I never finished college.

In an earlier post, I attributed that to ‘artistic differences’, but that’s really a cop-out.  I didn’t finish college because I’m flawed.  Fatally so.

I’m one of those lucky people that lots of stuff comes easy to.  I’m a decent artist.  Have a nearly photographic memory.  I take risks in the kitchen that pay off 90% of the time.  I get the piano, have nimble fingers and a pretty good ear.  The list goes on.  Please don’t take this as bragging – it’s not, I promise.

So many things come easily that my visceral reaction is to be lazy, and oddly enough, scared.  I’ll play the piano until it becomes a challenge I don’t enjoy any more.  I absolutely won’t play in front of anyone outside of my little family, for fear of a missed note.  I hate cooking, because of that 10% I screw up in the kitchen.  I’ve never taken a serious art class because I’m afraid I’ll get bored – or fail at it.

And there’s the problem.  I’m lazy, and I’m scared to fail.  Those two things, when given any amount of credibility one’s mind, make it nearly impossible to commit to anything, let alone something as strenuous as college.

So, college.  I had a lot of fun.  Made a lot of friends, most of whom have long since gone their separate ways.  Wasted a lot money.  Wasted a lot of time.

Je regrette.

And now I’m a mom.  I stay home with my kids, educating them, of all things.  Teaching them to keep at it when they don’t want to.  That quitting’s not an option when stuff doesn’t come easy any more.  Trying to teach them lessons I still haven’t fully learned myself.

This book.  This freaking book.  It’s so much more to me than words on a page.  It’s my right of passage.  It’s the college experience I cheated myself out of: late nights working on something that, at times, I’ve grown to hate.  It’s choosing to sit my butt down in front of the computer instead of going out with the girls.  It’s not settling for ‘good enough’ when the desire to quit is so pungent I can hardly breathe.  It’s letting go of the fear of failure, even when that little critter is gnawing at the back of my mind with its razor-sharp teeth saying, “Really?  This is what you’ve spent the past three years of your life doing?  Pathetic.”

Can writing a book replace the college experience?   Probably not.  I won’t have a diploma in my hand at the end of it.  I may not even have a published book at the end of it.

But, it’s a personal first.  I’m finishing something.  Finishing it well.  Doing it the right way.  Not giving up when the part that comes easily is over.

That’s my victory.

What’s yours?


23 thoughts on “VICTORY

  1. Colin Falconer says:

    Mine was writing SILK ROAD. 20 years in the business, some shit happened, couldn’t write any more. Went on and on and on for 4 freaking years. And all the time the voice inside going: ‘See, you blew it and you were never any good to start with!’ Finding the mojo again was my victory. Great post, Myndi! I just love your candour and your humour.

  2. Anthony V. Toscano says:

    Dear Talented, Smart, Vivacious, Articulate and Funny Myndi Shafer,

    Want my university degrees? You can have them, but they’ll cost you much more than a pretty penny. Your price — on sale because I like you — is one ounce of your courage to persist.

    I spent thirty-seven years working a career in education. Truth is that I came to despise my cowardice. Because I quick grew tired of playing the game. Because I wanted to express my creativity, not smother it. Instead of leaving when I could have left, I allowed myself to believe in the false sense of “security” that any rut is capable of providing. There is no such animal, beyond the mind’s imagination, as “security.”

    And speaking again of university degrees, during my time as a stuffed-shirt, prestigious wage slave I met many people who passed right on through undergraduate, masters and PhD programs, all within the realm of “human services” (e.g. education, sociology, psychology, etc.) without once taking time to involve themselves in the lives they said they wanted to serve. They became professors who taught others how to understand the people they themselves never took the time to understand. So often I wanted to ask these little twerps, “So what do you know about people? Not what the textbooks tell you about people, but about human beings who sometimes smell like perfume and at other times have bad breath.”

    So please forgive this old man, Myndi. Forgive for sounding like the old fart I am, when I tell you that the most important lesson you have to teach your children is by way of your own example, not by way of a textbook or a university degree.

    And you are a superior example to me.

    Speech finished.

  3. janellemadigan says:

    Laziness and fear of failure…Well, I think we all fall victim to those at some point–or, in my case, on a daily basis.

    I just celebrated a personal victory of my own. I made the decision to put my teaching career on hold so that I could focus on my writing. I had a moment where I realized that it’s not worth doing all of the “shoulds” in life if we never get around to doing the things that make our hearts sing. I was staying on the safe path, doing what I thought I ought to do, and it was making me feel like crap (physically and mentally). I took a risk, and I know it’s worth it, even if it doesn’t pan out. This way, I won’t have to wonder “what if?”

    I hope you write the novel that makes you come alive, pushing right past the procrastination pixies and fear-of-failure phantoms. I, for one, can’t wait to see how your book turns out!

  4. Pat O'Dea Rosen says:

    AnthonyV is a hard act to follow, Myndi, but I have to comment because my critter’s the same as yours. It gnaws at the back of my mind and mutters, “Pathetic” at me and my efforts, too. We’ll never be able to kill off the critter, but it loses a tooth each time we type “The End.” Eventually, it will just gum us.

  5. Sheila Seabrook says:

    Lovely post, Myndi. Very inspiring. You have made me really think about how easy it is to give up and how HARD it is NOT to give up. My victory? Overcoming self-doubt but then, this seems to be an onging two steps forward, one step back kind of battle. So I guess that’s why it’s so important to celebrate those victories, small or large.

