Even being constantly surrounded by people for the majority of the weekend, the whole experience felt rejuvenating rather than draining. Everyone at the conference was wonderfully friendly and absolutely thrilled to have yet another conversation about books or poetry or the super awesome panel they had just seen.
AWP is full of amazing treasures, interesting people, and SO. MANY. BOOKS. But traveling from one corner of the country to another can lead to a cultural shock, so I’m here to help the fellow PNWers cope with these possibly terrifying changes.
So, of course, AWP this year was slightly different. This year I not only knew what to expect, but could walk past the tables and mutter to myself, “Ah! It's that journal, so glad to see them here. Wonder if they are still...” or “I have to find this journal. I saw it while researching and it looks beautiful!” Whatever the utterances, I no longer felt like an uneducated impersonator in the sea of writers, editors, and publishers.
Why is this moment not enough, without the need to share? Do I just want to brag, or is there a good-hearted motivation there too? What am I so afraid of, that I can’t refrain from sharing?
The “I” is no longer the lookout for viewing a receding vanishing point, but has itself become that point. We self-gaze, trapped in chronology, dreaming of destinations. What emerges is a multiplicity of terminals.
Harry Potter had given me back the way I’d read in childhood—for no other reason than to be swept away by a great story. It was about the smell of the paper, the swish and crackle of a turning page, zooming through paragraph after paragraph to find out what happens next.
If I start thinking, “I have to restore my historical consciousness!” or “My life depends on reknitting the past and future into my experience of the present!” I will feel overwhelmed and probably implode into depression. But maybe changing my experience of time can start with more simple decisions.
In a way, this approach to 40 reflects a new approach I hope to take toward myself: Let what comes come. I have a tendency to be too hard on myself when I don’t accomplish items on the arbitrary checklists that exist only in my brain, to feel bad about myself when I learn of friends’ successes and achievements, regardless of whether I have any desire to do the things that they have done. My hope for year 40 is that I learn to give myself a break.