Last night, I took my daughter to the school book fair. The tiny library floor swirled with kids while overwhelmed parents swayed above them. The ghost of my mother was freaking out next to me, stretching against the binds that eternally tie us together.
Children and school functions made her bolt.
But I'm a book fair veteran (having braved the event last year) and I knew to push against the toy purchase and for the chapter book purchases. We walked out of there 50 bucks lighter with more than a few books with toys crammed into them.
Skilled book fair veteran, I am not.
The book fair isn't just about being cheerfully robbed by friendly PTO volunteers, it's about supporting my daughter's school and validating the time she spends there.
I grew up just north of the University District in Seattle and came of age in the 1990’s, when the city was small and beautiful.
As a kid, I hated school. I hated handing over my day to people who didn't want to be there themselves. But also, it was a lonely place to be for a kid who didn't hear very well and didn't look very much like other kids.
I wandered away from formal education as a freshman in high school and found myself working concert security at the Moore Theatre and roaming the city at 2 o’clock in the morning. I met a lot of rockstars and a lot of people that are now long dead. I did a lot of things I was much too young to do.
By sophomore year, I had enrolled in an alternative high school that focused on a student-led curriculum. Each student had a facilitator and the student created their learning path. It was lovely to talk about Russian art with the art teacher and quote Roethke while sitting on an old couch drinking espresso. Candide? Indeed, everyone's read it! Skip school and get credit? A-OK. It was amazing, actually.
But I hated school. I hated students. I hated schedules. So I stopped going.
At a certain point, I found myself auditing a cellular biology class with the hope of simply melting into the classrooms at the UW. I loved the campus and the idea of walking into Suzzallo Hall like I belonged there. I decided that I’d like to go into zoology… or be a writer. We were getting into RNA (OMG. we knew nothing compared to now. Nothing.) when I got the feeling I wasn’t going to be left alone. I was 16 and looked 12, after all.
After what seemed like a lot of paperwork and a few fiery hoops, I had my high school transcripts transferred to Seattle Central Community College and enrolled myself as a student.
One hurdle I worried about was my math credits. I had plenty of English, enough science, but I hadn’t really done a lot in the way of math. In some boon of fortune, the staff at my high school mis transcribed my credits and I didn’t have to take a remedial math class in order to enroll. I didn’t even have to take the SAT. The education fairies were on my side. Thank you, St. Michael.
By the time I was 17, I had moved out of my mother's house and was totally unprepared to support myself. I had a job but I had no idea how to spend or not spend money. I lived in a loft in Pioneer Square, a depressing place with gloomy light and no sound proofing.
At some point, I received a high school diploma in the mail.
By the time I was 19, it became clear that I could not work and go to school and pay rent. I moved aboard my mother’s sailboat on Lake Union, it was a humbling moment and foundational in so many ways.
My mother was finishing up her radiation treatment for breast cancer and was preparing to sail around the world. I was a bicycle messenger for a legal messenger company. Maybe I wanted to go into law…or be a writer.
My classes at SCCC were ridiculously easy. Even the database design class was idiotically slow. I ended up skipping my classes and spending my day researching Russian poets and reading science papers in the library downtown. Then I stopped going to school entirely. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be as far away from a classroom as I could get.
I wasn't ready to be a writer. I knew it too. As Bolkgakov (or maybe his wife ) wrote, Manuscripts don't burn.
Being an adult means being responsible for your art by making money from your art. It's an artist's responsibility to tend to their artistic career. I'm turning down work that I could take...the fantastic beast that is my artistic career is evolving. It's scary af.
But yesterday, in the squirming mass of toy-mad children, (note to future Adrianne, they sell toys IN the books at the book fair now), I realized that the most productive way to support my daughter in her school work was to show her what showing up for your art looks like.
So here I go, off to create my own world of work. Scared. Daunted. Relieved. Invested.