Sports & Me Part 1

For a lot of my life, mostly while I was in school, I played a sport. I can say I have nine, arguably eight, sports under my belt. They are as follows:

  1. T-ball/Baseball
  2. Soccer
  3. Wrestling
  4. Football
  5. Softball
  6. Volleyball
  7. Bowling
  8. Jiu-jitsu (does this count?)
  9. Rugby

 

Why did I play sports? Why does anyone?

Now, other people may have different reasons like it’s all they were good at. There’s even the rare, “I think it’s fun,” person who genuinely means it. There’s always at least one. And some dreamed of making it big. I just dreamed of something to do beyond being alone in my room, which is something I inevitably found myself doing anyway.

But it’s a complicated question. They both are. First of all, unlike many of my friends, my parents never made me play, with exception to football where they forced me not to quit. I never fully enjoyed sports, but I didn’t hate them either. There are two reasons why I really played sports: 1. I liked competition, or I thought I did, 2. It would help me to fit in.

 

How does this tie in with creativity?

I would like to say something nice about how sports contributed to team activities and being an acceptable member of society, but, honestly, I’ve got nothing. I do a lot on my own. I’m a bit of a loner. I never really felt like I belonged, not completely.

I will admit that it seemed to somewhat benefit my ability to create though. Specifically, with football in the eighth grade.

Everyone was doing it. Football, that is. I played for the Woodland Middle School team. We were the Wildcats. Very original. Typically, the kids started on the team as early as sixth grade, but I went in with a couple of friends. Well, more like acquaintances, but I digress. They put me on second string, O line, left tackle. I still got to play some, I swear!

Training, at times, was brutal. You see, I had what is called Exercise Induced Asthma. It didn’t help the whole exercise aspect of sports.

What I recall most vividly is The Hill.

We approached it in full gear after an entire evening of practice. At the end of the day, the sun was beginning to descend behind nearby tree line. We separated into groups of five, each peering down the 90° slope, the green grass worn to brown from previous runs. The whistle blew a shrill staccato note, reverberating off the boxy, brick school building behind us. Then we did suicides up and down that hill until everyone had gone at least once or five times. Sometimes they’d make us do it again after it seemed like it was over. I could barely make the one.

I’d emerge at the top by the end of my run, my breathing sharp and shallow.

They’d yell, “Place your hands above your head,” because that was apparently a way to open up your lungs. I always thought I was under arrest. I’d fall to the ground, sprawling for my inhaler, feeling my airway constrict, my chest tightening, burning. Occasionally, my vision would turn to black for a moment and I’d fall on my face, coming to seconds later with a concerned parent, usually someone else’s who’d arrived early, hovering above my head.

All my memories of football are like that, dramatic.

Here’s the tie in. Yeah, I wanted to quit. No, my parents didn’t let me. It was a good case of, “When things get tough, the tough get going.” I had to be tough. You usually have to be tough in sports. And sometimes you have to be tough in life. It’s something I use now when I’m creating. Sometimes, after I’ve been working on a piece for a while, I’ll have the urge to scrap it. That can be acceptable, but not for every one of them. I have to use discretion and force myself to persevere. It’s a quality.

 

But there was a transference! Maybe.

To say there’s a correlation, a moral, or something along those lines, I think, would be somewhat misleading. I don’t know if there’s really a transference here. But if there’s anything people are good at, it’s reasoning.

I see my fellow writers and artists succeeding and I want to succeed. In fact, I want to be better. I will admit that this is partially human nature, but also a sense of competition that only grew through the years. Sports will do that to you. I’m motivated in this regard.

And I can work in groups, I just usually don’t. It’s a personal preference as previously stated.

 

[Insert Conclusion Here]

I want to tell you a happy sports story because sports can be fun, but they usually weren’t for me. I only have a handful of pleasant memories, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

How about this? I’ll give thanks for one thing sports gave me, beyond the knowledge to hold something resembling a conversation with other men: Thank you, SPORTS, for teaching me to not fit in. I know that’s the opposite lesson attributed to team sports. I mean, I wouldn’t have played them if I didn’t want to fit in, as I mentioned earlier. I’ll admit that there were some sports that ended up being somewhat pleasant for me like soccer and rugby, but I consider those outliers. It was the less-than-pleasant experiences, seeing how everyone else reacted that gave me confidence in not needing to be with other people, not all of the time. It’s so much better to be myself, a weirdo with a penchant for writing, than a jock, because I’m not that. And you don’t need to be either.

Nathan

 

*Image used here was an original production by Becca Hollaway. That’s the same person who illustrated my book.

 

P.S. Other aspects to be touched upon in future sports related posts.

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Post Graduate Graduation Thoughts

This is what you should do besides paying off any loans you may now have, or continue to tell people why you got it and what you can do with it.

 

Most common phrases for when achieving long(ish) term goals:

  1. Yes! Time to Celebrate!
  2. I think I need a nap.
  3. Now what?

 

At the end of August (2015), I successfully completed a program for my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts at the University of Baltimore.

