Recently in one of my MFA classes, we discussed Margaret Atwood’s idea of the “slippery double” that writers live. It’s the idea that there’s the writing life, full of emotion and wonder, and a tuning out of the rest of the world for a short time. Then there’s the human life, for lack of a better word. The life that must pay bills and go to the doctor, remember to wash sheets and buy eggs.
I believe this does not only apply to writers, but to anyone ‘slipping’ between their passion and sustaining their life as a human being. I believe this especially applies to those of us who are young, still figuring out human life as we venture into the world, those fearlessly making headway down paths in their area of passion.
I, for one, have felt very lost between these two lives. As someone still learning, trying to create the best work I can every day, slipping into the subconscious world that creativity calls for every day, while keeping track of my life, has proven to be harder than it originally looked. I am here in this MFA to write, and to learn to write, and write again, the best possible work I can. What I didn’t realize is that I would also be figuring out how to find funding in the university system. I’m also trying to sustain myself on a graduate assistant’s pay check, while feeling so incredibly lucky to even have that. I’m also here, trying to figure out who to ask all these questions to. I’ve been so lucky to have teachers in this program checking in on me and truly wanting to help, who are amazingly wise and brilliant, but who also don’t follow me home to my other, my double, life where I pay bills and go to the doctor, remember to wash sheets and buy eggs.
Caroline Donofro, in a recent article, “Single Woman Seeks Role Model”, asks as a single woman, where is “the role model who talks about filing taxes as an individual? Or who they turn to in an emergency? Or how do they tackle difficult life questions?” Her article is mainly pointed toward those in further reaches of adulthood, but these questions felt extremely raw and pertinent. How do I file taxes as a non-resident in the state I live in? Who do I list as an emergency contact when family members are not near? How do I balance my creative life with things as a human I must do? In searching for answers to these questions, I have caught myself looking more and more for a role model who has both of what I desire: a fulfilling creative and writing life and, for lack of a better term, has their shit together.
I had this idea in my head of someone who has achieved ridiculous amounts of success, writes five hundred perfect and oh-so-literary words a day, easily slips between writing the next great American novel and going to CVS to get tampons. She’s found the perfect pair of black ankle boots. She goes to farmers markets, separates her recycling, and has cultivated the world’s best credit score, and doesn’t have a constant stream of dust on her black chest of drawers. Though this person may indeed exist, I have yet to find her. I don’t think I will. I’ve realized the answer to these questions, the fix to slipping, is patience.
No one is the only one trying to deal. We’re all a little lost, even the mentors you find. We’re all pretending we know what we’re doing, hopefully sometimes getting it right. We’re all diving head first into our passions, figuring the rest out on the way. It’s okay to slip because we’re all slipping together. The ground is one big banana peel which we must learn to walk on.