I have a journal I come across now and again during moves and wild cleaning frenzies. I carry it around in a cardboard box with all the other old memorabilia, stuff I should likely throw out but can't, pieces of paper that explain my life to no one but me. It's one of those boxes someone will take about 15 minutes to look through when I die and say, "Wow. Sort of interesting." And then off it will go to recycling.
In this journal, I expound in my off key, lyrical, and slightly fantastic way about things, but one sentence I write states clearly: "I want to teach and write." Then back it goes to the amazing things I will write and the fabulous places I will teach (not to mention the insanely amazing man I will have in my life, the one I probably hoped was loaded and good looking and well-read, a possible though unlikely trifecta).
Aside from that one sentence, the rest of the journal is quite forgettable. But I think about that line every semester when I get ready to start up a full semester, as I am today. I'm off to meetings and an office clearing up session, and in my mind, not so keen on the whole prospect, until I think of that sentence.
What those six words meant to me then was a chance to articulate what I didn't have. I was 19, struggling to write anything that made sense. Just months before, I'd been working at Traveler's Insurance and living with my car salesman boyfriend, smoking pot out of a big red bong. I read a lot, and we didn't have cable or a television, but I spent a lot of time wishing for things. When I was accepted to college, my wishes seemed to be possible. For the first time since my father died, there was a big possible maybe in my life, when before there had only been bong water.
Flipping through the pages of the journal, I cringe now at the huge words saying nothing in poems no one would ever read much less publish. I cringe at the hubris covering the fear. In the ardor of youth, I'm throwing around author names and titles of novels and essays as though I know what I'm talking about. But somehow I did. With the stroke of a pen, I articulated who I wanted to be. And here I am 27 years later doing exactly what this young woman wanted to do. If she knew what it would be like to get to this point, she'd get in her 1972 VW squareback and head home to her boyfriend and bong. But she stayed, and I emerged.
So when I bitch about teaching and students and publishers and agents and the revision process and strange covers on my books, I think about her sitting at her desk in the cheap apartments in Turlock, California. I think about all the generic "Tuna" she would eat and the work she would have to do. I think about her getting pregnant pretty soon and doing all of this with one and then two babies.
I think about her dreaming and live the dream she wanted.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org