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Dream: 12.30.18

December 30, 2018

I’m in a research library attached to a particular school. I’ve been coming here most days, for months now. All the regulars have their places at a long table, and keep books and other items under the table grouped near their feet. I’ve become a regular, just by returning so often, so I have a place too: at the far left end, lower corner.

The other regulars, though, are officially scholars — some are undergraduates in a special research program, some are graduate students, some are postdocs, some are professors and visiting scholars.

I’m none of those.

I’m an undergraduate in a completely different school — that doesn’t have a research program at all, never mind at this library — and I’m flunking my real classes because I’d rather be here every day.

I’d rather be learning any and all cool stuff I’ve stumbled across and realized I was intrigued by, rather than learning only what falls into a narrow tube that some authority figure has decided is important for me to know.

So I’m aware an external clock is ticking: when will authorities in my program realize they should expel me? When will the research library be notified, so my access can be revoked?

Will I be publicly denounced as an impostor?

So, I had been checking out a big stack of unwieldly books (which required a staff person to sign out individually in a large book), but now I’m unobtrusively slipping them back onto carts where they’ll eventually be found and processed as returned.

I don’t want to leave here at all (never mind in disgrace). This is where my Real Work is.

Unlike everyone else here, however, I have zero credentials bolstering that fact. I have no one to vouch for my probity or fine scholarship. I’m just one person, who has found a congenial niche, and I’m utilizing it effectively — but also enjoyably — while I may.

+

This particular day, it’s spring, and a beautiful enough day outside that some people are looking out the (large) windows, onto the streets below, with people scurrying by, trees flowering, big clouds in the sky, and deciding they should actually leave for home around 5 p.m. Catch that “early” train, so they can enjoy the weather when they’re at leisure.

I’d like doing that, too, but maybe today is my last day here. So, instead, I should clear up my space as best as I can, minimizing the work for whomever notices I won’t be returning.

Instead of waiting to be denounced, maybe I just leave one fine afternoon, and never come back.

Will anyone remember I was ever there, after? I don’t know. Will anyone miss me? Probably not. I was part of no clique no cohort. I shared no classes, no papers, nor commiserations about teachers.

All that kept me part of the table group was… proximity, attendance, and shared love of learning.

But I’ve made no friends, have no mentors or true colleagues.

+

I realize that if I had a teacher or other professional staff person intercede with the administration for me, maybe a way could be threaded for me out of this tangle: maybe I could be transferred into a better program — something interdisciplinary would be best, something self-directed and open-ended. An individualized major.

Even if the university would allow that, though, it wouldn’t be for someone like me, who is already failing out.

I would need a powerful ally indeed.

And yet… I’ve been putting out friendly overtures fairly consistently, but no one ever seems interested. If I try now to find an advocate, (a) I’ll probably fail at it too, (b) if I somehow gained one, wouldn’t they feel used when they discovered I actually needed their advocacy?

I don’t know how to present myself to others so that I seem appealing and congenial as I am.

+

I just want to do my Work. In this pleasant and cozy library, where I’ve created a space for myself at the table, I just want to explore, and be surprised and delighted, and learn.

+++

NOTES:

This dream could easily be a metaphor for my entire life.

But I think it’s partly also a metaphor for this past week.       (Not the potentially being denounced as an impostor parts.)                   I can do things, in the moment, that are Right, Helpful, Needful things.                       I can’t tell anyone how I knew what to do, but I can do it. I did do it.

Spouse told me he can’t do those things (or, perhaps, the other person won’t allow Spouse to be the giver). Without me there, Necessary Things just don’t occur.

+

Considering how many hundreds, thousands, of visits I’ve made to libraries in my life, it’s kind of odd I don’t dream about them more often.

Long years ago, during my first undergrad experience, I discovered a very old bilingual dictionary that I pored over in wonder, in lieu of my “real” assignments. I was, indeed, flunking all my classes because I’d rather be at the library.    7 years later, that time, remembered, became the foundation for composing my new surname. Which I still have.    I earned no degree from the school, but I gained much better prizes: self-awareness, discovery, a name, a different connection to my heritage.

+

I’ve recently realized that… I don’t need credentials to be a scholar. If I do the work, I am a scholar. (Like how being a writer means you’re someone who writes.)

In some lights, it might be more impressive to have made such strides into scholarship while having no assignments, teachers, cohort of students, administrators; no mentors. Most importantly, perhaps, for a poet, no friendships within one’s cohort and amongst mentors — that’s where the recognition, prizes, residencies, all that grow out of.     So those things are out of reach for me.

But I can still do the Work.

To have access to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore City — an excellent source of scholarly works, some of great age — all I require is (apparently) Maryland residency, and a public library card.

I’m tech savvy enough to have learned more about Marina (Maryland’s online inter-library loan system) than most of the librarians at my local BCPL branch.

I keep 2 sets of records of what I’ve read {w’y, LT}.

I datamine my own metadata to further my understanding of my own work. And also to discover new avenues of inquiry.

I occasionally write to poets whose writings I’ve read.          (Most times, they’ve responded.)

I continue to read biographies and memoirs of creative people in various fields. I’m currently reading a biography of the life and works of German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker.

Don’t I have what I need? Amn’t I doing my Work?

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