About two weeks ago one of my partners asked if I would be comfortable writing a college assignment essay for someone close to them in exchange for money. They were too anxious to complete it themselves. I said sure.
I used to bang out academic essays pretty quickly. It was easy for me to figure out what a teacher wanted and pipe out some bullshit they would absolutely adore. Or at least it used to be. This person sent me their assignment due in five days, an essay involving three readings. Between my job and my mental state I honestly wasn't sure if I could complete in time but I would let them know either way.
When I opened the instructions I suddenly remembered how long it had been since I wrote in a "for school" capacity. I scrolled through the readings for good measure, trying to crack a code like Nicholas fucking Cage. Yeah, no still had no idea how to start this. AND mla format? AND a works cited? YIKES.
There was a time I loved school so much I would have done nearly anything to get it. In post high school years I got in to Fairleigh Dickinson University, SUNY Purchase and Temple on three separate admission cycles. I was offered a small scholarship from Fairleigh and SUNY and basically work-study and a shrug from Temple.
I stopped chasing school after that. While enrolled in CCP to keep my parents insurance (this was before Obama's declaration you could be 26 and not in school before being booted off. Bless him for that.), I found I actually liked CCP a lot. There was a different mix of people in the classroom: working adults, retired people, high school drop outs trying to get their life together, etc. Granted it was the Northeast campus so it was still a lit of white cishet jock types but still.
And then there was the bitter pill that when my younger sister graduated Girls High four years after me, our art teacher went to bat hard for her to make sure she got the four year all inclusive scholarship for art school. There was an ache in me. Balancing at the same time my sister being so talented and thus deserving, with not being able to further my studies financially beyond Community College was a challenge.
I leaned hard into the adult world and was fucking miserable in grey basement offices. It wasn't until 2015's A Room of Her Own retreat in New Mexico that I felt close to alive again. There I gained knowledge in workshops, friendships with other writers who I still talk to today, courage that even though most of these people had degrees, they still saw value in me that I couldn't. see yet.
Since then I pretty much been writing whatever I want. ( as you can clearly see form the titles of my blogposts..) Writing became mine again. It was no longer a performance I did to placate other people, like the rest of my life was (is), but something I did to interrogate my feelings and document observations.
It gets complicated when we also take into account the realities of a severe head injury a few years back too. The months after in which I would read a few sentences and not be able to comprehend what I just read. The months after that I would get a heavy headache if I thought too much or got confused or emotional or cried a lot.
I have written elsewhere expandingly on the trials my split forehead still gives me as the scar has faded. I simply can't pretend to be the same person I pretended to be pre-2017. And I can't write like her either. But I don't want to.
Getting an m.f.a may have given me an easier time in the writing world but it also would have given me a mountain of more debt and an academic standard I no longer want to meet. Some people may take me less seriously without a bunch of letters extending past my name. But those are the kind of people who don't look past surface level minutiae and I'm not interested in wasting my time with those people anyway.
I no longer ache for the validation that school would give me, I see how beautifully I have grown in environments where dialogue, and not competition, is the norm. I'm a bad bitch on my own terms, and I don't need anyone to tell me what to write anymore.