• Carmen

2018: lost & found, part 2

I kicked off this series with my Part 1 about motherhood, but I took a quick break to write a short essay about "toxic masculinity" for Expressions Magazine. I'm honestly still in shock - that piece has been viewed thousands of times.


But now we're back on topic. What, besides my birth expectations, did I lose in 2018?


I lost: My desire to write


For those of you who don't know, I graduated with a Master's in English Lit and Creative Writing back in 2015. I always had the vague sense that I wanted to be a writer, but I didn't really embrace it until graduate school when I realized that my creative writing work was by far what I enjoyed most and what I was best at. There was just one small problem: Academia sucks. Especially the liberal arts.


It literally sucks. It sucks the life out of you. It sucks the originality out of you. It sucks the courage out of you. It sucks the faith out of you. It sucks away pretty much anything normal or fun or lighthearted or powerful or truth-driven. It replaces it all with conformity, superficiality, mob rule, feelings, and self-obsessed virtue signalling. If you're any kind of curious, free-thinking person with a willingness to question and speak out against hard leftism and progressivism, then the academy is generally an unpleasant place. (n fact, even if you're just moderately conservative or nominally religious, you can expect your perspective to be ignored, distorted, or frequently ridiculed.


The academy is also a sneaky place. Being submerged there for two or more years of your life will slowly make you think that your professors' bizarre, irrational worldviews are actually normal. It will also make you think that the best kind of writing is writing about the Holy Trinity of leftism - race, gender, and class. And, of course, the only way to write about them without being "offensive" is to do it from a gloomy, postmodern, Marxist-inspired lens.


As a result, I spent years as a wannabe writer living in inner turmoil and not even realizing it. Part of me wanted to be a successful, popular writer and earn the approval of the literary gatekeepers (who, currently, are almost all leftists.) But, another part of me inwardly vomited at the idea of spending my days writing homoerotic anti-Trump dystopian Harry Potter fan fiction and being called a racist if 1) I include too many white characters or 2) I include too many non-white characters.

So I didn't do a lot of great writing for a while. Yes, I published a few things that I'm proud of, but I spent way too much time circling around the real issue and trying to avoid what was really in my heart. Which brings me to what I found.


I found: what I truly want to write about


In a fortuitous series of events (namely, getting pregnant and saying goodbye to academia after spending nearly seven years there as a student, teacher, administrator, and tutor), I had an epiphany. At eight and a half months pregnant, on my last day of work, I made the long, slow walk to my car one last time. I don't really know what I expected to feel during that walk, but it hit me as I reached the edge of the campus.


I felt free.


I honestly felt like I was walking away from a prison - and a particularly depressing prison at that, because so many of the people who work and study there don't even realize they're enslaved to baseless group-think simply because it scores them a few more popularity points with their peers and professors. I don't begrudge them. It took me a while to realize it, too.


Weeks passed and I gave birth to my daughter, and then I spent three months getting to know her and learning how to be a mom. To date, those were the best three months of my life. I spent endless hours listening to politically incorrect podcasts, rereading my favorite books, studying the Bible, and praying (all things you can do while nursing!) That prolonged time of reflection, learning, and intense newfound love for Vivian helped me detox after so much academia and rediscover who I am and what I truly want to write. And here's what I found:


When it comes to fiction, I want to write stories about faith and love and sports and family and politics and happy endings, and I don't want to care about whether or not I'm satisfying the PC Police's endless list of requirements.


When it comes to my nonfiction, I want to write what I truly think - not what I'm "supposed" to think. I want to engage with real problems and real solutions and not dance around every issue worrying about privilege and constructs and whether or not something is "systemic" or "heteronormative" or some other pseudo-intellectual bullshit.


Instead, I'm letting my faith, my intellect, my politics, and my not-so-popular convictions shine. Not everyone likes what I'm writing, but I do. I finally do. And that's what made saying goodbye to academia one of the best things that happened to me and my writing career in 2018.

Next week I'll wrap this series up with a final Lost & Found post about friendship.


#writersblock #writerslife #academia #liberalarts #fiction #nonfiction #recoveringacademic