Sunday, June 12, 2016

ON TRAVELING: TRINITY COLLEGE, WHISKEY, AND SEAGULLS THAT SOUND LIKE THEY'RE ALWAYS DYING

I’ve been in Ireland for a little over a week now with Carlow’s MFA program and I’ve been using my free time to run around the city, journal, and get to know myself again. I’ve been inside a castle, stood outside of Francis Bacon’s artist studio, had tea in the Wicklow mountains, and said prayers at Glendalough. I’ve been sampling whiskey, taking walks and sharing stories with new and old friends, rooting for Poland against North Ireland, and singing Bon Jovi songs in pubs. I saw where Bram Stoker got married, I bought a first edition of Rosemary’s Baby, I attended the Dublin Literary Awards, and I looked at a piece from The Egyptian Book of the Dead that detailed the weighing of the heart ceremony.


I’ve laughed a lot.
I’ve cried in jewelry stores.
I’ve made wishes in rivers and lit candles in churches.
And I’ve fallen in love with the idea of being lost.


You see, this year has been exceptionally transitional for me: mentally, emotionally, and physically. I worked our Pittsburgh residency in January, left for Los Angeles (AWP) in March, followed that up with a trip to Las Vegas (StokerCon) in May, and now I’m sitting in my room at Trinity College in Dublin writing this note to all of you. For those of you who don’t know, I’ll be leaving Carlow at the end of month. It’s a really bittersweet moment for me, but I have a lot of wonderful opportunities/plans lined up, some of which I can’t exactly divulge quite yet, but will when I have the chance. Working for this program has been such a blessing, and the people I’ve met because of it, both in Pittsburgh and in Ireland alike, will always be special to me, because each and every one of them has opened my eyes up to a different style of writing, reading, thinking, and being. It’s truly been a gift and one that I will always, always treasure. But with everything that’s happened this year in both my personal and professional life, it’s important for me to reevaluate a lot of things in my life when it comes to where I am, where I’m going, and where I want to be. If you asked me a year ago where I would be today, my answer would have been completely different, and in a lot of ways, that’s heartbreaking, but it’s also beautiful, too, because I feel more at peace with myself in this moment than I ever have before, and I realize that a big part of that is because I’ve started using my voice.


Quietly, at first. But it’s getting louder.
Even if it still shakes sometimes.


So I’ve been standing at the River Liffey and watching the sunset. I’ve been drinking coffee in cafes half-asleep as I scribble poetry in my notebook. I’ve been carrying around a meditation stone to remind myself to breathe, and I put my hand in the lake at Glendalough to feel the energy of the space. I walk around Dublin thinking about my doctoral application and how I’m writing essays and filling out paperwork to get funding to move overseas. I want to teach. I want to write. I want to wake up in cities where I don’t know the language, and I want to sleep in beds, on benches, and on campsites where I can see the sun rise in different parts of the world. I want my body’s internal clock to be so confused that I sleep when I need to, eat when I’m hungry, and live the life that I promised the high-school version of me that I would.


I grew up in a small town where hardly anyone ever leaves. I dated my high school sweetheart up until graduate school, and I lived such a sheltered life that I didn’t know anything about anything, including who I was. I had barely traveled, I couldn’t do anything on my own, and I was so afraid to make decisions based on what I wanted that I spent a good portion of my life miserable and walking on eggshells. Graduate school helped to change that. So did living on my own. But these past two years with Carlow have taught me to open my eyes and my heart to new possibilities and new places. So yeah. I don’t know where I’m going to end up a year from now. It might be back in school, it might be selling cemetery plots, it might be writing poetry in Galway. But the important thing here is that I’m fine, and I’m happy, and I’m so excited for everything that is ahead of me because there’s this terrifying excitement that I’m holding in my hands that is telling me that I can do and go and be anything and everything that I want.

I don’t even have to say silver lining, because I’m over this perpetual darkness that’s been clouding my vision all this time. Life is a journey-it sounds cliche, but I think we forget that some time—and it’s not meant to be easy and it’s not supposed to be static or lived in one place. I have adventure in my eyes and an imagination that keeps me up most nights because all I want to do is tell stories and travel and collect moments. I want to take pictures. I want to kayak down rivers. I want to eat food and drink beer that I can’t even pronounce, and when I do finally come to the page at night, I want to smile because I’m in Amsterdam, or London, or leaving my classroom in Pittsburgh, or sending a new manuscript to Raw Dog Screaming Press.


I want to write letters to my friends who live across the country.
I want to stand in history and witness how it’s changing me.
I want to celebrate the fact that I’ve been in Italy and Ireland, and that I’m collecting stamps in my passport.


Everything has a way of working itself out.
I’m just along for the ride so I can write it all down.



With midnight walks and open windows,
Stephanie M. Wytovich