The Path, Taken

For no immediately apparent reason the other night, I started thinking about the final year of my undergraduate art school program. Like I said, I’m really not sure why; I was falling asleep, and it just happened, as if my brain went, hey, this was more than a quarter century ago, why not start thinking about it now? Reader, I did. I was falling asleep and suggestible, what can I tell you?

Specifically, I was thinking about my dissertation that made up some significant portion of my final grade that I can’t remember — a quarter? That can’t be right, but it feels like it might be, nonetheless — and how I basically half-assed it. I got a pretty good final grade for my degree, good enough that I felt accomplished and relieved in equal measure when finally learning what it was, but I remember being told in an offhand manner by one of my teachers that my dissertation had dragged it down, and what’s more, I remember hearing that and thinking in response, yeah, that makes sense.

The irony of the whole situation from today’s point of view is that I screwed up the dissertation purely because I didn’t want to write. I had countless, multiple chances to work on the thing, but I’d spend them doing almost anything else until I had no other option. To this day, almost exactly 26 years later (I basically wrote the whole thing in a blur across the Christmas break), I remember with shocking clarity the feeling of sitting down to just do it with a combination of stress and resignation, as if I’d run out of chances to avoid doing it.

Looking back now, I think about how short the word count was (10-15,000 words) and how difficult it felt to get them out of me at the time. I was, ironically, less than a year away from realizing that maybe I wanted to be a writer, but if you’d asked me at the time, that would have seemed almost impossible.

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