work, work, work

This won’t be the longest blog I’ve posted, nor will it be the most eloquently written. I’ve just come off a 12-hour shift that has left me utterly exhausted in every way. This job and those hours have pretty much consumed my life over the last month or so. It’s the reason I missed my monthly blog post in April. It’s the reason I haven’t been doing any writing lately, on here or anywhere else. It’s the reason I have unwittingly been performing one of my sarcastic scores for the struggling artist: “12. Ignore any artwork you may be doing, including this.”

If you’ve been following The Grace Period, you know that tomorrow is the opening night of The Sallie Mae Cabaret. I wish dearly that I could have been a part of it. Words can’t express how much. I know that my collaborators and friends have poured their hearts and souls into this and have been working just as hard as I have – twice as hard, in fact, because they’ve been balancing jobs AND producing their own work – but the difference is they have something more than a paycheck to show for it. I’m not trying to throw a self-indulgent pity party here, but the reality is that not all members of this collective are moving at the same pace. Some are finding ways to make their art work for them. Some, like myself, are not. I know I have to do better, for myself and for this project, which I have felt increasingly distant from, a sad fact that I know is my own fault. But like I said, this isn’t a pity party. I simply have to do better.

Choose one

A blank page is inviting/intimidating
The sight of it makes you feel inspired/empty
It holds so much promise/fear
Your first sentence is exciting/forced
The words are magical/dull
You’re dying to continue/quit
What comes next is tantalizing/terrifying
What you’ve done is admirable/awful
When you write, everything else disappears/interrupts
With these words, you can do anything/nothing
The words are all you need/have
The rest of the world doesn’t matter/care
What you say is important/irrelevant
You speak your mind with conviction/uncertainty
You share your heart honestly/shamefully
You are elated/exhausted
Your work makes you feel proud/embarrassed
You have achieved so much/little
You keep pushing/backpedaling
You never give up/enough
Your goals are attainable/unrealistic
You are in control/despair
The possibilities are endless/few
Your dreams only get bigger/farther away
Your limits are imaginary/real
Think of the possibilities/obstacles
Keep trying/hesitating
Fill that blank paper with life/nothing
Choose words that are bold/flat
Don’t hold back/your breath
Make the page your canvas/worst nightmare
Let the words be your guide/enemy
With time you’ll stop worrying/trying
Your words will make you smile/scowl
You’ll create worlds that are unique/boring
Others will be amazed/unimpressed
Your heart will swell/drop
You’ll feel peaceful/disgruntled
You will have learned/failed to see


Every blank page will be inviting and intimidating.
The sight of it will make you feel both inspired and empty-headed.
It holds so much promise and so much fear.
Your first sentence is always exciting, if forced.
The words are sometimes magical, sometimes dull.
You’re dying to continue; other times you’re dying to quit.
What comes next is tantalizing and terrifying.
What you’ve done is admirable, though some might be awful.
When you write, everything else disappears, until life interrupts.
With these words, you can do anything, but some days, they’ll do nothing for you.
The words are all you have, but they’re all you need.
The rest of the world doesn’t matter. The rest of the world doesn’t care about your flaws.
What you say is important. Cut out what’s irrelevant.
You can speak your mind with conviction, even through uncertainty.
You can share your heart honestly and shamefully.
You will always be elated and/or exhausted.
Your work can make you feel proud or embarrassed, or proud AND embarrassed.
You have achieved so much, in so little time.
You must always keep pushing, but sometimes backpedaling is necessary.
You must never give up. That’s enough.
Your goals are attainable. Who says they’re unrealistic?
You are in control. Don’t despair.
The possibilities are endless, but you only need a few.
Your dreams only get bigger, even if they seem farther away.
Your limits are imaginary. Your potential is real.
Think of the possibilities, not of the obstacles
Keep trying, even when (especially when) you’re hesitating.
Fill that blank paper with life. Nothing is stopping you.
Choose words that are bold. Choose words that are flat.
Don’t hold back. Stop and catch your breath.
Make the page your canvas. It’s not your worst nightmare.
Let the words be your guide, not your enemy.
With time you’ll stop worrying. With time it won’t even feel like you’re trying.
Your words will make you smile, and will make others scowl.
You’ll create worlds that are unique. It’s impossible to be boring.
Others will be amazed, though some will remain unimpressed.
Your heart will swell. Don’t let it drop.
You’ll feel peaceful when you’re done. Don’t get too disgruntled along the way.
You will have learned a lot, even if you failed.

