Artium Bark-alaurei

Six years ago, just after I met my sidekick, we went to Kenyon College. We spent four years there, studying mostly English literature, creative writing, and Italian, though there was some astronomy, calculus, anthropology, and even a political science class thrown in there. I participated in class too—my sidekick says I’m quite vocal with my grumbling—but only when I felt the class discussion really needed it. We played in the band—my sidekick on the clarinet, and me leading the dogophone section. We made wonderful friends, and we played Humans versus Zombees and were tributes in the Kenyon Hunger Games—actually, I just watched my sidekick do those things, because she’s crazy, while my other people gave me scratches. My sidekick and her friends also did this thing where they sat around in a circle and told stories and then talked about the stories (I didn’t really get it, but I liked listening to all the stories).


Then, after four years at Kenyon, we graduated. That’s what my sidekick called it, anyway. As far as I could tell, they got all of us into a big room, there was a lot of talking and sitting and standing and sitting again, and then we lined up and walked across a stage, and my sidekick and I were each given a piece of paper, and then more sitting and standing, and then we were packing up all our things and getting in the car and my sidekick was crying and I didn’j know what was going on. Also, I had to wear a robe and a stupid flat hat that kept falling in my eyes. The piece of paper was important, because both mine and my sidekick’s are now in frames. I didn’t know what was going on that day, but now I know that I received a degree from Kenyon College. “Artium Bark-alaurei,” my diploma says. My sidekick’s says something different, I guess because she’s my sidekick and she can’t bark.


My sidekick told me that we were off on a new adventure, but we would come back to Kenyon. Only, we didn’t. Instead, we went to Italy. Some of my people from Kenyon did come to say hi while we were there—they were studying in England that year—and then more of them came to say hi when we were back in the United States and working at the Disability Rights Center.


Then, last weekend, we returned to Kenyon to celebrate with a bunch of our people who were getting their Artium Bark-alaurei. I was so happy to be back and to play with all my friends again. I knew where I was going, and I knew the way to all my sidekick’s favorite places. I was sad that she wouldn’t let me go to my favorite place—the dining hall (she said it would be too crowded, and she was probably right). But we did go to all the ceremonies, and I stood and sat and covered my ears with my paws when the people behind us blasted us with their air horn without warning.


It was a great weekend, but I could tell that everyone was having lots of feelings—the same feelings my sidekick and I had when we left Kenyon two years ago. We even felt those feelings again, because with most of our friends off to new places, we weren’t sure when we’d be coming back ourselves. And it was sure something to walk the paths we’d walked for four years and no that in the time since we left, we have become completely different, my sidekick and I. I’ve learned, a little unfortunately, that the outside world is not as safe as Gambier, Ohio, and that not everyone likes me and wants to let me come inside with my sidekick like they’re supposed to. And my sidekick has convinced me that our talents will be put to better use defending the world from villains who don’t understand the rights of people with disabilities. (I was getting bored with Italian literature, honestly. Do you know how weird some of those books are?) Still, I could tell that my sidekick was a little sad, being back at Kenyon. She felt like she’d gone off into the world, and the world had systematically crushed all her dreams, and now she was back here, and nothing she’d wanted then had worked out the way she’d hoped.


But that isn’t true. Okay, there was a fair amount of dream crushing that happened, for both of us, but that isn’t why we’re going to law school. We’re going to law school because our dreams changed, and that doesn’t negate the dreams we had or even mean they’re impossible. There are still plenty of adventures to be had. And another reason why we were so moved by the graduation ceremony, we’re about to start the first: Harvard Law School, or as I see it, our training to confront evil villains and save the world. Also, I want a framed juris dog-torate degree from Harvard Law School on my office wall, right next to my Artium Bark-alaurei from Kenyon College.


New Years Resolutions

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for the last couple of weeks.


Who am I kidding? I’ve been meaning to blog for the last six months, but senior year was getting underway, I was writing my thesis, generally doing fun things, and I had to have my right eye removed.  Yeah, that happened.  It basically exploded.  But that’s an entirely different story.  More on that later.  I promise.


