Tag Archives: Writing

How to Go to College Without Going Broke, Part One: How to Choose a School

12 Mar

I have a lot of experience with education. I’ve graduated from three colleges, taught in high schools and primary schools, tutored children from around the world, and these days, I work in academics still.

It seems important, when people are going bankrupt from students loans, to think about what school is right for you, how to get the most education for your buck, and how to pay for college *smartly*. And since I work with students all day long AND have minimal student loans, I want to share with everyone what I know. And as usual, I want to tell you about all the stuff other articles don’t tell you. Because I want traditional and non traditional students to stop getting scammed.

Would I be a writer without education? Sure, I would probably still be writing short stories and spending a huge chunk of my day daydreaming. But I also think being a student made me a better writer: I know how to handle deadlines, I know how to self-edit, I know how to take criticism and know that every critic allows me to slough off the dead words and re-grow a better story in its place. I made great friends who are also writers (and really good ones! they push me in ways I could never push myself). I traveled to amazing places. I read books and articles and papers on all manner of subjects. I learned about the world, which I hope has helped me understand a lot about people and in that , be able to write characters that are not just carbon copies of myself.

So let’s start off here: How to decide if school is right for you and if so, which one.

I think this is a good place to start because before you start taking tests and spending money, you should check and see *why* you are going to school, *how* long you’ll be in the, and *what* it is going to cost, and the better question, *what* are you willing to be in debt for.

1. Should you be in college? I am asking you this because while I believe everyone has a right to get whatever of education they want, it’s still up to you if you actually want to go to college. No really, it is.

I’m going to use my dad as an example. My dad went straight from high school to the Air Force, where he learned all about being an electrician. After he finished his tour of duty overseas (where I was born!), he and my mom settled in Upstate NY and he went to our local community college for an AA in mathematics  because my dad loves math. He then worked for a really long time as an electrician at a generator company, at one point taking over the training, until he retired. I don’t think my dad got his job because of his college degree, he got it because he spent 20 years as an electrician in the military. He didn’t need to go to college, but the government said he could, and he wanted to study math and that meant he also had English and Science and History classes and I think he enjoyed it. My dad values education for education’s sake, but he also knew that he was interested in an apprenticeship and working with his hands. So, if that’s you, look into seeing how to get an internship or apprenticeship, going to a community college, or am *on campus* tech school.  Ask at businesses that you would like to work for “What education/work would I need to have completed on my resume to work for you?”

*Hot Tip: Don’t let a school’s admission rep tell you what education you need to get a job. Their job is to get you enrolled and sign over your money/ financial aid. They have diplomas and certificates and degrees set up for just about everything, but you need to know what the businesses in YOUR area are looking for. The internet DOESN’T know. Pop up ads have NO idea what local businesses are looking for, they just know how to get your attention. Ask people in your area, potential employers, friends who just got hired. These people know.

2. What kind of college should you be looking at?

It’s not all ivy league or bust. I promise. But it is still really important to choose a reputable school, otherwise your degree isn’t worth the paper i’s printed on. Harsh? Yes, but it is totally true. The good news, a reputable school can cost a lot, lot, lot, less than a bad school.

I’ll use me for example here. Back when I was 18, I had some big choices to make. I was offered a place and a partial (aka, MEAGER) scholarship to Savannah School of Art. I really really wanted to go to Tufts (clearly, back in 2000, we all had delusions of how it was okay to spend a bajillion dollars a year on school, because we were all like, going to totally earn it all back, duh). So, yeah, I wanted to go to art school.

Let’s say that again: I wanted to pay $40,000 a year to go to art school. This is something I would advise against to anyone who grew up like me: first generation college student from a blue collar family. We weren’t rich and that school would have run me $160,000 by the time I graduated, art supplies and books, not included.

OMG.

Worst idea ever. Really. And here’s why:

Being an artist is not tied to what school you graduate from. You’ll learn a lot by being around talented people in a vibrant city, but you don’t actually need to pay 40k for that. If I had gotten into Cooper Union, I would have taken that, of course, but I realized paying huge sums of money to paint an orange over and over again, was not something I was into.

So here’s the thing, what makes an art school especially awesome is the community, so move to the city a great art scene is in, enroll in community college there, and you can get the best of both worlds. If you have the money to burn, then by all means do it, it has it’s perks. But the perks are not enough to go in to debt for.

