I feel like I need to write in the form of a list. I miss list blogs. Some of my favorite past posts, especially those not published here, were written in the form of a list (I’m super nostalgic for Colorado College and London, FYI).
It’s mid-March and the expected madness is at play. So much is happening every day and there are so many moments to share, that I feel I should share, that I WANT to share, but then the very idea of attempting to articulate all of it, some of it, completely consumes me and I just don’t. I’ve forgotten the art of blogging, which I think is totally acceptable and fair, albeit frustrating. It’s only a blog.
I also feel like I’ve forgotten how to write a new book. I’ve been revising and rewriting and editing and revising NOTHING LEFT TO BURN off and on for the last 10 years (!!!). And while, yes, I drafted another novel somewhere in there when I was 16/17 and one of the rewrites of BURN was so severe that it may has well have been a totally New Thing, I’m utterly consumed by terror and–as with blogging and journaling and ALL forms of writing–too many thoughts.
I live in graduate housing at UAF. We get monthly emails about the poor state of our water. “People who drink water containing trihalomethanes in excess of the MCL over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys, or central nervous system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer” and “If you have a severely compromised immune system, have an infant, are pregnant, or are elderly, you may be at increased risk and should seek advice from your health care providers about drinking this water.” I’m not severely comprised but my immune system certainly doesn’t need another factor working against it, plus the water tastes rancid. So I go to a water station and fill up 7 gallons of drinking water a week.
Back in November, I couldn’t carry the water jug. Now I can lug it from my car to the apartment and (most weeks) even lift it above my head onto the fridge. This feels like the sweetest of victories.
My writing pause may also have to do with significant things happening with past writing. I need time to process, to recover, to let joy and terror sink in, to not be productive, to refill the well. I’m not saying anything new but the repetition is calming me.
On the first day of the month, I attacked a giant sushi boat for damn fantastic reasons.
As mentioned a few weeks back, I moved out of my studio and into the one directly below mine. Sharing 380 sq ft with another person is an odd thing. But I kind of love it, as a temporary set up, it’s damn cozy and warm. And I no longer have to walk back and forth and up and down those stairs twenty times a night, no longer have to carry down pots of soup and be caught by neighbors in my PJs. I can stay right here. It’s so nice to just stay right here.
I also forgot how to design and code websites, which I miss have the ability to do. I need to relearn at least the basics.
Last week, I said goodbye to my California driver’s license. The Alaska DMV wouldn’t let me keep it as a souvenir–surely a mini tragedy. While having an Alaska license for a few years will be swell (and my CA one was set to expire in August), I already miss my gleeful newly permitted 15-year-old face.
Today, I was preliminary diagnosed with an ulcer. Ulcers don’t run in my family. My mom says, “We don’t do ulcers” (to which I rolled my eyes). I have low blood pressure and severely low cholesterol. I eat generally healthy. I shouldn’t have an ulcer. I clearly know nothing about ulcers. My anxiety has been stupid high this year, paired with other significant mental rubbish that has been left untreated because of a shortage of psychiatrists in Fairbanks. I did’t know ulcers or heartburn could hurt so bad. I didn’t know stress could do such damage. Actually, that’s a lie. I’ve known the implications of stress since I was seven. But taking medication for the acid in my stomach? That’s a new one.
I’m visiting home in less than two weeks for AWP Los Angeles and I CANNOT WAIT TO HOLD MY DOG. And have a break from Alaska.
It’s spring break and so damn beautiful in its own Alaskan way. The sun is already setting after 8 PM, but we had the first real significant snow fall (10 inches) since December, which felt so, so good. I forgot the hush. The soothe. The brightness. How clean it feels. But I’m petrified of the growing light. My one advantage this year is that I know what to expect: madness, endless day, insomnia, people yelling in the Writing Center when they really mean to be talking softly, me running in circles, me pacing.
My Mini Cooper is my baby, more and more. I’m so happy I drove it up the continent this summer, even if I have to drive it back down in two months. I think I’m moving to Utah, and then Seattle several months to a year after that. Does this surprise anyone? I can’t stay still. Not yet.
This space will be changing significantly soon (next week?). I’m CRAZY excited (for so many things).
I want to spoon myself hot salsa so bad right now.
What a thick, passage-y list. Oops.
I finally archived the bio that I wrote in 2011, feverish in Humboldt County. Though much hasn’t changed and I still get IDed at the airport and write in longlonglong sentences, it felt time to make that ramble a blog entry rather than my standing bio. Now the WHO? page is short (we’ll see how long that lasts) and I suppose sweet, though still featuring my blurry selfie from that drippy green era of life, because I miss Humboldt and I miss the compulsion to blog so vulnerably with no restraint, miss the way I approached this space during that timeframe.
