I don’t fit. Anywhere. I’m not sure I ever will. I’m not even sure if I want to. I like being different, in a random sort of way. I have two left feet, and two right boots. Some days, I can’t even find my damn boots! I don’t fit into the blue collar world that I live in. Sure, I can drink with the best of the guys, I can fix my own car if I need to, and I throw hay all summer long, and actually enjoy it. I love horses, country nights, and dive bars. I don’t fit into the academic world, even though I was taught Emily Post manners, and I’m well-read, high-minded, philosophical, and damn it, I’m smart! I feel confined at the academic functions, longing for a t-shirt and a beer, and restless for stimulation when I’m drinking that beer in the garage, listening to metal.
Everywhere I go, I’m out of place. No one wants to talk poetry while swilling beer, and no one wants to swig Jack Daniels while dissing Hemingway (God, how I hate that man). No one in the academic world appreciates my talents as a grease monkey, while no one in my family cares about Robert Frost while they’re trying to put enough hay in to feed the animals over the winter. I just don’t fit.
Normally, I’d shrug it off. It’s no biggie, I’m just an odd-ball. A little eccentric, but that’s to be expected since I’m a writer. However, sometimes my worlds collide. Today, I will be presenting my poem, “I Never Said Thanks,” and a section of my short story, “Healing Speed,” at the Undergraduate Research and Creativity Celebration at Keystone College. I was told, at the last moment, that I needed to dress somewhat “professional.” You know what? I don’t even know what the hell that means. And there’s nothing like embarrassing yourself by showing up in jeans when everyone’s wearing dress clothes, or dressy clothes when people are in jeans. I always get it wrong.
Then, it dawned on me. I’m always going to be out of place. I can’t help that I live in a world that doesn’t exactly lend itself to dress pants, and nice blouses. I spend my summers digging in the dirt with my three children. I’d never even own a blouse that sticky fingers, and spaghetti mouths could ruin in five minutes. I destroy jeans on the exhaust pipes of my dually diesel, and my days in the garage. I’m just not made for the academic world of nice clothes, and high heels. But, there’s a part of me that wants to attend these events, and actually make a good impression. And then there’s the matter of my family. Most of them couldn’t tell you the meaning of a poem if you gave them five years. It’s just not their bag. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Except, when I have to read my work in front of them. Sometimes, they don’t get that poets lie, that fiction writers are writing about something they have never experienced, and half of the time the only criticism I get is that my poetry doesn’t rhyme. And they get bored at academic functions, quickly. Yet, I want them there with me. Not only to share my experiences, but so they can understand what I go through when I step out of our blue collar world. The confusion, the self-consciousness, the feeling that I’m never going to be good enough. I spend a lot of time wondering if they’re really excited to be with me, or if they’re just humoring me.
It’s tough living with a foot in both worlds. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to lose my tenuous grip that’s helping me hover between the two, and fall into one or the other. I don’t want to lose the experiences in both worlds that allow me to be a well-rounded writer, and person. Now, I’m realizing I don’t want to fit. I don’t want to lose my hold on the reality that is me. This is who I am. I may have two left feet, but I sure can dance. Now, I only have to figure out what to wear today!