Same goes for teaching degrees. I took a year off between high school and college to save money and live on my own, and during that time, I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I enrolled in community college, graduated with an AA in Humanities and then moved along to a state college, where I secured a BA in another 2 years. I could have recieved my MA in teaching in just one more year (that’s another story). Any high school in NY would have accepted my teaching degree, plus pretty much any southern state without any further certification (thanks NY!). No fancy school on my degree, but reputable and with a good solid history of turning out teachers.

Community colleges are a great way to get basic classes that EVERYONE is required to take at low prices. I paid about $1,000 a semester at community college. Not per class or per credit. For all the classes I needed to graduate a two year school in two years. Fantastic!

Then I went to a state school. I lived off campus and paid $8,000 a year for tuition alone. With housing, it would have made it about $14,000 a year.

So, a breakdown: in 2005, when I graduated, I spent a grand total of $18,000 for a four year degree. And I had worked multiple jobs (and my parents helped out), making my student loans much less than that. We’ll talk about how to not take out loans in part 3, but my point here is: these inexpensive schools gave me a degree that was good enough to get me into the grad school of my choice. They don’t have ivy league names, but I got a great education.

*Hot Tip: Find a school that is reputable for the degree you want. My school was/ is known throughout NYS for turning out excellent English and History teachers (our program has some amazing teachers!), whereas there are other SUNY schools known for their art program or math program. Choose a school that people in your area have graduated from and found success with their degrees. Again, check with people who work in the field you want to where they got their degrees. I bet they didn’t all go to Harvard.

3. On-line or On-campus.

So, this is a huge question going around these days. Here are some facts:

A. Online classes can be just as fun and interesting as traditional classes. I actually really enjoy watching online lectures by top teachers and feel like I get a lot out of them.

B. Online classes are not easier than traditional classes. They are, in fact, HARDER. I know a million students who thought they would take online classes because, “It will work with my work schedule!” “I can do my class work whenever!”.

Reality check: that is not true.

The reality of online classes is that you will have to post discussion topics, questions, and answers every single day. You will have to converse with your classmates in a meaningful and substantial way in order to get participation points and pass your class. It’s not like a traditional classroom where you slink in late twice a week, slump in your chair, and pretend to take notes while you doodle in the back of your notebook. A computer monitors whether you have entered the classroom, it checks to make sure you have read every page of your book, and you get quizzed at the end of every chapter you read. You’ll have essays  to write and not a lot of access to tutors. And the deadlines and “semesters” are at the school’s discretion. They don’t always make a lot of sense with your work week or your kid’s vacations. And your teachers don’t see your face, so they may be less likely to help you out when you have an emergency.

C. Not every online school has a degree that will help you out. For example, a nursing school that is online isn’t going to get you the job you want right away because you still will need practical experience to  get a job. You might be better off to choose a school that you can do the exams and practical experience all together because of the next reason…

D. Not every school helps you create a building block of education. What I mean by this is: if your ONLINE school is Nationally accredited, it’s NOT a good thing. Really, it’s not. Sorry. What you want to look for are Regionally accredited schools. Those are the ones other schools accept transcripts from.

However, if you attend a traditional college that is nationally accredited, it is probably a vocational or tech school and then it is fine to be nationally accredited.

The main issue can be summed up like this:

“Coursework and degrees may not be widely accepted for professions that require licensing after degree attainment, which might affect those in licensed careers such as teaching, accounting, engineering and healthcare.”

So, bear this in mind.

In my next post, we’ll talk about how to get the most education for your dollar and in the third post, I’ll tell you how to search for free money to pay for it all.

So your homework before then is to

–find out WHAT you want to go to school for. (Be specific. If you want to be a nurse, what kind of nurse? ER? Children’s? Elder care? Do you want to work the day or night shift?)

–Talk to people who are already doing what you want to do. If you want to be a nurse, I bet you know someone, even if they work in an ER and you want to work in a nursing home. They’ll get you started. Find out where they went.

—Figure out how you would attend school. Do you have the ability to go full time, at regular hours? Can you only take night classes? Is it okay to attend part-time and graduated in 5 years? Or do you really need the degree and you want to try and get it done at an accelerated speed?

—What schools are local to you? What schools have friends, family, and co-workers attended? What schools offer a degree in exactly what you want to do (i.e. nursing home nurse)?

Write this all down. You should actually get a notebook and write all the stuff down we are going to talk about. Trust me, you’ll forget it all later. The human brain can only juggle 7 bits of information at a time and later on, there’s going to be a Grumpy Cat meme you’ll want to tell your friends about.

