Today was a good day. I haven’t had many of them lately, so I treasure them and dwell on them when they do make an appearance.
Why was it a good day? A few reasons. First, I received feedback from a lesson observation. For someone who is constantly feeling less than I probably am, reading the words an experienced teacher wrote about how I make writing fun for reluctant boys, how well I know my students and how well-established and creative my classroom is, makes me feel a little less disheartened. Then, a student of mine – you know the one, the boy who likes to do nothing but cause problems and gives you a headache by 9:30 because you just know he can do so much more than he is doing and you just want him to realize his potential. Yes, him. He had a great day. He worked hard, he smiled, he was kind to others and to me. I smiled a lot.
It was a good day because it rained. I have missed the rain.
But mostly today was a good day because of an email I received this morning. It was an email to let me know the transcript for my Masters degree was ready to read. I’ll admit, my fingers hovered over the keyboard in a nervous few moments of procrastination. But then I opened the email, read the document, and two little words made my day:
Choosing to study for my Masters degree in Creative Writing was a big decision. It was a dream I had always wanted to fulfill, but it was not an easy one. When I made the decision, I was in a good job. I was teaching in a school I liked (and still do), with colleagues I had enormous respect for (and still do), a class of students I loved (and still do), all in a place I loved to live (and still miss like crazy). I was doing well. I was getting paid. I had a nice house. Studying my Masters would leave those things behind: I had to move, I had to give up my job, I had to leave things behind. And let’s face it, creative writing is hardly a secure and solid career!
Still, I made the move; I applied, I got in, I started my Masters. Yes, I had to go back to Supply work. Yes, I had to move back in with my parents. Yes, I had to leave my cute little house at the seaside behind. Yes, I was not getting paid nearly enough every month to feel comfortable. But I was doing something I always wanted to do, and what’s life without a little risk?
The Creative Writing MA was not easy. I had to take Poetry. I am not a Poet. My first attempts were so pulled to pieces I cried when I got home that night and wondered what the hell I had done. Working on ‘Letter to a Frozen Pea Manufacturer’ in one of my first writing seminars had me crying again: I just didn’t get it. And then there was that feeling each week that my writing was just not edgy enough or dark enough or different enough to be what people wanted it to be.
It was tough.
But I did it. I didn’t just learn about world building or how to be an editor on a journal or how to learn from poetic masters. My writing got better, I became a better self-editor, I became a better reader. But it’s the things they didn’t assess that matter most. I learned that I have a voice, and even if it is not dark enough for some people, it is light enough for others. I have a style, and even if that is not edgy enough for some, it is just careful enough for others. I may not be a poet, but I am other things. I may still not get ‘Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer’, but I get that all writing has value, that writing belongs as much to the reader as to the author, that it isn’t always about what you read but how you read it. I’m not about to write about frozen peas anytime soon, but if someone else wants to, who am I to stop them? I learned how to develop a thick skin, how to listen to people tell me all the things they don’t like about my work and then ignore their suggestions anyway; because, in the end, it’s my voice, my words, my story and no-one else but me can write it.
I learned that I am a writer.
Of course, I was not the best in my class. Others have got higher marks, have achieved Distinction. But that’s okay because I do not judge my writing worth in comparison with others. We are all writers and we all have our own stories to tell. For my fellow writing graduates, I am so so happy because each one of them, each one of us, deserves that reward. We are in this together, as writers, as workers, as friends; we can disagree about what narrative perspective to use and how to map our stories, but, ultimately, we sing each others praises and celebrate all our successes because we know how bloody hard it is to write and write and keep on writing.
So the next time I have a bad day, I will remember that while my dream was not a pretty ride, I did it. A pass would have been enough. Simply to make it to the end and get through it all would have been enough. But a Merit? I’ll take that with open arms and a proud smile and a heartfelt thank you.