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My Thriving Thirties: Rising Parallels . . .

Posted by CW64 on December 3, 2009

My thirties marked the rise of both my social life and my education. Both inspired my writing, and I found myself overwhelmed with very exciting and colorful ideas. This period was the ‘Golden Age’ of my life as a writer, which would carry on into my forties.

These ideas were based on people and experiences I had in East Lansing and faraway places.

In light of my advanced age (I was in my thirties, having transferred with my Associates degree late due to personal obligations in my twenties), I opted to stay in the graduate dorm so I would be closer to people my own age and level of experience. Although I was an upperclassman upon arrival, I wanted to spend time on campus to become familiar with the area before moving off campus. Everything is done in a process, and so it was at that time, when I took baby steps toward a greater end.

The memory and influence of people I met there would stay with me for years to come. Big John, a multilingual graduate student my age who had an affinity with Russia and had a penchant for figuring things out on intuition; Max, a flamboyant homosexual who was a few years older than I was (he was comfortable with himself and didn’t hide his orientation by any means); Will, a black TA of French, who was a year younger, loved his porn, and spent a lot of time on his laptop; Juan, from Spain, who was also a year younger and would be remembered for his hearty laugh; Diane, the bluebird-like 23-year-old girlfriend of a medical student  acquaintance (I knew a few; they’d pop into view once in a great while); Alex, an alcoholic painter with a ‘Jekyll-and-hyde’ disposition; Laura, his sunny-yet-spicy girlfriend, a lover of incense, Bob Dylan, antiques, who wore her heart on her sleeve; Ron, a graduate student in Advertising who bore a striking resemblance to Kenny G. and could smell a band a mile away; and Christine, a young 22-year-old spitfire who worked on the front line in the cafeteria. She was an undergrad and lived in the women’s dorm next door. With her, whether I liked it or not, my interest was more than friendship, although I never shared that with her.

My relationship with this last one is that which inspired The Long Road, a three-part short story about the passage of time and the coming home with a renewed perspective on life. Despite its connections with reality, this piece is not creative non-fiction; the work features fictional characters and events that were based on actual experiences. This recounts the rising parallels of my social development at the time and my increased motivation to/focus on fiction/journal writing.

I felt accepted into some folds and was still disregarded by others. Gossip was never my thing, and for good reason; personal dislikes were not always overt or expressed by every party involved. My apparent acceptance by others, though, kept me strong and solid. 

My life burst open and flourished. Drinking and shooting pool (a carry-over to Ringers), volleyball on the beach, picnics, museums, enjoying the art festival in the streets of East Lansing every summer, going to the movies—all formed particular friendships that added dimension to my life and guided me with insight into the social world.

Island of Fire, one of my first novel attempts, illustrates some of these relationships and how they both benefited me and caused trouble in my life. The story is fictional, analogous to reality in an abstract way, as none of the accounts in the story actually happened, nor were they similar to any real-life experiences. Thirteen college students trapped on a supposedly deserted island might be a common idea, but the unique twist can be seen in that the conflicts of the story lie within the contrast between the characters and the friction inherent in their respective relationships. This is how it was for me at the time.

Gradually, my friends went their separate ways, but they never left me; they are a part of me even today, including Christine.  I graduated in May of 1996, but I stayed in the neighborhood with an older family friend who, to my surprise, had been living nearby. I worked in the University Apartments maintenance over the summer and full-time in a convenience store in Lansing the following fall while living in a flop house among a host of aged derelicts that included a pot-bellied Bible-thumper who always wandered around in his sagging underwear (oh joy!). This was my attempt to gain some independence amidst my financial struggles (one cannot live on one’s own by working retail, unless one shares rent with another). However, even $227 a month was barely making it, and I didn’t last more than four months. Christine was kind enough to give me a ride home, ninety miles to suburban Detroit. We loaded up her brand new car to the brim (it was a miracle, but we did it), and headed out. That was the day I introduced her to my sister and mother.

The unfortunate inevitability came six months later. Her mother told me that Christine wanted me to go away. Indeed, this confused me, but I respected it. Supposedly, according to her mother, Chris had met a state lawyer and felt compelled to move in with him. Whether or not this was actually based on truth, it is another point on which I elaborate in The Long Road.

Any interest I had in women was wiped away, and this is how it remained till the present day.

There I was: back home again, with my college days behind me, and I was looking forward. To what, I didn’t know. I subbed in middle and high schools for a year and a half, along with tutoring English, Algebra and Spanish. Both subbing and tutoring were rewarding, and I knew they would serve well to help me get into graduate school. Their inconsistent nature and low pay forced me to abandon them and seek work elsewhere. I did—back in retail.

My life, at that point, was a tight focus on certain priorities, such as making money, but I never gave up on writing, despite the number of hours I put in at the gas station; writing, as always, was a priority of mine.’

The insight I gained throughout my thirties increased my self-confidence and determination, and I knew that all I needed to do was continue writing, regardless of what else I was doing at the time. As long as I did that, I knew I would eventually find success.

I was in my late-thirties, and I didn’t stop . . .

Next, the final chapter: My Professional Forties . . . .



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