I did it! by Cayenne Michaels

I actually did it!

And I think it’s taken me almost up to now to realize it.

A couple of weeks ago I packed up my whole house. Well, technically the brick building is still standing, but I stashed all our belongings into the spare guest room and basement. Then I jumped on a plane to move halfway across the world. To study literature.

Had you told me five years ago that this was in the cards for me, I would have laughed and told you that you’re nuts.

But we change all the time, don’t we? That’s what life is all about, evolving and changing, gaining experiences, both good and bad, and making decisions based on them.

Have you ever been thinking, dreaming, wishing to pursue something entirely for your own personal development’s sake? Out of pure selfishness rather than the prospect of work or income, or because it’s ‘the right thing to do’. Whether it’s related to your writing or any other passion you might have. Go ahead now. Do it. I dare you.

So here I am, back at university at the age of 40, on the first row in a large auditorium.

First of all I have to say, something has happened to the lecturers during the years I was absent. They used to be so old…! Now, they’re quite yummy. Well, I haven’t met any of the poetry lecturers yet. Poets tend to make me slightly nervous and uncomfortable. I hardly ever get what they’re trying to convey, I always get lost in their weird sentence structure and confusing symbolism. And I always seem to miss the point. The goddamn point of their weird collection of words. Is there one? Or are they just trying to be mysterious? In that case, give me a bottle of red wine and I’ll have a go at it. But at eight o’clock in the morning…? No, I’m definitely a prose girl. I like pages upon pages filled with words from margin to margin and lovely, long stories. But I digress… I didn’t intend for this to be about my ambivalent attitude to poetry. Or yummy lecturers. Although, if you insist, I wouldn’t mind elaborating on the lecturers.

My point is, that what started out as a bright spark of an idea on Christmas Day 2013 and compelled me to sit down and write, has become an important driving force that has led to significant changes for my husband and me. Yes, he’s one of the items I decided not to stash away in the guest room, but to bring along when I took off on my new endeavor. This whole madness could not have happened without his support and encouragement. He could have insisted I’d keep working and earn my keep, but instead he said, ‘let’s do it!’

So here I am as a fresh literature student, still trying to get an overview of the syllabus and find my way around campus that is sprawling with…with…kids! And one of the most encouraging discoveries this week has been that, although I didn’t know the vocabulary or could provide the academic references, a lot of the topics brought up in our lectures are things I already know. How’s that?

Well…People have told me, I suppose. Readers who have critted my story have pointed out things in my own writing. In some cases, my instincts have guided me. When critting others’ work, I’ve noticed aspects of their writing that has, for some or other reason made me pause and reflect on it. The bottom line is, through the discussions and interaction with peer writers in communities like Scribophile you can gain a lot of knowledge that is relevant to the study of literature. We just don’t use the academic jargon or rhetoric. Perhaps that’s because many of us have learned by doing, not through university courses. We have the vocational training rather than the academic background. Perhaps terminology and constructions are bound to be washed out in such a huge and diverse community. I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that this is fun! Interpreting and analyzing literature in a university setting is so much fun! My attitude has also changed since last time I studied. Then my efforts were more about how to manage to pass my exams without reading the syllabus. Now, I voluntarily, eagerly actually, hungry and greedily (have I managed to make you stop reading with my adverbs by now?), fill my backpack with primary and secondary course literature, and I even take these books to bed at night.

My little universe is bursting at its seams. It’s becoming more detailed and complex every day. I feel as though I’m walking through a new landscape. Familiar, because I’ve seen something that resembles it before. Comfortable, because I know how to orientate myself in it, I can tell north from south, left from right. And this gives me time to focus my attention on the details. All the nuances and colors seem to spring to life now, as I’m exploring their environment in a new way, with different pair of glasses. And so far I’m enjoying it.

The morning haze is lifting in Hluhluwe National Park, South Africa, revealing the details in the landscape

The morning haze is lifting in Hluhluwe National Park, South Africa, revealing the details in the landscape

Cayenne Michaels is the pen name of a Norwegian expat normally living in Namibia. Currently she’s on sabbatical studying literature at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

She’s a scuba diving desert rat and a Jack of All Trades, master of…none? A couple of years ago she woke with the crazy idea of writing a book, and she’s been hammering away on the keyboard ever since. It’s a crazy project, a gigantic slice of life type of story and based on the word count it can probably be sold as a brick instead of a book, if it ever get as far as proper book form.


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