Posted by: birdmaddgirl | 15 January 2014

juggling and judging

it’s nigh unto impossible for me to interact with anyone without the double masters thing coming up. often i am asked to explain this insanity. then i feel a touch the sideshow weirdo. and while i understand that 99% of the time someone is looking for a way to relate to me and floundering and what they hit on is this sort of mixture of what-the-fuck awe and horror, the frequency of “why are you doing this?” can feel judgy. (no, i don’t care that judgy is not a word.)

and when i think about why this bothers me, it’s not about the conversation i’m in at the time. the conversation is fine. it’s because i’m sensitive about feeling judged (past tense) for lots of reasons that all circle back to one thing: throughout my life, society has indicated the path i want is not ok.

one of my greatest assets in life has been my stubbornness. without my stubbornness, i would be living the absolute wrong life. my stubbornness gets me in trouble plenty, and can keep me in places i shouldn’t stick around in. but it has saved my ass more times than not. and even with it, i get tired. i give in. i do things that i know aren’t right for me. i allow things to happen that i know i will regret.

what i want out of my life isn’t generally socially acceptable. work? poet. children? no. husband? don’t give a shit. i’ve known every one of those things since before i was 10. i’ve been undermined, ridiculed, and dismissed for each. i’ve worked very hard to build myself a life where i’m surrounded by people who don’t treat me that way. and mostly, i’m at peace with how i don’t line up with societal expectations. but sometimes i’m not. and then i feel judged, even by people i know aren’t judging me. it’s in my head, but that doesn’t make it fantastical. this shit is real – we’ve all been there.

why am i working full time + teaching yoga + writing a master’s thesis + studying for an mfa? because i looked someone i love in the face while they told me how their life was not what they wanted. not the job, not the relationship, not the creative outlets. because of my own baggage, what i saw was a reflection of myself, getting older and being bullied into a corner not of my own choosing. and because i was struggling to pull myself out of a long period of depression and i didn’t want to be there anymore. this was just over a year ago. as my friend talked, i knew i was going to apply to study poetry. i pretended to debate the merits of throwing myself into a concurrent degree program for the next several weeks, but it was a fiction. i knew i had to throw myself at poetry, at being a poet. i’ve run away from it my entire adult life. because poet is not paying the rent. practicality first! it’s pretty much impossible to absolutely shut down that working class need for security. even when the security is a lie. impulsiveness is my weapon.

the timing will never be right. there will always be something in the way. there will always be an excuse. there will always be fear.

it’s scary. it’s scary to want to do this and it’s scary to be doing it. it will probably still be scary after it’s done. (oh it will never be done.) there are other things i want that i’m too scared to go after, too scared to even admit to wanting. part of that fear is the judgement fear. that my ambitions aren’t sufficient. most likely i will never get over that fear. but i can learn to live with it.

since the end of november, i’ve written and revised 18 pages of poetry, written two thesis chapters, and survived the awesome exhaustion of mfa residency. i’m about to write more poems, and read more poems, and do more thesis work. i almost never stop to feel pride, but i look back on these last few weeks and know that i’ve achieved a ton. these things matter not because i’m fulfilling (arbitrary) requirements or obtaining degrees, but because they help me know myself. i want to be someone who is curious and intellectual and creative and who looks beyond the (arbitrary) borders of her own identity. despite my share of screw ups, i’m building a person i want to be and hanging on to it. we all know people who have lost what they feel is their truest self, especially when daily life doesn’t line up with that sense of self. i want an integral life that fulfills all those parts of me and to live that i know i have to juggle plenty and judge less. that’s what ambition looks like to me; not a particular job, or starting a family, or owning a house, or any of the other things that society says to chase after. just being me. which right now means working full time + teaching yoga + writing a master’s thesis + studying for an mfa. plus whatever other ridiculosity i heap on.

i spent many years of my life not owning my ambitions. judging myself inadequate. not reaching so i wouldn’t fail, or worse, prove the outside/inside voices right. i was failing myself then anyway. and so maybe people ask me “why are you doing this?” because maybe they are partly silently asking “why am i not doing x?” just like i was.



  1. You are amazing, and very real to me. I wish so much I had had your courage and determination at your age. But it is just as important (I think) that I found them before it was too late. So I’m a late bloomer? So much of what you have written here has me nodding in agreement and cheering you on. So what I’m older and more or less crippled? I dared to follow my desire and do what I want with the rest of my life , and while it is not paradise, it comes very close to being that because it is what *I* am. A farmer. Finally I am a farmer. Who, by the way, loves poets and poetry. Sometimes the things you write make me feel like you’re a sister, sometimes a daughter, but always a friend I’d enjoy knowing better.

    • Thanks very much dear. I have the same feelings, though, about people I respect who are younger than I am and braver than I was. We all take our own ways. I’m glad to hear that you *are* doing what you are passionate about now! Peace and light to you, my friend.

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