 

 

Wasting Words

7 Sep

I really don’t seem to post much anymore. This is probably a mistake. Not because anyone really wants to read anything I say, but because it makes my facebook friends have to read a lot of status updates in lieu of my writing out fully thought out ideas. But a lot of changes have been happening as well, which are exciting and weird, and I have no idea how to use words to fully explain them. Which is sad.

 

 

I was watching the BBC documentary, the 1940’s House (which is fun and interesting and despite the food shortages and lack of soap, does make me miss London terribly), and one of the women at the end shows that as she has returned to “modernity”, she has kept some of her new found habits—one of which is writing letters to her friends. She says, and this is me paraphrasing, that she had been forgetting things and feeling that her vocabulary was dwindling before she went on the show and she had attributed that to the fact she was getting older. But now that she writes each and every day, she feels her mind is getting sharper and that she has a more solid sense of what she is feeling and can express herself, her wants and needs, better. And it made me realize, that every day I silently curse how far away I am from the days of constantly having someone berate my grammar and sentence structure and how I feel inexplicably dumber for it. I look at my old blog posts from *highschool* and I think my grasp of language and wit was far superior. How sad is that? Today, I cannot even really express the mass of emotions I have raging about in my head about what I am doing with my life. So sad.

So let us try, shall we?

I live in Portland.

Whew. Just writing that out was hard. I live here. I live in a city, on a street, and I have my clothes hung up in a real closet. I have a dog. I have a job. I have a car. I have friends. I have a boyfriend. I have a tea kettle.

And now I am buying a house. Yes, the nomadic writery-wandery me is buying a house. With a yard, so my dog can run around like a crazy person. I don’t quite know what that means, exactly, fully, but I think I can write about it to figure it out. It’s not a pretty pretty all finished house, it’s a giant mess that needs to be gutted and renovated and have the floors torn out and things painted and repaired. And I’m going to do it alone. I am buying a house, just me, and I am fixing it up, yes, with the assistance of friends and family that will wander in and out of the scene, but mostly, I am on my own for this.

And it’s going to be a project. A project bigger then rehabbing a nutty rescue dog. Or taking care of a bookstore. But smaller, I would imagine, then the act of writing a novel. I love the hands on work, I love tearing away at rubble to stretch out the structure and rebuilding a life exactly the way I want it. I am going to plant a garden and bake bread in my kitchen. I am going to take inspiration from that BBC documentary and I am going to do everything by hand, with love, and by myself. I cannot wait to reupholster the wingback chair I found for a steal on Craigslist or put back together the upstairs bathroom, which, at this point, looks like something out of a horror movie. There’s something really enlivening about building something, really getting your hands into it, that I don’t think that mere decorating with throw pillows and curtains can do for you. I suddenly get home renovation blogs. I get why people want to document this process because it is creative and intense.

I am hoping to get a lot out of this experience. Of course, I am hoping to get a home, where Ava (the dog) and I can feel safe and secure. I am hoping to have a comfortable place where my friends from all over the world can feel free to crash (three bedrooms! So much space!). I am dreaming about having the kitchen up to code so I can bake pies and share my favorite hobby with others. And most of all, I am hoping it sparks inspiration in me to create in every part of my life. I feel like my will to write has felt so defined: if I am not working on my novel, then I should not be writing. No words should be wasted.

Where did I get that? How can you waste a word? Putting a word down on paper does not make it unusable for later. I’ve started writing short stories, I write about an imaginary lead singer of the band the National, because I don’t like the idea that he is really a blonde man. It doesn’t ring true for me, which really hammers in that old saying, Truth is Stranger Than Fiction. Although, this might be possibly untrue for these stories, which are incredibly strange, even by my standards. But strange or not, I am not wasting words. I have to repeat to myself this over and over again.

Perhaps while budgeting money, while watching what I eat, what I wear, what I spend on nearly everything, it has made me worried to be wasteful with every commodity, even my own creativity. As though it is a finite source, as though I may run out the moment that I really need a metaphor. I don’t want to end up sitting dumbly, blankly, when I have a conversation, I want to make sure I have something of value to say. And then I tumble into the nightmare, of what is valuable? What is a valuable word or sentence? Is it okay to want to feel valuable or is that a need that cannot be adequately met because it is dependent on another person’s perception? And then we tumble into the firey hell that is fear based writer’s block. And how does one get around that?