I’m fortunate, and I’m aware of it. I have a book that I created and self-published, some new friends, a place to live, and food to eat. I also have a full time job (outside of my field). I recently and successfully applied for income-based repayment for my student loans, which there are plenty of.

Not many people leaving graduate school can say all of these things, and I know this well.

 

Most people after grad school are:

  1. Working somewhere outside of their field.
  2. Going back to school because they couldn’t find work.
  3. Nothing.

When I graduated, I was approaching the end of an employment contract with a job that I only got because they liked that I was a student. With the fear of losing my job before my loans kicked in, I began to feverishly apply to positions in my field of writing and some design positions as well. And then I applied to everything else that came up as hiring within a certain livable price-range.

Honestly, I thought that with some editor experience and my Masters, I was a shoe in for something, anything. I only ever received rejection letters from potential employers, if they responded at all.

 

BUT!

It was late November. I sat in a half-wall cubicle behind two monitors, inputting numbers from one spreadsheet onto another. My boss’ office door lay open, her desk out of sight behind a wall. I wasn’t paying attention as she suddenly appeared beside me.

“I wanted to let you know that we’re hiring someone for a position to take on some of your responsibilities,” she said, “and then in January we’re converting you to regular employment.”

“What?” I said, looking up and thinking she was telling me that I was fired, but then I realized what she was saying, “I mean, thank you!”

She laughed.

 

Q&A Time!

What is the most common problem that occurs after you complete an MFA?

  1. You become a homeless professor.
  2. You become too successful for your own good.
  3. You feel burned out and/or stop writing altogether.
  4. Nothing.

If you answered 1, you’re probably a cynic. If you answered 2, I think I’ll have to write something about being a writer in the future. If you answered 3, well, just no. But if you answered 4, then you’re absolutely and unfortunately correct.

I’ve known some beautiful people with great talent give up the craft. It’s a difficult one to try and tackle, and it’s not rare for people to be discouraged or realize it’s not for them. The thing about the MFA that I think makes it so common to stop writing is how much you’ve been doing. It’s a lot. There’s also an issue with going from something that is highly structured to keep you constantly writing and then going into a world where it is difficult to find time to do anything at all.

Let’s not forget that the job market for writing is challenging, if not impossible, to break into. That is, unless you know someone somewhere who also knows a few people, your chances are slim.

It’s easy to see why someone would stop, especially if you have a book already. Why do you need to do anything else? And that’s dangerous. Pretty soon you might start thinking that there’s nothing else you need to do in your life except work, grow old and die.

 

An Aside—

I am a perfectionist. Nothing satisfies me. Not my book. Not this.

 

What did I do? In case you were wondering.

Here are some things:

  1. I networked. I reached out to the head of my communications department at my place of employment, joined the list of freelance writers, and am in talks with starting a blog with them. I even have my first assignment with them coming up this month.

I also recommend going to local reading series. I suggest striking up a conversation with anyone who looks like they’re a part of it or anyone at all, and see if there’s any way that you can join in or start something yourself.  If you need help finding one, you can usually look on Facebook for nearby events or local coffee shops. No, seriously.

  1. I motivated myself. I told myself stopping now would be as good as failing. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I was not ready to give up on writing altogether.
  2. I was motivated by others. I saw how other people succeeded and wanted to do the same.
  3. I bought pocket-sized journals that I could fill out, and then determined to write in it every day for at least a page or two.
  4. I asked a friend what to do. Hence what you’re reading.

 

 

Because I didn’t want to list more than 5 things:

I also gave myself time to want to write again. It’s important, I think, to do this after an MFA. You don’t want to risk that writing burnout. But you shouldn’t let it go on too long either. You don’t want to end up putting it off for the rest of your life.

Use and benefit from all that hard work you put into that degree or the work that you’ve done already. It can be challenging, but it’s worth it. Another great aspect is that if you do go into an MFA, you will produce more writing than you will know what to do with. You’ll have the time to write, and you’ll have to write. If you attend one, take advantage of this.

 

And you can do all that too! If you have any suggestions to add to this, please post them in the comments.

 

 

Epilogue

Here’s the thing:

In regards to those considering, I don’t want this to influence anyone one way or another. I don’t want people to be persuaded into or dissuaded out of attending an MFA program. But I’m still going to touch upon my experience nonetheless.

Would I do it again?

  1. Yes.
  2. No.
  3. Maybe?
  4. Ask again later.

Without sounding too much like a Magic 8 Ball, I’ll tell you the answer is A.  I don’t want to be misleading here. It’s not a difficult yes, but it’s still a yes. I have new skills, experiences, and relationships that I would have never had without going into a program. I will never forget these times, and I will cherish all that I’ve gained.

 

But there are important things to consider before going. There are important things to ask yourself before you even think of applying. This is a major life decision and you shouldn’t make it lightly. I didn’t.

 

The real questions are:

  1. Where you are in your life/Are you ready for this?
  2. Do you think your writing would improve with this program?
  3. What are your goals?

My answers:

  1. I was ready for a challenging commitment.
  2. I didn’t feel that I could learn much more about writing on my own.
  3. My goals were pretty simple, to write.

 

Thus, the stars did align. How do they look for you?

 

Nathan