So I finished first semester, finished a draft of my thesis (that’s the World War II Italy novella), had surgery and recovered from said surgery, and then I made a New Years resolution to resurrect this blog and try to blog on a semi-regular basis.  I maybe set an alarm to go off on my phone once a week to remind me.


The reason I’ve been struggling with this post in particular is that I keep going back and forth about what tone I want to take, and the truth is, it’s not just about this blog post.


See, blogging is only one of my New Years resolutions.  Actually going on Facebook and not just creepily lurking is another, and I’m doing pretty well with that.  But the big one is that by the end of 2014, I will have received 200 rejection letters.


Don’t get me wrong: I do not want 200 rejection letters.  If I get published before I reach 200, that’s great! Never mind! Mission accomplished!


The point is, over the past several months, I’ve been feeling pretty down about writing and submitting new stories.  I mean, there’s only so many times you can hear that it’s so close, but no thank you, before you start to wonder.  I’m watching my friends get published, and I’m glad for them—I really am. But I’m also hearing that everyone admires me so much for trying, but really, I’d rather be admired for succeeding.  So I set a goal that I will have 200 rejections by the end of the year in order to force myself to write more and submit and keep trying, because if I stop trying because I feel like I’m failing, I will definitely have failed.


So I’m sitting here, and I want to say “this is the year!” I want to say this is the year that things are going to happen.  I’m going to graduate, and I’m going to get a Fulbright and go to Italy or I’m going to get into graduate school.  I’m going to get published this year, or win a competition, or maybe even get into Clarion.  I’m going to read Lord of the Rings for the first time!


That’s what I want to say.


But at the same time, I’m sitting here, and I’m thinking about what my father has said about some of my brother’s musician friends: “You keep going up and up and up, but at some point, everybody stops.  Everybody hits a peak, and they don’t go any higher than that.”


And I can’t help wondering, what if I’ve hit my peak? All my life, I’ve succeeded at whatever I set my mind to, but what if this is it? What if I don’t get the Fulbright or get into graduate school? What if I can’t get a job? What if I don’t ever get published and can’t succeed at writing? What then?


The truth is, in a little less than four months, I’m going to graduate and leave Kenyon, and I have no idea what I’m doing after that.  I don’t even know what I want to do after that.


And that is terrifying.


And I’m not sure I know how to handle it.


All I can do is write about it, because right now, writing is just about the only thing I’m positive I can do.


Maybe I feel like this because it’s 12:30 in the morning and I just read a friend’s story about a girl who feels like a failure after graduation.  Maybe I’m feeling like this because in less than two weeks, I’m going to hear whether I’ve moved onto the next level in the Fulbright application.  Maybe it’s because I’ve never not had a plan.  Probably, it’s a little of everything.


This is one of those things that I’m not totally sure I want to put out there on the internet, but I also think it’s something that needs to be said.  Sometimes, we don’t know what we’re doing.  Sometimes, the world just seems really big, and we’re really small, and somehow, we have to move through it without getting lost, and sometimes, we have no idea how to do that.  Sometimes, optimistic gusto is just stupid, and we need to admit that we’re afraid.


And at the end of the day, even though I don’t know where I’m going, I still have to move forward.  Eventually, I know I’ll end up where I’m supposed to be.  Or at least I’ll end up somewhere.


And until then, I’m going to put one foot in front of the other, do my homework, have fun with my friends, enjoy my last semester at Kenyon.  I’m going to go to Midnight Breakfast and try a smoothy from the KAC.  I’m going to finish revising my thesis.  I’m going to read Lord of the Rings and watch the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time.  I’m going to write stories and submit them.  I’m going to go on Facebook, and I’m going to blog.  I’m going to play Pokemon on the big screen in the science quad.


I’m going to take things one day at a time, and I’m going to see what happens.  Something will, and who knows? Maybe 2014 will be the year.