When High School Returns to Haunt You

As I prepare for another NaNoWriMo win, I can’t help but review the last twelve months. I feel like I’ve spent a year in graduate school, a year of mixed blessings and hard lessons learned. Graduate school was an eye-opener for me. I took a few classes and decided it wasn’t for me, I learned this working at a few schools.

In Boston, graduate school is a place where a 10 year PhD is not unusual. My friends at NIH made me promise to leave Boston if I changed my mind. Most of my friends, got their PhD in 3 years, a few took 2 years; I appreciated their advice and felt bad when I met the angry 30-somethings in Boston. You might wonder why anyone would get caught in such a sad trap. It’s actually easy. No one tells you that there is an easier path or that your mentor is a little too comfortable getting cheap labor. As a technician and later lab manager, I earned twice what a PhD candidate earned for a stipend. Angry? Bitter? Try being a 32-year-old living with 4 others in a small apartment in Boston, where a two bedroom rents for $2,000 a month. I am eternally grateful for the friends who steered me clear of that trap.

And still the real reason I avoided getting a PhD or going to Medical School was I started in Art School and have always wanted to be an artist. The first day at the Corcoran the wide-eyed students are told that they have taken the stupidest road to success in their career, which will mainly involve asking: “Do you want fries with that?” Shock-reality? Maybe. I was a Marine and acquiring an artist’s tough skin was easy for me. It didn’t matter what was going on in my life, what job I had or what personal tragedy was holding my heart in a vice, I still wrote and painted in my spare moments.

The world is different now and the Rhode Island School of Design requires their first year students open an Etsy.com account and they are taught that they are being trained as business people. This is a career. No more bullshit about gaining fame after you are dead. The reality of being an artist is clear. No more bullshit about some rare ethereal definition of talent defining success. Now, as always it takes a good business eye to create your own success. The Internet has put your works right into the hands of the world.

What an amazing world. For an old horse like me, it’s  a matter of refocusing. I was a terrible business woman when I had my own web design business. My clients took my award-winning work and stiffed me on payment. Everyone expected a $10,000 web site for the $500 they thought an outsourced web site offered. And I soon realized, to succeed I needed a salesperson, a marketing team and a really good customer service rep because I did not play well with others. Especially, people who stomp on my wallet or steal my dreams.

I thought I lucked out when boyfriend/partner now husband took a job with a good salary and told me to go back to what I loved. Yeah, so I did. I painted. I wrote. I wrote 2 books. I got more poems published. Found a lot of interest in my short stories but I realized very quickly, I was not going anywhere because of the same old same old. I suck at business and I knew nothing about art as a business. During my first successful NaNoWriMo in 2010, I saw some very successful people writing. I read their bios and followed their tweets, posts and read their books. I started taking classes and kept tripping over a group who spoke in acronyms: HEA, HFN, H/h, POV, WIP, RWA, UF, YA, NA, RS and FUBAR… I was WTF? 

Then my last NaNoWriMo in 2012 put me on the path of those who know wtf they are doing, the RWA. Yeah! Writing is a career, it’s a job, it’s a profession. There are steps, classes and lots and lots of advice. I joined RWA in December and joined a chapter before New Years. I live equidistant between two chapters and sadly joined the one that was wrong for me. When I was a young widow in Boston, I learned the hard way that seeming too needy was a date-killer. I forgave myself because I wasn’t alone, most single women in their thirties were having trouble. I eventually learned and fell in love with my best friend.

My hardest lesson this year was learning some people do not like me and they are capable of eroding my self-confidence, bullying me or drawing me into their world, a world I do not belong. In high school, I had bucked teeth and big boobs, what a terrible combination. The football team got points for following me, grabbing my breasts and painfully twisting them. The cheerleaders kept a tally of all the kids who were tortured. My straight A’s and artistic talent meant nothing in the world of bullying. I never thought I would revisit those painful days but I was wrong. When I was 17, I almost died from peritonitis, I was in a coma for weeks. A nurse sat on my bed and told me to leave, join the military and build a new life away from all the cruelty. What an angel. I was a happy Marine, met and married two wonderful men. It wasn’t always easy but I thrived on challenges. Because that is what life is, a big fucking challenge, a mountain to climb, a goal to attain and avoiding causing harm.

So what if I my name is not included on the Members page, so what if I am shunned by mean girls? That is the small stuff, I am shooting for the big stuff, a loving husband, a happy home and a WIP that has my heart.



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