Upon Wit’s End: How the Near-Fatal Sting of Rejection Invokes Passion

blog july 19th 2019 A

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019. 

When I was twenty-eight years old, I was smack dab in the middle of working on my master’s degree. A few years prior, I had just gotten fired for the first time in my life and I was so lost, so depressed, and I was essentially an empty shell of a woman. I lived in my bathrobe as I wrote paper after paper trying to finish up my degree. I overate and ate the worst possible foods ever, I watched a lot of t.v., I played online Scrabble endlessly for hours when I wasn’t working on school work, and I isolated myself from the outside world. The only thing that was going right for me was my educational path which I clung to for dear life.

One afternoon, my sister came home from work and forwarded me this writing contest. She told me to give it a shot and that the prize money was worth at least entering. So I did. I wrote this short story called, “A Breath of Freedom,” which I happened to include in my Dark Musings Poetry Anthology: Volume 2, nearly ten years later. Anyhow, one day I received a letter saying that I had won third place in the competition and was awarded $500. At the time, I had never cried so hard with gratitude. I had desperately needed that cash. I was able to use that money to buy my family Christmas presents that year. It was a true Christmas miracle. I even took my mother and sister down to Princeton to receive my award. I was even in the newspaper for the first time in my life. That period in my life was truly momentous and I will always be grateful to my sister for passing along that opportunity. I also remember showing my father that piece of writing. This was way before his diagnosis with dementia. He was a writer and artist as well and I remember him telling me that my story was corny after he read it. Instead of congratulating his daughter and encouraging her to move forward with writing, I was met with resentment and jealousy. I shook it off and didn’t let that sully this incredible event that happened in my life. This came at a time I needed to regain confidence, regain faith, regain the belief that somehow, someway, everything was going to work out alright for me. I needed this push in the right direction. I went on to finish my masters and work on my doctorate subsequently after and spent several years after that substitute teaching and long-term subbing.

In 2016, I was once again at a difficult crossroads in my life. I was laid off from a really wonderful teaching gig I had acquired. Being done with schooling, and wanting to finally start my life, I, yet again, was ousted from this security net I was provided with and found myself once more lost, uncertain of the future, scared, and most of all poor. I had to do something, and fast. I had been wanting to be a writer for as long as I could remember. When I went to Virginia the first year for my residency hours while working on my doctorate, I came across several amazing individuals. This one person, I will never forget, said something so profound on the last day of our residency that it stayed with me to this day. He said to our professor, “You’ve awoken a passion within me that I never knew I had.” That is what writing provided for me. Writing gave me a voice, which I never had before. Writing gave me a passion, which I was never allowed to have before. Writing became my salvation, my redemption, my hope, my peace, my sanctuary, my escape from all that ailed me. Writing became my therapist, my best friend, my confidante. Writing became my past time, my joy, my anguish, my pain. I spent hours, upon hours writing down everything that had ever hurt me in my entire life–every painful memory that still entraps me to this day. Writing gave me a release, gave me a reason, an excuse to finally let things go. Writing gave me permission to finally be the human being I had always wanted to be. Writing gave me purpose–a reason to get up in the morning. Writing became the one and only thing that no one could take away from me.

Since I’ve started writing in 2016, I’ve released so many pieces through Amazon. For funding, I’ve submitted side pieces to hundreds of organizations, magazines, contests, freelance opportunities, etc. But I had not been able to have a lightning strike for me twice since that day in 2009 when I won my first contest. Ten years later, technology is booming at its highest peak. Social media is swelling with promising new writers who practically step over each other, so desperate to be heard. My work has persistently gone unnoticed for years. I receive rejection more than I hear praise. If it wasn’t for my voice over artist/editor/mentor/newfound friend I’d quit completely. She has become such an advocate for my writing and encourages me to keep going every day.

 

blog picture july 19th, 2019

Writing provides me with so many ups and downs emotionally. There are some days where I feel so triumphant for how successful I was with my writing progress. I can belt out six thousand words in a day no problem and re-read everything and I feel such pride for how much I have grown as a writer over the years. Then there are the setbacks when I receive yet another discouraging rejection letter. I feel trapped sometimes. I feel like time is running out for me. Heavily in debt and fearful for my future, I often wonder how I became this foolish. I often blame myself and punish myself for not being “normal” like everyone else. I hate that I’m different. I hate that I stand out. I hate that my path has always been more difficult than other people. I just want to be like everyone else. But I know I never will be.

It’s been one heck a year for me. I have had to re-teach myself how to be strong and independent and break myself away from that mentality of being someone’s fiance. I hated that at first. I resented it even. I felt like Bella Swan from Twilight during the time she was away from Edward. You live your life and the time passes by around you but you’re not living. You’re barely breathing. You’re barely eating. You have no memory of the months that zoomed past you. You’re just surviving. Surviving was the very least my body was capable of in those lonely winter months. But then the sun comes out one day and its bright triumphant beams hit you smack dab in the eyes in the early morning and you wake up finally transformed and metamorphosed and you think, “Finally.” You finally breathe, eat, smell that fresh air, and feel the magnitude of what you’ve been through. You recall the harsh lessons learned. You become more protected, more guarded, more aware of your surroundings. You trust less, but you’re still you to the outside world, just this more polished version. I am not my mistakes. I am not my past. I am not my failures. I’m more than that. Way more. And with every rejection I receive, I’m only that much more determined to keep trying. To keep improving. To keep writing like I’ve never written before. If you don’t believe in me, who cares, I’ll keep writing until I find someone who will believe in me. I don’t write for you. I write for me. I write to keep going in this crazy world. I write for meaning, for inspiration, for perspective, for peace, for sanity. I write to make others see that triumph really does spawn from tragedy if you just keep going and let that sun reach your face. I will not give up. I will not allow you or anyone else to dampen my spirit any longer. Reject my words but somehow, somewhere, someway, someone will embrace me and I cannot wait for that day and tell you all about it.