  6. Prudence MacLeod says:

    Myndi, I can tell you for certain, the feeling of accomplishment you will get from completing this book will be second to none. It will give you the confidence to go on and complete many more. You go girl!

  7. Jennifer says:

    Victory is today, and every day you get up after falling down.

    I have a lot of the same issues, Myndi. I enjoy the piano, but not if I have to work too hard. (Although I do play in front of people when I have to.) My husband says I’m my own worst critic, with cooking and most everything else, and he’s right. I want things to be right, close to perfect, and if I can’t do it . . . well, that’s where procrastination comes from.

    Looking at the profession/avocation you and I have chosen, we’re NOT lazy and we’re NOT afraid of failure, or we wouldn’t be doing this! There are much easier ways of filling our time than writing a book, but somehow we keep coming back to this.

    I wish I could find an old Tom Clancy quote I had. It was fairly long, but the gist was that when we have finished a novel, even if it never gets published, we have done something incredible that is worth celebrating itself. So just keep sitting down and opening that vein, and we’ll all succeed.

    BTW, my “victory” is that after raising my kids (and while they’re still in college, which is kind of dumb), I am going back to college myself because that long-ago goal just won’t let go.

  8. Debra Kristi says:

    I think degrees can be overrated. You have that “thing,” that “way” about you that pulls people in. The fact that you are sticking to this project will see your victory in the end. Be it the one you hope for or not. You are an amazing woman and I know I am not alone in saying I love the way you write, so I am banking on your story being pretty darn fantastic. Can’t wait to see that finish.

    My personal story is much like Janelle’s. I’ve done those things I thought I should do and was never happy at any of it. I felt like a failure. Now as I write this story, I am alive inside, no matter what comes of my work in the end. I imagine that’s how you feel. It is a magical release and I know there is an audience for your creation.

  9. Lena Corazon says:

    Myndi, this is a wonderful post, and incredibly inspirational. I’ve been dwelling on this idea of finishing projects; I’m in the midst of an MA thesis at the moment, and it seems never-ending, like it’s just never, ever going to get done. Couple this with the fact that I’ve never actually finished a novel, despite countless half-finished pieces, and I’ve been thinking really hard about whether or not I have what it takes to make it to the end of a major project. I have 3 novels on my ‘in progress’ list, and I am determined that I will finish all of them, even if it takes years.

    I’m glad to know that there are others around who share similar challenges. You go, girl! I have faith that you’ll see this through. 😀

  10. rachelfunkheller says:

    From someone who did finish college with a BA in journalism and communications, it’s not such a big deal. I went into broadcasting, and they don’t really care what school you went to or what degree you have, they just wanted to know that you can do the work. I did the work, got burned out on it and came home.

    I thought I’d go back and get do the MFA in creative writing thing. I started and they said I needed to go back and take more “basics” in english studies. So there I was reading some bunch of the worst convoluted writing I’ve ever had to waste brain cells deciphering, just to read about some guys opinion about another guy’s opinion of someone else’s book. Sheesh.

    I took last year and this year to hunker down and really study my craft. I can tell you, there are tremendous resources out there that will help you learn everything you need to know — point of view, metaphor, scene structure, creating character emotions. And then there is the work. You are doing it. Keep fighting the good fight! It’s great to have comrades like you in the trenches with us. xoxoxoxoxoxox, rachel

  11. Louise Behiel says:

    Well done Myndi. Nothing like facing our demons, naming them and moving thru them, until they pop up again. Eventually they will become known and expected.

    Great blog. I too think you nailed. it. well done. I am glad to be part of this journey with you

  12. Kecia Adams (@KeciaAdams) says:

    Hi Myndi. Wow. So much here that’s truly inspiring, starting with you educating your children and continuing through where you choose to finish this book you’ve started, demons notwithstanding. The key maybe is that YOU choose, and therefore you own all the mistakes, missteps, and failures but you also own all the wonderful moments of “flow”, the times when your own writing makes you laugh out loud or cry buckets, and the future readers who will say, “Thanks for writing that. I loved it.” 🙂 Well done.

  13. Sandy says:

    Really enjoyed your blog, Myndi! I suspect I never would have finished a book if my best friend — now co-author — hadn’t suggested we tackle one together. I had given up on my solo projects pretty easily, but once I had to be accountable to someone else, I knuckled down and got it done. It’s been great having someone to share the ups and downs, but I gotta say, it’s still tough. Each time we start a book, I think ‘I can’t do it.’ And then I muscle through it. All the best in your journey!

  14. asraidevin says:

    AH a fellow perfectionist. I too focus on the 10% of failures in the kitchen and in life in general. Sometimes I’m afraid to speak becuase I fear being misunderstood. Writing is much easier becuase I can revise before I hit that send button.

    I hide behind laziness, but it’s becuase if I can’t have it done perfectly I won’t do it at all.

  15. August McLaughlin says:

    Love this topic. College is a great path for many brilliant folks, but it’s certainly not for everyone. Many of us artist-types carve our own paths. Your stopping may seem like a “failure” in some people’s minds (ignorant people in MYHO ;)), but serve as a victory for you. Failure, to me, means giving up and/or not pursuing an authentic life. Far from the case for you, Ms. Myndi!

    So important to know where we thrive and what choices to make. Kudos to you for making super ones.

    For me, switching career paths to dive fully into writing felt victorious. So glad I did.

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