I suppose they buy a house.

The Art of the Self Edit

12 Apr

M says that each time you retell a story, you refine it, you learn what works and doesn’t, it all becomes more dynamic. That’s what it means to edit as a writer; it’s the same as anyone does, everyday, with a juicy bit of office gossip. You start off with a long drawn out story, heavy with details you think cannot be left out of the telling, but by the 16th time you’ve told it, your words are sharper, the details cut down to the bare minimum, and your language emphasizing just the most important bits with ease. Your story takes half the time to tell and you’ve memorized your lines and your inflections like a Shakespearian trained actor. Now it’s not so much an amusing antecedent as it is a polished monologue, ready to be whipped out at a moments notice at parties or with a conspiratorial whisper by the water cooler.

Bad writers, like bad gossips, never learn the art of the self edit. They drag you along through superfluous words and run on sentences and punchlines in the wrong spot and they end up with a convoluted plot that no one seems much interested in paying attention to. Their tone is wrong, their voices trail off at the wrong bits, and at the end you are dissatisfied with the way it all went and feel a bit like you wasted quite a large chunk of your time.

I’ve got the best story to tell just now, but it hasn’t been lived-in enough to get the re-telling just right. All the facts and quirky details seem dead important, but it’s still taking too long  to tell the story. It’s still winding around the point, it’s still meandering for too long, and even I am wondering how it’s going to end. Because I’ve got the beginning (girl moves to a house of strangers in a foreign land) and a middle (girl begins to suspect said strangers of doing terrible, weird, and perverted things), and a climax (strangers are weird and perverted in ways she could never have fathomed– a Hitchcockian twist, not a David Lynch surprise), but how is it all going to be resolved?

As M says, my last few weeks, culminating yesterday with a home movie that would make David Lynch shiver with cinematic appreciation, would make the most awesome horror story. I wonder: if we write the script, could we get Roman Polanksi to direct it?

But what should I edit out? If I work on the story, on  myself, long enough, can I edit out the anger? Can I edit out the sick feeling in my stomach or the pain in my neck and back from not sleeping well? Can I edit out the shock that ran through my body as I looked at pictures of my room, my private space being violated by half-dressed middle-aged people? Can I edit out my distrust? Can I be impartial to my own pain and fear and create something universal that other people will want to hear? Because to write well, you have to write without cruelty in your own heart, you have to try to be as clinical as possible and just let the “facts” of the characters dig their own grave. So very Chaucer of me! ha. This mess is already a story that seems to fascinate my friends, but they know all the gory details. They have witnessed this drama unfold for months, like an excruciatingly slow British mini-series. Every new incident is gobbled up and dissected, and yes, dramatized. Swear words are added in, pauses for dramatic effect where there were none fit into spaces, and hysterical laughter at the ridiculousness of each new action helps lighten the dark drama with a much-needed comedic break, transforming the frightening reality into a delightful black comedy. I guess I’d rather my life be Shallow Grave than Saw because at least then I’d be better written, and with Ewan McGregor as my leading man.

Currently, my life, as literature, reminds me a lot more of Down and Out in Paris and London, but I do think that someday, when I finally am able to write this bit of my life out, objectively, as thinly veiled fiction and not as a blog entry, the disgusting and truly ridiculous bits of the last week will be edited down to a few mere paragraphs and the rest of the piece will focus on all the beauty that swelled up and surrounded me during and after. While I should be sitting in a dark room, crying and eating fried food, I am instead sitting at a desk in a sunny room, writing away, while I can hear D and M laughing and chatting happily in one room over. The scent of Earl Grey tea is rising up from a teacup covered in hand painted bunnies and pink flowers and the quilt my mother made me is wrapped around my lap and I am eagerly anticipating the delicious coconut-vegan soup M is going to make for tea and the big screen screening of Psycho with all of my friends.

Sometimes people will try and edit you down, make your life fit into their own stories. Create a character of who they think you should be in order to bounce off the ideas of what they expect their lives to be like. Disappointment in themselves and a failure to achieve their goals makes them want to address your goals and your life. It happens more than sometimes, let’s admit that. But I do firmly believe we are all storytellers, so I’m not going to let anyone write out my dramatic monologues or pick out my dramatic conclusion. I am absolutely, positively the main character in my own little world and I am writing out anyone who is not adding something beautiful to my story. I don’t mind that for the moment I am George Orwell, because in a few more chapters I plan on being Stella Gibbons– I just have to write my way there.

