Whatever this is, it is only a short step from something better

I’m not going to Hollins. I’ll be in LA for the foreseeable future, which means at least a year, but more likely much longer than that. I do not think I will reapply to any MFA programs this year. Financially, it just isn’t viable.

I was really lucky for a while, but I think even the best luck has to run out eventually. Nevertheless, I’m not abandoning my writing. Far from it. The MFA was never as a crutch, only an opportunity to leave the situation I’m currently in, which involves, dare I say, emotional abuse, a pair of lying, racist family members, and the nearly impossible task of finding a job.

Let me qualify that allegation of emotional abuse. I don’t know if I really want to call it that, but I have to face the facts. There’ve been multiple occasions when my father has told me that he wishes I’d never been born. Two days ago I was shouted at and cursed at over Skype (my father’s in Russia) and told that if I don’t get my act together, he will have no problem throwing me out of the house. This evening he calmly told me that I was acting like “a nigger.” Surprisingly, I’m not offended by the name-calling; the most painful thing for me is to see the people I once idealized so much come down so far. It is a truly terrible thing to realize that you have absolutely nothing in common with someone who is supposed to love you.

A couple of days ago, my mother told me straight out that my degree was worthless, that I shouldn’t be going into the MFA because it’s a waste of time and money, that I’m useless. These are familiar themes in our relationship. Most of the time I can put up with comments about about being useless, but it was shocking to actually hear the words out of her mouth – that she could care less about my art, that she actually looks down on me for being an artist, as opposed to someone with a profitable future.

Besides their attitude towards me, they also neglected to mention that my mother is going to have some sort of operation. I wish to fucking god they’d told me about this before. The lack of communication within my family is profound. My parents never tell me anything and then say that I don’t care about them. All they care about is money. What upsets me more than their concern for money is the perpetual state of dishonesty surrounding this family.

There’s nothing wrong with caring about money, but when you lose all semblance of character and goodwill towards people you were stupid enough to create, it becomes a bit frustrating. I have every intention of paying them back for the money they spent on tuition and rent at Berkeley. I’m not the type of person to just take people’s money if I can help it. I feel terrible about the two people who actually gave me money recently, and now that I’m not going to school I will be paying them back as soon as I can.

Like I said before, I don’t need the MFA to be a writer. In the back of my mind, I rationalized it as a pathway to a teaching career, but in reality, I needed to leave Los Angeles. I have no friends here and it seems as if I’m slowly losing whatever familial ties I once had. The worst thing is that my sister, who is turning 23 this year, is the complete opposite of me, and no one ever says anything negative about her. It doesn’t matter that I went to a good school and have two degrees. She’s obviously a much better person because she got her green card and now has a job at a bakery. She’s obviously better than me because she’s attended three different colleges off and on for six years and has yet to declare a major. Meanwhile, every single thing I do is micromanaged and criticized, I have no one to turn to or talk to, and unfortunately, talking to people online just isn’t a good enough substitute for seeing someone and giving them a hug. And I really need a hug right now. Really.

I’ve tried to live up to my parents’ expectations my entire life, but now I know that it is an exercise in futility. It will never work. Not when my father says that I can reapply to programs this year. Not when he doesn’t realize exactly how much effort and money and time went into doing this the first time around, how lucky I am to have been offered some good options. I’m going to say something for myself right now, because no one else will say it to me: I have done some good things. I deserve at least to be happy.

I don’t feel entitled to anything. I’m sorry for giving some people that impression. I’ve tried to explain my motivations and limitations as best I could, and that’s all I can do.

I’m going to start living for myself. Living for others has accomplished nothing and I desperately need some small vestige of self-esteem if I am to make it through the year.

I forgot to mention that the most depressing and embarrassing thing about this situation is not the fact that I’m staying in LA, but that I’ve had to continuously email the director of the program to ask for various extensions and to beg for favors. I also had to tell her last week that I was going to the program after all, and now I emailed her to say I won’t be going. I can’t help feeling like I’ve exhausted all of my goodwill with this person, who wasn’t very forthcoming with goodwill in the first place.

I guess I can stop worrying about everything now and get back to the business of finding some sort of job. I have a feeling I’ll be getting lots of calls for tutoring this semester, which would be fantastic.

Finally, thank you for those people who have supported me, and thanks to all my newfound MFA friends. You’re all amazingly talented and kind and I sincerely wish you the best.

6 thoughts on “Whatever this is, it is only a short step from something better

  1. Tory: I wish I could leave LA. Still, I have some very good memories of Westwood, and I'm drawn there, for better or worse.

    Lindsay: Thanks 🙂

    JayTee: I'm hoping too.

    Emily: Yeah, moving is something I wish I could do. I'm tied here for now, going to make the best of it.

    Marita: I wish parents were more supportive. The kind of materialism I think both our families share frightens me.

  2. I can empathize a bit. I currently live in an area where I have few friends. I have to make a one- to two-hour trek to DC nearly every time I want to get coffee with a kindred spirit, and half the time schedules collide anyway. So I sit in my dull patch of suburbia, where I live with parents who are supportive — I'm very fortunate on that point. However, they also constantly chafe against my artist's lifestyle, with its eccentricities and goals that diverge so sharply from their own lifetime's effort to buy a bigger house and nicer cars.

    Still, I haven't left yet because I haven't found what I want to move toward, only realized what I want to leave behind. Liminality blows . . . but this entry indicates that you've made several huge strides recently. Such a difficult juncture, acknowledging that to leave would be to flee, not to progress!

    This post truly moved me. We are neither of us alone 😉

  3. I feel for you, Denis. Family can be such a complex thing, so helpful in some cases, so detrimental in others. It sounds as though you are in a situation right now where your family is NOT being helpful. If you can move away, it might be good; distancing yourself from negative influences is not a weakness or a failure, sometimes it's necessary for your own well-being.

  4. Oh man. Denis, I am so sorry you have to go through all of this. Hang in there, though: it WILL get better. I know it will, because you ARE smart, funny, capable, talented (to steal some of Tory's words), and because you're determined and I know you'll get out of there.

    I'd give you a hug if I could from here. Does a mental one help?

  5. Good grief. Charlie Brown's familiar refrain is all I can muster.

    Denis, I feel for you. My heart goes out to you tonight. The situation you are in is terrible, but whenever you try to meet the expectations of people who refuse to allow you the power to do so, you have to realize that it is a lost cause. Family is important, but only if that is an egalitarian belief amongst its members.

    You are a nice guy Denis, and from what I have read here, a capable, funny, (if not sometimes a wee bit emo) writer. Keep at it, figure what you need to figure out, and reapply again after you've had enough time.

    I know what LA can do to an artist's soul. Try to grin and bear it. Or move. That really might be better. If I were you, I'd head back up north–at least there you'll find vitality, culture, and probably more than a few people who care about you.

    Take care and for crissake don't be a stranger 😀

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