When reflecting on past troubles, I try to take a positive appraoch by thinking about what they taught me. I’m thinking about the things in my life that might have been too hastily categorized as neurotic or epidsodic. I think about certain parts of my life whose memories are generally suppressed and labled simply as embarrassing, weird, or shameful; memories NOT to be revisited. I ask myself: “Despite the appearance of failure or the shame of error, what kinds of skills did I unintentionally develop through these experiences?” I’m thinking about the alarming degree to which I was obsessed with boys from a very early age.
While in grad school, in a stroke of genius, I tweeted the following: “Grad school: enabling compulsive behaviour since ever”. Only through the succeeding years, have I been able to understand the truth of this statement:
I think of what’s scrawled on my hospital records: “obsessive tendencies”
I think of the ocean of post-it notes I lived in during grad school, the feverish underlining, and pouring over hundreds of articles just to find one elusive mention of dashes in poetry.
I think of the twenty-second draft of my honors thesis, and the sentence that took three days to properly punctuate.
I think of being twelve and leaving daily fruit offerings at the mailbox in hopes that some mail deity would make Daniel Radcliffe finally write me back.
I think of e-mailing advisors and scholars, over periods of months, persistently.
I think of the countless times guys rejected me, “Actually, I just like you as a friend”
I think about being rejected from a PhD program last year
I think of 7th grade and filling five journal pages with “I love Sam” at 2:00 in the morning
I think of memorizing Walt Whitman poems by writing them down at least fifteen times
I think of being thirteen and filling twenty journal pages with “I love Peter”
I think of college and hand copying all of my class notes twice.
From the age of twelve to fourteen, I would remain very much in love with Peter; crushes were only supposed to last a few weeks or so in middle school, but I was comitted to crushing on Peter. I wrote songs for him, I wrote letters to him, I listened to all of the music he liked, I often saw his band play, and he was just about the only thing I talked about to all of my friends… for two years. I mean, talk about a long-term project with sustained interest and inquiry…
From the age of twenty until… now, I’ve read John Keats every day, or have thought of him at least a few times a day. Somehow, everything in my life seems to relate to John Keats; everything I read somehow relates to John Keats. I look at my research journals with scribbled quotations and partially finished bibliographies, and they look much the same as my middle school journals did… but instead of being filled with reveries of Peter and Sam, they wax poetic about rhetorical choices, post-structuralism, and pedagogy with just as much alarming fervor.
I think back to the hospital records: “obsessive tendencies,”
and I think,
“I was building a career”