PSG Lopes/The Moonlit Goddess’ Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/psglopes

The Literal Versus Creative Mind

blog photo january 29th 2019

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2019.

I had noticed a startling trend throughout my years as an educator. I noticed that kids just were not as imaginative and creative as they were when I was their age. I realized that the reason for this was due to the abundant access to technology. When I was a child, we didn’t have the internet, smartphones, Netflix or Hulu, or any of the fancy sophisticated video games that are out today. The kids of this generation are so overstimulated and are basically handed all the ideas without them having to work for any of it themselves.

I remember one assignment I presented to my fifth-grade students. They were to create their own short story. They had the ability to create their own characters, setting, time period, etc. We carefully went through what each component meant and once I was satisfied that they understood the assignment, I sent them off to work independently. The work I received in return was disheartening, to say the very least. What I got back were twenty-two regurgitated stories ranging from the origins of Mario and Luigi, Pokémon, or Disney princesses. I would remind my students that those stories were already claimed, and I wanted to read stories that came from their own minds. After revisiting the assignment once more, I then received much better stories. Some stories I genuinely felt had the potential to be expanded into novels someday and had encouraged the students to keep pursuing their writing. I had always wondered if their future teachers pushed them the same way that I had or if they reverted back to their literal way of thinking, completely forgetting they have the potential to be wondrous, creative minds!

When it rained or snowed in the 80s or early 90s, my siblings and I stayed indoors, and we used our imagination to create make-believe worlds and fight fictitious creatures and live to tell our harrowing tales! We made tents made out of blankets and used flashlights to scare one another, we would use our older brother’s or father’s camcorder and create screenplays and put on our own shows. We would use my younger brother’s playpen and pretend we were pro-wrestlers and kick the ever-loving snot out of each other. We would do arts and craft projects. I remember my mother buying me this magazine for kids that had tons of art project ideas and she would buy me all of the stuff I would need, and we would make the projects together. I know that when I had free time as a child, I would love to write in my diary or journal. I was always productive in some way that was not directly attached to technology.

Don’t get me wrong, there were days where I’d watch television. That was my vice as a child. I’d watch the heck out of soap operas or other trashy television with my parents and siblings, but in that era, we could take it or leave it. We weren’t addicted and we were able to expand our minds and create original ways of entertaining ourselves.

Here in 2019, I do not see any of these things that made my childhood so magical. Kids of this generation prefer instant gratification, have created a culture of cruelty and thrive on hurting each other, and everything is tied to electronics and the next greatest technological advancement. Parents are always trying to keep on top of their child’s demands and when new video games, cell phones, or other gimmicky devices go on sale, they have to be the first to get them or else they will suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out).

I’ve got a five-year-old cell phone and a just as old Nintendo 3DS and I’m pretty grateful for that. I can’t imagine feeling that pressure to constantly buy the next best thing. It’s tiring and damn expensive too. I guess since I’ve lived pretty humbly for the past four years financially, I have changed my mindset greatly. I recognize what matters more in life and objects and materials just don’t do it for me anymore. I’d rather have my health, the love of my family, good food, and a lot of laughs. Call me old-fashioned.

I remember one of my favorite episodes of the Twilight Zone, “The Shelter,” that perfectly describes how I feel people in 2019 treat each other when they are shown their true colors. “Damages? I wonder. I wonder if anyone of us has any idea what those damages really are. Maybe one of them is finding out what we’re really like when we’re normal; the kind of people we are just underneath the skin. I mean all of us: a bunch of naked, wild animals, who would put such a price on staying alive that they’d claw their neighbors to death just for the privilege. We were spared a bomb tonight, but I wonder if we weren’t destroyed even without it.” I think one major flaw of the current culture is our lack of empathy for one another as well.

Creativity and passion work best when people exhibit compassion, empathy, loyalty, and trust of one another. We need to feel that spark of creativity and instead of wounding each other or living for material goods, tap into that creative spirit and do so because you’re passionate about it not because you’re copying others or trying to compete. Do something creative that you identify best with, not what you feel matches the climate of the current FOMO culture. Quash the ego. Alleviate the troubles of a literal mind and allow yourself to find a passionate outlet within creativity.

I find it difficult being me most days. I feel like I live a very anachronistic life. I have always felt that I belonged in an earlier era in time like the 1940s or 1950s. I look around and see what kids are turning into and all of the politics going on around the world and my head spins. I just don’t recognize this place anymore and it deeply saddens me. Everything is happening much too quickly and often times I just wish for things to slow down. I’m reminded of a quote from one of my absolute favorite plays, Our Town, by Thornton Wilder. One of the characters, Emily, stated “I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So, all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back—up the hill—to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Goodbye, Goodbye, world. Goodbye, Grover’s Corners…Mama and Papa. Goodbye to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?” I still cry when I read this play. This play has, for me, always captured how everyone still takes life for granted. Everything does move much too fast and it needs to slow down. We need to press pause and take a good look at ourselves and find meaning in our lives once more.

I think that Enigma song, “Return to Innocence” says it best: “If you want, then start to laugh. If you must, then start to cry. Be yourself, don’t hide. Just believe in destiny. Don’t care what people say. Just follow your own way. Don’t give up and use the chance to return to innocence.” With that “return to innocence” mentality, imagine what potential we can tap into for our own creative minds!