I don’t think I’ll ever go back to that sort of blogging, because that place of unrestraint came from total isolation. I had a roommate who is now a dear friend, but I was so bloody lonely and stuck in my own head during my own time in Humboldt. I made sure to keep to myself, to not make friends. Called it my semester of solitude in attempt to recover from an on and off again 5-year-long not-so-good relationship. That semester, I went to one house party and briefly fell in love with a body named Bread and then went salsa dancing at a university event only to puke into muddy ferns bordering a parking lot (I attended the community college). I went to class, took walks in the forest, drove too fast, and blogged. If I look at my blogging patterns, I’m most prolific and INYOURFACE when I’m in a period of Alone. Whether that’s living at my parents’ house, or in Berkeley or Arcata, or re-settling in Colorado. And, you know, I don’t want to go back to those times, no matter how fundamental and mesmerizing they are in memory. I have no way of knowing what’s to come, but I don’t think I’ll be going back there anytime soon.
I’m in the process of moving into the studio directly below my own to save money for reasons that will eventually be revealed. My smallest move yet. Dragging my belongings bit by bit down the stairs I go up and down and up and down every day. Setting myself up in the studio I’m currently writing from now. No car involved. No shipping. No surprises. Same layout. Same 380 sq ft. But shared. Moneymoneymoneymoneymoney. Less room to stretch and dance because down here there is a couch and TV circa 2004 or something. And then in the spring/summer/sometime soon? A far bigger move. Again the Mini, which is being prepped with a roof rack and cargo box. It only took me moving 10 + times in a go cart to give into utilizing its roof.
I suppose this blog is an ode to my need to move, my need to travel, my need to stir it up. Unplanned moves of the future, BRING IT.
(Who will I be 12 hours from now? Who are you today?)
The photos were taken last Friday between ??:?? and ??:??*
It’s a warm January. A mild winter. We haven’t had a below 40 day yet and I want it. My students tell me shhhh, they tell me not to jinx it. But below 40 here is normal for winter. Not 20F. Not -2F. Not the smell of wet trees at 11 PM in late January. I crave normal, or rather the idea of it. And I want proof that Alaska isn’t already thawing. That the world isn’t melting. I want the freeze in my eyes, my nose, on my teeth. It feels like something special. Wakes me up.
I’m writing something new and it’s so odd to be writing something new. Attempting to write something new. That’s not true. I’ve written so many new things this past year but nothing big, nothing that feels so heavy it’s hard to think, difficult to see its core.
So much is happening. This spring will be rapid, rough, so light. It’s getting brighter every day. And every day, I wish I knew what to say that would articulate the change.
On Wednesday, I spoke on the phone with someone new. A business call that had me waking by the hour beforehand, a call that had me falling out of bed faster than I have since September. For the first few minutes, we small chatted about Alaska. Every phone call with someone new outside out of Alaska ends up entailing some talk of Alaska. This is especially true with customer service reps. When will the sun set? When does it rise? Is it dark all the time? How cold is it? What happens to the light? Why do you live there? Why?
The person I talked to Wednesday, not a customer service rep, this person who was so nice, she asked me about Alaska and I laughed and I said, “I don’t think I really like Alaska.”
And that’s not totally true. I’m infatuated and confused. I’m angry, exhausted. My nervous system is charred by the seasons’ swings that aggravate my own. I’m in love with the challenge and the extremes. I’m broken. Stuck on repeat: stating the same things. I’ll try to not write about Alaska and the weather and the light the next time I post an entry.
But this new class I’m teaching? It’s a challenge too, but oy. My students (and me!) are rising to the occasion. I never thought I’d stay up late to read student writing, but that’s already happened more than once and it feels good.
A year ago, I moved to Alaska. I started grad school. I started teaching. I took seven antibiotics a day for Lyme disease, and often puked between my office hours and teaching, between tutorials in the Writing Center bathroom. Other side effects included severe muscle pain, excess sweating, loss of appetite, dizzy spells, neurosis, long days unable to eat. I was fine. I went on hikes. I read everything assigned. I moved to Alaska and I wrote and I met people and felt things and was challenged and exhausted and was it only a year ago?
I fell in love with Alaska. What happens below 0F–the trees shuddering still, frosted white on white on white. The cold. The bite of my first moment at -40 degrees, where celsius and fahrenheit merge. Outside of Alaska, via word of mouth and dramatized reality TV shows, it’s over-sensationalized. Alaska is horrifying and grand and extreme, but really, I wear what I wore in California, but with a layer underneath and some more layers on top. I slip more. I walk faster. Every step a crunch through hard snow.