Throw away all those extra words…

20 Mar

Since I have returned from NY, I have made a conscious effort to be more self involved. I am pretty sure that isn’t how most people go about enlightenment, but I did realize that I needed to spend more time and energy on myself, rather than on others. This meant that a few people received brisk text messages and emails from me (mostly they were hard to write, one gave me such a thrill that I did wonder what on earth I had been doing speaking to this person in the first place) and this is how I cleared my social calendar.

So today, for whatever reason, I woke up at 4 am. That is incredibly early. It’s so early that people in America were still awake and I managed to waste the first two hours of my being awake talking to people on MSN. That was silly, but good, because I was all interneted out by 6 am. And then I sat down at my desk and started to re-work my novel, which has been laying around, unhappily untouched for several months now. Which was extremely silly, because it is finished. By finished I mean, all of the chapters, plus a few more, that I had outlined originally have been written. There is a beginning, middle, and end. Plot, climax, dialogue. Oh, snap.

But all writers know: just getting that all done does not make a piece finished. It just means that you are now onto the next stage of writing, which is editing. This is maybe my least  favorite stage of writing. This is because it involves re-reading every single line you have written, out loud, maybe with a funny voice here and there, and being ruthless. But I discovered a very happy fact: Letting a manuscript age in a drawer, as somebody famous once said, I am sure, is the best way to get over my biggest writing block, which is my love of my own words.

All through college and university and even most of my writing jobs, I was writing on a really tight deadline. So, I would get an assignment and start my research, take my notes, sketch out my papers or stories. I was never the sort to put a paper off to the last minute, I was always a very meticulous student. But I wouldn’t leave myself much time to let a paper simmer– what student does? You have so many papers to write, even if you start each one the day you get it, you are still working on a tight schedule. So my editing of all my papers and stories took place very very soon after my writing them. And so, even when I knew I needed to cut a paper by 200 words (or worse still, 1,000!), all I could see was how achingly beautiful my sentences were. I have a lot of ego about the beauty of my prose. My main problem is that each of my sentences do tend to be very well crafted, but they don’t always flow into the next one very well or advance the story or point of the paper in any way. As Mr. Holdstock says: line by line, you create something lovely, but as a whole, the thing needs help. Ouch. But true. And so editing was always a bitch: how do I know what to cut? I love each sentence independently, so how can I possibly cut any of them, just to make ‘cohesion’, that foul little word used by editors.

But editing is like packing: easier to do if you let something sit in a drawer long enough. And by this I mean, when I move, and I move a lot, the first things to go into the trash are the things I haven’t looked at in months. I just started packing up my things the other day, in a fierce rage of having too many things and feeling weighted down, and it was incredibly easy to look at a lot of things and go: well, I haven’t used that in MONTHS. I don’t even remember why I bought it or why I thought it was important. I won’t pack that to take to Istanbul, so why do I own it now?  In the end, I have far fewer things in my room and I am very happy about all this.

In my novel? Well, I haven’t looked at it in ages. And I forgot why I told Holdstock and VanWinkle why I had to keep this chapter or why it was incredibly important that this scene appear in a certain spot. In the end, I am chopping and splicing my novel as though I were Dr. Frankenstein, just checking to see if it would actually be better to have an arm coming out of the forehead. I am even experimenting with cutting in pieces of my other, partially finished, novel. It’s like a crazy laboratory in here today and I am loving it.

So, my new literary advice: forget about what you are writing about. Leave it for a few months. Go and get an all-consuming hobby, like doing everything on the “101 Things to Do in London Before You Die” list.  Go on a mini break to your home town for a month. Be too social. Feel like everyone around you is doing so many more creative and wonderful things than you. Feel a bit overwhelmed. Have a sort of breakdown where you become a hermit that bakes cupcakes. Then tuck right back in. Well, at least do steps 1 and 8. Just try and enjoy yourself in between and don’t beat yourself up too much, because we can’t all be productively creative every day.

A Bad Choice Can Be the Best Choice

13 Mar

There are a lot of bad choices to be made, every day. And I have to admit, I usually veer towards the worst choice available. I think that a lot of that comes from my main intention in life, which is to be happy in the moment. And people that are happy in the moment are grasshoppers, which as we can tell from that old fable, leaves you a tad cold and hungry in the winter. So, I don’t have a lot of foresight going on when I choose my actions. Luckily for me, there are a lot of ants in the world and so usually someone helps me figure out the bad things and I have started to have a very fatalistic view on life, one where I believe that loss and failure come along to clear a path for better things.

