Me. I’m the crazy person. And the reality I’m perceiving may not actually be real. As sometimes happens.
I’ve been kind of locked into a holding pattern lately. I did this women in trades course (it was awesome) at VIU powell river (where I live) and at the end of it all I took an assessment test for VIU’s heavy mechanical trade foundation course. I passed and applied for the course, regardless of it being in Nanaimo and that means I’d have to go live there for 10 months or so.
I got a phone call from admissions, wondering if I would prefer a July or September intake for the course. My first reaction was to scream in the kitchen and the blab it all over the book of faces that I got this phone call.
I have amazing friends and the likes and whoohoo comments piled up while I basked in the glow of achievement. On my way to (??) happiness (??) merely by being accepted into this program, I made spreadsheets estimating what the cost would be to live and school in nanaimo (I forgot to include the storage locker fee because unless my landlords are cool with me stashing all my stuff in this tiny house of mine, I’m going to have to address that) and worked out that it would cost about 23,496.30 to pay rent, eat, school, have insurance, fuel, utilities, etc for 10 months. There are no frills within that. Maybe I could find a place for cheaper than 850, maybe not. Maybe my food costs would be less than 300 a month (that’s 75 dollars a week). Whatever, it seems totally reasonable to me.
Then I found out that student aid has a maximum of 320 dollars a week for people without dependents. For a 40 week course, such as mine, that’s $12,800. $6000 of that is just for school. I have $6000 to live on. That leaves me $10,696.30 short.
First spiral of doubt rears it’s head like a hydra daring me to strike it off..(mythology hint…it grows three for every one lopped off). THAT’S A CRAZY AMOUNT OF MONEY WE DON’T HAVE!!!!
Where the hell am I going to get 10,000 dollars? Even if I was saving 500 dollars a month (I’m not) that’s only 3500 by July. Going on the hope that they see fit to award me the maximum possible student loan, which may or may not be. But still…
Spiral of doubt number two…WE’RE NOT READY!!! Maybe we should wait until September. Maybe we should wait another year? Until the following September. What’s one more year? What’s the difference between starting school at age 40 vs age 39?
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll be working as much as I can while going to school. Not every day, obviously, I’ll need time to do the school work. But the school week is only 4 days so that frees up my weekends to get something going on and maybe I can do a couple of evenings a week. It’s going to wreak havoc with my social life, says the girl who hardly leaves her house except to go to work or walk the dog through the wilderness where we encounter exactly no one. Yeah, so.
Spiral number three… YOU’RE GOING TO WORK YOURSELF TO DEATH!! NO ONE CAN DEAL WITH THAT LEVEL OF WORK LOAD!!!!
Ok, now you’re just being silly, voice of unreason. Lots of people can and do. And it’s only 10 months
So it’s been a fun time over here but then, that insidious creeping tendril of doubt sidled in and made a very convincing argument.
Heeeeeey there buddy. You’re riding this lovely high of being accepted and they haven’t asked you for any money yet…that suggests to me you’re not in at all. What’s the point of all this planning if you aren’t even “in” like you think you are?
So I asked the admissions office, point blank. Am I in? And got back, that decision has not been made yet. Oops. Ok, so maybe I jumped the gun a bit.
Jumped the gun? Honey, that would suggest that you’re in the race. There is every possibility you won’t even be considered. And even if you are, where are you going to get that kind of money? The awards and bursaries and grants you were checking out, hopeful they might alleviate some of that financial stress? They’ll have already been awarded for the school year if you start in July…
Insidious cruel self doubt voice. It kind of reminds me of Kaa from the jungle book but without the cheerful humour that goes with knowing the same voice was responsible for Winnie the Pooh. Closer to Eartha Kitt maybe…or the siamese cats from Lady and the Tramp.
Why is it that these voices are so firmly entrenched? For a couple of days there, I was caught tight in the grip of overwhelming doubt. Every thing I thought of was just another reason why I couldn’t start in July or September or next September. At one point I started to go around on the “I don’t actually want to be a mechanic anyway!” merry go round. And when pressed for an alternative, like an excessively patient but slightly misguided adult catering to the whims of a petulant child “ok, what do you want to do then?”
“I don’t know” was always the response. I froze myself into a place where I was using my ability to tinker and fix as a desperation fallback. I know I can do it, so I’m going to do it because I can’t think of anything better or more inspired or more creative or make a living from writing or lighting or any of the delightfully artistic-like things I enjoy doing.
(to be fair to my inability to make a living from writing, I would posit that this is because I really don’t work at it. I don’t write when I’m uninspired and I don’t treat what I do write as work. I have yet to broaden my scope to include much besides “stream of conciousness ramblings” to my portfolio. Do writers have a portfolio? Would I know the answer to that if I was a working writer?)
(Second aside; I really need to get away from trapping myself with language and labels as I do. Suggesting I’m not a working writer because I don’t make a living from it or consider it work. It comes from the same place where I don’t consider myself a musician, though I can play music. Or an artist, though if anyone has seen me setting up festival lighting and rolled their eyes at how particular I can be, they might have a few things to say on the definition of an artists’ temperament and how it applies to my definition of what makes an artist…is it a place of self-deprecation? Of wanting to hold aloft those I consider writers and musicians and artists because to keep them on a level of humanity such as where I dwell might open me up to consider their lives as their own, their vulnerabilities acceptable, their talents the result of work and practice rather than inevitable…but I ramble back to the present)
Presently, I am in a place where I have been asked for the documentation to complete my application. So I am sincerely being considered for this course. And what happens if I am accepted for the July intake? What is the benefit of two months earlier, rather than waiting until September? Well, I’ll be done two months earlier. In April, rather than June.