I fell in love and in hate with the extremes of the light and dark. When I landed on the last day of December, December 2014, there were only about 4 hours of daylight. By February, light was creeping in fast. It’s alarming. The light. It’s happening now, mid-January, and yet still I sometimes don’t get outside soon enough to see the sun. And last year, my first semester of grad school, late March, the sunsetting near 9PM, I was manic and talking at high speed, high volume. I was walking into the woods that surround the campus with a box of wine and slipping on ice. I was scratching my skin and pacing between the campus pub and bus hut. There is so much I can say about the light in Fairbanks, Alaska. The lack of it. The disgusting, indulgent excess of it in the summer. Its rapid changing in November and April.
I moved to Alaska last December. I started teaching. Did I ever think I could love teaching so much? My worst days that semester were saved by my 90 minute class sessions. My students. My students telling me secrets. My students telling me they were no longer afraid of writing. My students confiding in me. My students saying thank you. I found solace in lesson planning and glee in winging it in the classroom. So, I started graduate school. MFA in Creative Writing–totally unnecessary and indulgent, but in Alaska and fully funded (see: teaching). I started being social again. I dived into a new relationship that first sparked when I visited Fairbanks the August before after my initial deferral. I was still sick with Lyme disease. I am still probably sick with Lyme disease.
I was newly agented with a 10 page editorial letter waiting for my attention. I had to defer my revision, just like I’d had to defer grad school in the fall. I was heart broken. My agent, Sarah Davies, was so patient. Wanted me to wait for me to be in a place where I could make the manuscript the best it could be. Understood the exhaustion of moving, of sickness, of Big Changes. But it took me ten years of active work to get an agent, and then I had to tell that agent, sorry, no, wait for the summer, I’m sick, I’m spoonless, I just moved to Alaska and my brain is confused. I never expected I would have to pause my dream once my dream finally kicked into gear. It was my first time not making writing my number one priority. I never expected it to hurt as much as it did.
I moved to Alaska over a year ago and I did the thing I’ve done periodically since I started blogging–the thing I do when I feel vulnerable, when I feel like the people near me might be watching. I shut it down. I stopped blogging when I now feel like I should have been blogging most. Instead, for a Forms course, I wrote non-fiction creative essays about cyclothymia and PTSD and Lyme Disease and Mormonism and my grandma dying that February. I wrote some forty pages of academic scholarship on Twilight and I read a lot of pedagogy. I finished the semester when I thought I wouldn’t finish the semester because, by April, the sun wouldn’t go away and my brain was a drum and it was all so new, too much, too much, but I finished the semester with As and a class that I wanted to hug, students I wanted to keep. And then summer came: giant mosquitos, and endless days, and spongy forest walks, so much more, an escape to California to meet my niece and embrace the costal nights and rock the aforementioned revision in a single month. And in August, a two-week roadtrip up the continent, a 4 day ferry included, back north, because Alaska Alaska Alaska, what is this place?
I am still here–calmer now (by some standards), my 3rd semester of teaching, teaching Academic Writing about Literature, titled Growing Up During the Apocalypse: Trauma and Resilience in Young Adult Literature. I’m head over heels shocked and honored that I’m teaching a college course I designed and proposed on my own. We had our first day on Thursday, and the classroom has expansive high windows that look out to Denali, the Alaskan range, the white and white and white and pastels and frost that will soon turn brown then green and bright. I get to teach books like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and Courtney Summer’s This is Not a Test in this room, to students who seem to care, who try, who listen, who laugh when I knock my hip into a desk. I’m off the antibiotics because my body needed, needs, a break from supposed healing. And I feel so lucky. My manuscript is finally out on submission and it’s surreal. I am outrageously happy that I am so lucky. I worked so hard to be this far in the process. Even if every editor says no to BURN, I am a happy girl. I made it this far, so far. I’m doing what I love. I’m writing. My writing is being read. I’m teaching. I’m learning. I’m young.
So, I’m still in Alaska. For now, at least. And a dear, dear friend recently reminded me of my love for blogging and, you know, naturally, I realized how much I missed it. I missed having a place to go and ramble, let friends and strangers read if they so desire. I missed having a place to deposit frustrations and photographs and random thoughts. So much has happened this past year, too much for a single year, and I think I may want to interweave some of those memories into what I write here. But, for now, I’m going to try to at least post monthly with a something. A photo. A passage. A story. Fuck insecurities. Embrace vulnerability. I’ve been shedding my skin here since 2008, why stop now?
In reply to the entry I posted in December 2014, my last post before my disappearance, mere weeks before my move to where I am now: it’s everything and more and nothing like I expected it to be.
I have so much I need to say. I’m going to try not to go away again anytime soon.