And according to my hero, Penelope Trunk, this may well be a key trait as to why people are successful, while others are not. She says:

Everyone, please shut up about your biggest failures. I hate when people write about their failures because they always write about how they pulled themselves up, or what they learned. And really, then, it’s not a failure, is it? It’s a learning opportunity, or a chance to shine. Failure is something you did not overcome. You did not learn from. And most people are too embarrassed to write about it. High achievers don’t have failures because they can learn from everything.

I think that’s pretty genius, especially since I rarely think that when I mess up that I’ve failed. I sort of think, Well, clearly that wasn’t the right thing to be doing. Let’s try it this way. Fatalism to me, is not sort of giving up and trudging along, but perpetually believing that the right thing for you is going to show up if you knock on enough doors. So I knock on every single door I come along. Which is probably why I have had a  million and a half jobs. I got my first job when I was 15, writing a newsletter for a monument company. ‘Monument company’ is a beautiful euphemism used in the death industry to say ‘we sell grave stones’. I interviewed cemetery owners and funeral home directors and researched pieces on how to properly clean granite and how to choose the right structure for your mausoleum. When I turned 17, I was still working at that office, but had a weekend job as well, working at a huge indoor amusement park, where I ran the bumper cars and hung out with my friends. I still, to this day, have no idea what idiot at corporate made the oldest manager at the place 21 and then proceeded to hire only high schoolers. We ran that place into the ground, eating free candy, watching movies during our shifts, and making out in laser tag. It closed shortly after I graduated, due to bankruptcy. Of course. At 18, my boss at the monument company sent me away for CAD training and when I returned, I worked for her full time, selling ‘monuments’ and using my artistic flair to design them on the computer. Pretty soon I was managing the second location. And then I was doing my under-grad degree and I worked in bookshops, at the dining hall of my university, as a waitress, as a barista, at the GAP, at GNC, as a camp counselor, as a cleaning lady, as a secretary, as a file clerk, as a girl who scans things at an insurance agency. As a graduate student, I worked in a clothing store, did an odd bit of editing, and worked as a ‘Bunny’ for my friend’s club night promotion. After that, more temp work, kitchen work, teaching, being a Writer-In-Residence, selling men’s shirts, and, of course, nannying.

And the main reason that I do all these things is because I want to be able to travel, drop everything quickly and run off for weekend adventures with friends, and have plenty of time to write. Or bake cupcakes. Because while I feel like all these jobs hae taught me a great many things, I think it’s what I spend my ‘free’ time doing that really defines me. I’ve worked with kids with dyslexia, I’ve baked bread and cakes for homeless shelters, and I write. My friend Al, really soon after meeting me, said he loved to write, but if no one paid him to do so, he would give it up without a second thought. He said that he felt that if no one read his writing, then what was the point? I remember sort of looking at him strangely. I know that a lot of writers I know do feel defined by whether or not they get published or noticed, but at the same time, most of them would be writers even if they were the only ones who ever saw what came out of their fingertips. While I feel an absolute glow when someone asks to put one of my pieces somewhere, because, duh, it would be crazy not to be happy when someone understands and likes what you were trying to say, I guess I come from more of an Emily Dickinson school of thought. Write it, love it, stick in a desk drawer.  The way I write is like how I get tattoos: secret, small, unseen by the average person.

And I think that’s good. Because, as Penelope goes on to say:

There is no finish line, there is no gold prize. There is only living with yourself, day after day. So each day needs to be a small triumph so you can pat yourself on the back before you go to sleep.

So,   I can sit down and write ten things that I loved about my week, that’s a triumph. And whenever I sit and spend an hour at my desk and I can enjoy re-reading what I’ve written: triumph! And when my cupcakes get gobbled up by homeless guys who feel really special that someone baked something specifically for them: triumph. When I manage to not get lost going someplace complicated to get to: uber triumph. And yes, of course, there are some days where just getting out of bed and not smothering people in their sleep is the biggest triumph of all.  I can’t say that getting a story published or landing a cool job is a triumph, because again, like Penelope says:

Our big moments — where we can change the world — come because so many other people have helped us, and luck has come to us. But our small moments, when no one is watching and no one cares and the only thing that makes us try again is an unreasonable belief that we can get what we want for ourselves — those are the triumphs that we do all by ourselves.

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