Want to hear a joke?

It’s icy outside, so I’ve stayed in for the night. Ordinarily I don’t worry so much, but I’ve heard enough horror stories and had a hard enough time trying to drive up my steep, snowy driveway in the past 24 hours to have been convinced not to venture out. So of course, just like most of my 20-something counterparts, my night in saw me scrolling through my Facebook feed in search of something that might be interesting (no, that doesn’t include your individualized Facebook movie or that article detailing why you got engaged at 23). And as I wade through the fluff and the nonsense, lo and behold, there it is: nestled like a precious gem amongst grit and sand and dirt, an oasis in a desert devoid of substance, a headline shining like a beacon of hope to bored Facebook voyeurs and student debt sufferers alike. The arresting headline is preceded by a tentative, disbelieving “Is this real life?” from the friend who shared it, and as I read the title, I can understand her incredulity:

“Obama Announces Plan to Forgive All Student Loans”

Has there ever been a more captivating headline? Has ever a sequence of words stirred more hope, more joy, more ecstasy at the thought of freedom? Can you think of a sentence that holds more promise or guarantees such relief? What other words could sound sweeter to the ear of the average American in my generation?

But in today’s fast-paced world, I don’t give myself much time to contemplate the magic of the words that my eyes have just drifted over. Instead, perhaps drawn by my ever-growing cynicism, perhaps because the web address was already in the periphery of my vision on the tiny mobile screen, my gaze focuses almost immediately on the source of the article, a URL as ugly as the headline is beautiful:

Ah, of course. It’s too good to be true; isn’t that always the case? It’s almost as disappointing as finding out that, no, going to college and getting a degree in what you love is NOT a guaranteed path to success, job security, and a prosperous, happy life. (What a joke that was, right?) The Daily Currant deals in similar jokes, the kind you can almost believe are real. Its satire has the same bite as the more-renowned Onion, but because it’s less well-known, its readers are more often fooled first and left with a bitter taste in their mouths later when they realize they’ve been had.

With a resigned sigh (I hate to be the bearer of bad news), I add the first new comment on my friend’s link.

“No,” I write, addressing the validity of the headline’s existence in real life. “It’s a satire site.” I add a sad face to show my solidarity, and for effect, because, damn, wouldn’t that have been great if it wasn’t just a joke? Touché, Daily Currant, you’ve won this round.

Notifications start rolling in, from other friends either pointing out the satire or lamenting it. The friend who shared the article now shares her moment of revelation, disappointed that “the tyranny” of student debt, as she calls it, isn’t over after all. A mutual friend is also feeling the weight of her debt chains: of course the headline isn’t real, she says, we’re going to be slaves to “the man” for the rest of our lives. Another friend of a friend tells us that, after seeing the same story on another person’s Facebook page, she cried tears of joy before realizing the sad truth. And as a final stamp on the subject, the last comment laments the fact that the student debt figures listed in the article ($1 trillion of student debt owed to the federal government, 40 million students affected, an average of $24,000 of debt per person, college tuition rising 600% since 1980) are in no way satirical, but just cold, hard facts.

All this student debt talk reminds me – my Sallie Mae payment was due yesterday. Whoops. Better go and correct that. And I should make a note to call FedLoan, too, about extending my economic hardship forbearance. There’s no way I’m going to be able to make my monthly payment while I’m still looking for a job. $675 a month? What a joke.