sheet of blank paper and an inkwell. Who knows what we’ll find written on that page, no one knows. In the meantime, however, why not join me?

This is The Logorarium.