It’s with a sort of quiet confidence that I announce my intentions to return to school at the University of Tennessee this fall, to pursue a degree in creative writing. I was accepted a couple of weeks ago, and will attend the adult orientation in three weeks.
When I attended college the first time, I was a theatre major. Back then my skin was smoother, my hips were narrower, my breasts were smaller, and I usually drank myself to oblivion at least four times a week. Miami University was like most schools in the midwest: lovely rolling hills, ivy growing on the hundred year old buildings, beer and wine flowing freely from invisible faucets. An active drinker since high school, I settled into my addiction with a new zeal there, and after a semester and a half (or less?), the print in my textbooks began to swim in front of my eyes, my chest constricted in illness and fatigue, and a whispered phone call was made to my parents: Take me home.
They did. A few days later I sat in a booth at Bill’s Donut Shop, which was an illustrious, legendary, open 24 hours, smoking-allowed (back then) establishment near my parent’s house. Beneath my trembling hands was a composition notebook, half-filled with notes from one of the honors English classes that I had withdrawn from. We had been reading Charlotte Bronte’s Villette at the time of my departure. The professor had cotton-white hair and wore lilac toned suits, even at 8 a.m. One morning after class she pulled me aside (she smelled like her suits looked…like lilacs) and put a small hand on my arm. You’re an excellent writer, she said. Why aren’t you a writing major?
I don’t remember what I answered. The rest of my days there, and they weren’t many, were spent in a curling grey cloud. I remember smoking a lot of pot, drinking a lot of wine, sleeping until noon and missing that 8:00 honors English course, and feeling the heavy guilt that started to settle deep in my stomach. Villette lay on my nightstand, unread, covered in cigarette ashes and coffee rings.
Sitting at Bill’ s Donuts, smoking and writing, I was taking the advice of my parents. After watching me slowly return to life after picking me and my belongings up from my dorm room, they suggested that I sit down and write what I wanted to do with my life for the next few months. I remember writing something about eventually moving to back to Knoxville (we had moved back to Ohio when I was twelve), studying writing at UT, and falling in love.
Well. I did a few things out of order, didn’t I? Six months after dropping out of Miami I met the man who became my husband. I fell in love. We moved around, from Ohio to Tennessee to Alaska and back to Tennessee again. We have a son. And now I am going to be attending the Unviersity of Tennessee to study writing. Fifteen years after writing down my intentions to do just that in a composition notebook.
I hope one of the professors assigns Villette.