The worst dream I ever had in my life was when I was a boy, probably six or seven years old. I remember it vividly. I dreamed it was the middle of the night and I was standing on the unlit landing at the top of the 2nd-floor staircase in the row house where I lived with my sister and my parents, looking down into the foyer. The light was on down below and my mother was preparing to go out the front door. “Where are you going?” I asked, a note of panic in my voice. “I have to leave,” she said. “But I’ll be back in the spring.” In my dream, I knew it was the beginning of winter and so it would be three or four months before I saw her again. The prospect of not seeing one of my parents for that long a time seized me with an unspeakable dread. Decades later, in real life, I still remember the power of that dream, and it disturbs me like few things ever. I woke up sobbing in my bed and my parents, who must have heard me having a bad dream from their bedroom, were sitting beside me, my father rubbing my back.
[Read more…] about What It Means When People Leave and Other People Arrive
I figured out what I wanted to do with my life before I was 20 years old. That is a far cry from Carl Daniels, the protagonist in my upcoming novel, Green Bay Outsiders, who has absolutely no clue what he wants to do when he graduates from college. By that point, he is 22. And the realization that he has to start making plans to find out what he wants to do is crucial if he wants to avoid falling into a miserable lifestyle set by everyone else’s expectations.
Not long after I discovered a love of writing during a creative writing course my senior year in high school, I knew that was something I would want to do in the future. But of course I was going to have to make countless choices in the following years – education, employment, travel, friendships, romance, adult responsibility – and for a while I drifted from one experience to another, experimenting, trying things out and ultimately returning to what I always loved.
This is how it all went down and what happened when I realized what I wanted to do with my life. (Too bad for Carl who doesn’t realize what he wants to do yet; he must decide if he needs to rip himself away from everything he already has in his life to discover something he considers more fulfilling.)
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My current work in progress, Green Bay Outsiders, is about a group of friends who recently completed their undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay and are facing the real world for the first time as newly graduated adults. Things don’t end up going well for several of them and, in particular, for the protagonist Carl Daniels. He is, however, also the source of disappointment for one of his female friends due to his reluctance to return her romantic affection.
The post-college world can be a scary time. And there will be no shortage of well-meaning advice. A lot of important experiences that new graduates face never get communicated and can only be found out through personal experience. Hence my interest in writing this book. It’s been more than 20 years since I graduated college, so Green Bay Outsiders is not an autobiographical story by any means. But the topic is of great interest to me. Occasionally, I will trace my life decisions back to find out what earlier experiences brought me to where I am today.
[Read more…] about Six Things Nobody Tells You When You Graduate from College
Years ago, I read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. It was the historical account of Christopher McCandless, a young man who graduated to great promise from Emory University in the early 1990s only to abandon any semblance of identity (he literally burned all forms of identification) and left his home and family behind to hit the road on a cross-country trip. Chris ultimately ended up living out of an abandoned bus through a snowy Alaskan winter north of Denali National Park and, while incredibly resourceful, he ended up making one tactical mistake–he ate poisonous berries–and ended up perishing shortly before the spring thaw. His journey, both physically and psychologically, was introspective and meditative.
[Read more…] about The Lack of Rites of Passage into Adulthood in America