There are so many things all over the place that suggest this attitude of don’t wait. Don’t wait until tomorrow, don’t put it off. What are you waiting for? And that quietest of desires comes forward with her request.
But what about the festivals?
And there it is. This is and has been such an intrinsic part of who I am. Trish DeLish, the barefoot light goddess. The summer time is festival time and I have spent so many summers moving from one to the other and back again. And some of the time I get paid and it’s amazing and the momentum flows and other times it’s a struggle and I don’t understand why I’m doing it and then someone says ‘oh my gosh, it’s so pretty!!’ And ‘we found our way home last night!’ ‘And thanks for making it so I didn’t fall into that ditch over there’ and
‘oh my gosh it’s so pretty…how did you get all those lights in that tree?’
“I spent 7 years training fireflies.”
But still. It’s really pretty. And even when it’s frustrating and raining and stuff gets trashed or stolen and I’m not getting paid and I don’t have the time or hardware to do it to the extent I feel is necessary, it’s still a most amazing thing to do and I’m pretty damn good at it at times. Yeah I lose gear every time, yeah my costs are never covered, yeah I’m shite at business and knowing what I’m worth but I really really love it.
So how terrifying could it be to consider stepping away from it. (IT’S WHOOO I AAAAAAMMMM!) Not forever. Never that long. But perhaps a year, perhaps more. To fall back, to expand my skill set in a different direction, perhaps earn some money that will allow me to get back in the game with better tools. Because lengths of burned out incandescent rope light just don’t cut it anymore. They don’t light anything very well. And I know that.
I’ve been feeling for some time like I needed to step away, to regroup, to save and buy new gear, to work it out so that my A game shines through.
But it’s one thing to think about it and another to be faced with a choice of this or that. If I didn’t have anything going on during the summer and decided not to do the festival thing, that’s one thing. But if I actively decide to do something other than the festival thing? Something other than the thing that I’ve done since I don’t know when? (I do, I was about 19 or 20, that’s getting close to half my life)
It fucking terrifies me.
So I should definitely do it.
Of course, this is all going on the notion that I get a letter in the mail saying, congratulations..you’re in! You start in July…and there are no guarantees, ever. But I think having the courage to suggest that even though I’m afraid to not do what’s easy, what’s traditional, what’s always been done might be a step in the right direction. It opens the door for new traditions, a new perspective on festivals and self-worth and the role I can play.
The barefoot mechanic?
But the festivals! You just got a camper van because…festivals!! It’s not for commuting, silly!
Ok, here’s another perspective. When my Nina 4runner died and I miraculously (due to amazing friends coming through for me yet again) managed to end up with a skookum camper van, my first thought was oh! Perfect for festivals! (See? what did I just say? Don’t stop the festival train!)
But what if, that budget I have earmarked for rent and utilities, which suddenly disappeared in light of reduced student loan expectations (though I’m still going to try for grants and bursaries and awards and part time jobs…) could be lessened because I already have a place to live that has a fridge and stove and furnace and queen sized bed to keep me warm in the winter?
Something like a camper van, which I’ve no problem living in because honestly, my first instance of vehicular love was with a just such a creature.
Though, it would be nice to find somewhere I could park it though where I could access showers and running water that isn’t too far from school.
Well, how about a 53 acre campground that rents oceanside sites by the month from september to june for about 500 bucks less than what I figured I would need for rent which is an 8 minute drive from the campus? That has power and water and wifi and is okay with dogs.
I’ll have to work out something I can do with Gala during the days. Especially if I start in July. The idea of her sitting in the van all day in July and August doesn’t work on any level. But if I’m learning anything this time around, it’s that doubt, while sometimes offering a devil’s advocate type argument isn’t something that should actually stop me. And fear, which seems so real and valid at times, is only an indication that I might be doing exactly the thing I need to be.
A long strip of hot, dusty highway. Not much shade to be had but just enough breeze that it’s not intolerable. A big truck which should be moving forward, pushing air, catching bugs in it’s grilly teeth, happily rolling towards it’s destination. Filled with the kind of hardware one might need to set up a circus, a festival, a happening of delight and whimsy. And the stress of lost time due to mechanical failure is alleviated by the bright healthy toothed smile on a womans’ face. She’s barefoot, maybe in her late 40’s, it’s hard to tell because her vitality is contagious, it’s obvious she feels good about what she’s doing. A long sunkissed braid falls over her right shoulder as she leans over an engine, wrenches and gloves hanging from the back pocket of her coveralls. Her tattooed arms are bare, tanned, muscular. She is relaxed. She knows exactly whats wrong and laughs with her fellow travelers, asking one to pass her this or that from the toolbox sitting on the road beside the large truck, the quiet engine ticking gently in the heat. It never takes too long before there is a turn, a crank, a fire started in the belly of this beast that will carry them all to the next place they’ll call home for a time. She swings the toolbox into the cab of the truck, emptying the tools from her pockets back into it and sliding it behind the seat. It’s not her turn to drive but she wants to take it for a while to make sure that her patient is up and running to full capacity, understanding the foibles and functions of the machine as she does. Her dusty brown summertime feet feel at home on the pedals as the gears engage and the truck tentatively, then confidently moves forward. The show must go on. And does. Thanks to a mechanically inclined barefoot firegypsy named Trish DeLish.
It might not be reality yet, but it sure feels like a sane place to get to.