Recently I met with the woman who developed Goddard College's M.A. concentration in transformative language arts. The whole idea of doing this degree as opposed to an MFA is a serendipitous turn of events, but it feels comfortable as I approach my personal half century landmark. I love the idea of marking this transition with going back to school, but unsure about the specifics of what I want to study. I know it has to do with writing. And it has something to do with teaching/coaching/mentoring too - but not in the conventional classroom model. I suspect it has something to do with transformation and my obsessions with both birth and death as non-medical, normal, beautiful transitions. Or maybe not.
Maybe it has to do with finding my voice in recent years - through hoop dancing, through beginning to open my mouth and for the first time, give physical voice the words that flow out of my fingers so easily but lay quivering on my lips. Maybe it has something to do with inspiring others in some way through these experiences.
Maybe it has to do with social media tools that I intuitively understand and have been using for nearly a decade now - the way the tools allow this introvert to be out in the world on her own terms. I write personal narrative here on my blog or on Facebook and Twitter and I generally get nine positive, connected, inspired responses to one nasty, hateful response. So apparently my voice does evoke strong feelings . And social media is part of my full time job, but is that what I want to study? I don't know.
Here's what I do know: this degree would be about me - about my journey and yes, hopefully, it would contribute to something bigger than me in my job or to something meaningful in the bigger world, but at the very core, it has to be about MY burning questions, MY goals, MY strengths. There is no other way for me at this point in my life.
I attended a lecture at Goddard called Crafting a Living Through What you Love. The first part of the process of hearing our calling involves cleaning house - examining myths and messages on what we're supposed to be through the messages and roles we've created for ourselves or that our family and friends have helped to create and use to define us. And I've realized there's plenty of myth in my life and I've been working hard to clean house (energy vampires, verbally abusive people, constantly negative people, anything that just feels not-quite-right). It is difficult to hear our own voices through the cacophony of these myths.
The second part of the process is about cultivating spaciousness because your calling needs space on which to land. And this is something I inherently know but have not been paying attention to. I yearn for silence and solitude and yet I just keep committing to people and things and waking up with panic attacks night after night and then wonder why. Yoga, meditation and prayer have helped. EMDR has helped immensely. Taking naps helps. Doing nothing on a sunny weekend when everyone says, "Oh you should be outdoors," helps too. I am beginning to recognize that I do not need to apologize for needing more quiet time than most in a culture that rewards extroversion and movers and shakers. I don't want to be a vice president of an insurance company - a very visible leader. I want to be a quiet leader, by example. I don't know what that means yet, but I know I can do it. No questions asked.
In the final part of the lecture I attended we were invited to listen Mary Chapin Carpenter's Jubliee (I suggest you listen to it while reading this post - the video is embedded below) and write about something that we were ready to lay down or put to rest. What touched me most about this exercise was not the content of what I wrote, but the ease and confidence with which I read it aloud to a group of strangers as my eyes filled with tears.
Ann as the creative writing undergrad student of 30 years ago would not have been able to do this. She would have apologized for being stupid and uncreative, she would have mumbled, she would have believed the other writers were better than she. What amazed me the other night is that now, as a 49 year old student, I felt none of this. I wanted to read my work and I read it proudly. Was I scared? Hell, yeah. Was I confident in my ability to connect powerfully with others through my words? Hell, double, triple yeah! I am ready for self-directed study. I am ready to share my words, my voice and I have no attachment to the folks with whom I don't connect. I can release them. It's all okay with me.
So, I am making space for something. I can taste a little of what it is. It's savory. It's not sweet. It's orange and yellow and earth tones. It smells like an ocean breeze. And it's a piano tune, likely played like a waltz.
Or maybe it's a piano tune played like Jubilee.