About a week before I started my MFA program, my eldest brother Jesse died. We were saddened and both relieved because he’d been in hospice with terminal cancer for nearly two years. Not only had the cancer destroyed his brain, but my brother, an adult man of color living with schizophrenia had experienced tragedy and health troubles throughout his entire life.
Jesse had hyper-graphia and only wrote in red ink. The growing mountain of tablets did not sate his need to write. He wrote non-stop. So did I. He heard voices. I channeled mine through characters and their dialogue. He became a social outcast as do many people with mental illness. I became a writer. His behavior institutionalized him. Mine earned me publication, audiences, stagings and productions of my work.
Perhaps, I found voice and writing because of the things that he could write, but never say. Jesse, may you rest in peace, brother.
Before school….I can still recall the excitement of a new school year as a child, a student, a mom and later as an educator. Mom taught first grade for nearly 50 years, so as far as I can remember the days leading up to school were filled with the requisite clothes and supply shopping; book buying; schedule mapping; course selection; curriculum development; and transportation planning. It wasn’t until after the kids left home and I no longer taught that I had an opportunity to look at fall and the start of the school year with a new vision. At first I was absolutely lost and handled it buying supplies for all the kids I knew. I finally tapered off and began to welcome the season as a perfect opportunity to observe beginnings and endings; and the nature of things.
The start of this school year finds me starting a graduate program at a time when my peers are retiring, or comfortably settled in their careers. I decided to do something that I always wanted to do: earn a graduate degree in writing. There are two things you should know about me. I love learning and strive to learn something new every day. In fact, I thrive on it! Secondly, I’ve done just about everything my own way. I can’t say that’s been 100% successful, but it’s been a worthy life experience and I’ve earned the life that I live.
I finished undergrad at age 36, with two young children, the last having been a nursing three month old when I returned to complete the last year of my interrupted education. Nonetheless, it took more than a bit of positive self-talk to get me to finally complete the applications. When I received word that I’d been accepted, I was so overwhelmed, I just cried.
I should have been elated. I was and still am. But, then followed the wave of panic. Oh my God! What have I gotten myself into?