Looking Forward, Looking Back

I am writing this from a farmhouse in Cavan, which if you know anything about me, is not where I live. That’s because I was accepted to do a weeklong residency at The Moth Retreat for Artists and Writers, and I am doing it right now. This is my first residency, and today marks my first full day here. I arrived yesterday, which was a full day in its own right.

After not really sleeping on the flight from Chicago, I hopped in the rental car and drove to the house. On the way I saw four rainbows, crows only in twos, and ran into one of the retreat organizers just as I’d begun to think I was lost. Later, I got lost-ish again and turned down a lane, where I was able to give a stranded motorist a jump. Today, a monarch butterfly appeared in my room and fluttered goodness everywhere.

All of this rambling is just to say, “I am very excited.”

The world feels full of possibilities in a way it hadn’t even a six months ago. I recently started a full-time job at the Poetry Foundation—one of the goals that brought me to Chicago—and had a poem published in Poetry Ireland Review, which has long been a dream journal of mine for complicated dual-citizen-chip-on-the-shoulder reasons.

2017 was honestly an amazing year for my writing life, but it was exhausting. I submitted to things ninety times and got fifteen acceptances. Those figures are higher for a lot of writers I know, and they are lower for a lot of other writers I know. I don’t even know what those numbers mean outside of the time spent on acquiring them.

One of the acceptances was to an MFA program I had to turn down because I couldn’t justify the debt. At the time, I was more devastated than I wanted to let on: I felt like I was falling behind. This a ridiculous notion. I know it now and I knew it then. As somebody who prides herself on her practicality (in spite of her poetry), I hate the wasted energy of worries like that one. As somebody with an anxiety disorder, I am very good at generating worries like that one. What I am less good at is cutting myself slack.

All of this rambling is just to say, “Cut yourself some fucking slack.”

You are working really hard. Ten times harder than you think you are, even if you think you are working really hard. Maybe you’re submitting and nothing is getting accepted. Maybe you’re writing and don’t have time to submit. Maybe you’re not writing because you’re working three jobs. Maybe you’re not working because you can’t right now. I don’t know your situation, but I know you need to cut yourself some fucking slack.

Being able to do this residency at all is an incredible privilege and I know that, too. The sun is going down, and I haven’t finished writing a new poem yet. That doesn’t mean I’m wasting anything.

I hope that you can accept whatever good things are coming to you, whether they are opportunities or funding or pretty insects because you deserve good things. I hope that these good things excite you, and that you can let yourself be excited by them.

All of this rambling is just to say, “You’re doing great.”

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