Beginning

What a curse this blinking cursor is.  Aren’t beginnings always the hardest?  That first step, that first sentence, making that commitment of beginning … By far the hardest part of any creative pursuit is staring at the blank space that comes before it.  It’s uncomfortable.

And yet, it’s where the reward is.

Hi.  My name is Ashley Montgomery, I am the Spring 2016 Intern for the Binghamton Poetry Project, and I’m kind of a weirdo.  I mean, I suppose we should get that part out of the way up front.  My mom would call me “unconventional,” and higher education refers to me as “non-traditional.”  It’s safe to say that I have done most of adulthood “out-of-order.”  I’m making those little air quotes with my fingers right now since I’m not really sure if a proper order exists.  But whatever we culturally have defined as the norm, I have flown in the face of it since I was 18.

Now, I’m 31-years-old, a single mother to two children, and a full-time student in the English Literature & Creative Writing program.  After my children were born, I knew that my previous job experience wasn’t going to be enough to support my family, so in 2012, I took the plunge and enrolled at a local community college.  Being a non-traditional student made me immediately feel like an outsider.  I was a decade older than my peers, I had a hard time lining up my school schedule with my family’s schedule, and I was totally out of academic practice.  With social anxiety on top of all of it, I was very uncomfortable.

Much to my surprise, my life experience made it easier for me to participate in discussions, and apparently a handful of years in the workforce and taking care of two children will really develop your work ethic.  I ended my first semester with a 4.0, and that was a real triumph for me.  But as I began to grow and define myself as an individual outside of the role of “wife” and “mother,” my marriage began to fall apart, and I was thrown into an entirely new situation.

My second semester was spent trying to make everything work and inevitably watching my marriage crumble.  My third semester was spent making the shift from being a “complete” family to being a single mother to a 3 and a 6 year old.  My son had developmental delays, and wasn’t yet in school.  I was watching him while my daughter was at school while somehow also completing all of my work.  I’m not sure if I’ve experienced anything more unsettling than making the transition from my identity as a wife/partner to my identity as a single mother.

When I decided to get married, failure was not an option.  I never expected going into it that there was any possibility that I could become one of the divorce statistics.  And leaping into a life without the security of a partner, knowing that all of the responsibility of maintaining the household, the finances, and every aspect of the day-to-day of child-raising would be on my shoulders, well … the sudden weight of that changed me.  It is a discomfort unlike any I’ve ever felt before, and I imagine unlike any I will feel in the future.

But with time I discovered how much I could handle.  I discovered that I was strong and I was capable.  I even discovered that it was okay to not always be in control or have a handle on everything – that vulnerability is not a kind of strength, but the root of it, and that whether you are prepared for it or not, life continues on.

And I think that’s the beauty of being uncomfortable.  I started to understand better what I was capable of.  It fueled my writing in a way I could not have imagined, because all of a sudden I wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable.  I wasn’t afraid to tell my story.  All of a sudden I knew it was necessary – and that it is what connects readers and writers together with little invisible strings.

I spoke the unspeakable.  I told the hard truths.  I opened my heart and allowed it to be truly, intimately seen.

Over these next few months, I hope you will all join me in bravely sharing the stories of your hearts, whether that be through your work or your interactions with others.  I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone involved with the Binghamton Poetry Project better, and may we all become a little better connected – to each other, and to this place we call home.

I’d like to leave you with a challenge.  Leave a comment about a time in your life when you were truly uncomfortable, and how that time has played a role in your writing.

-Intern Ashley

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7 thoughts on “Beginning

  1. Thank you for writing this. I am in one of those times right now. I am transitioning into a new job within the company I work for, trying to learn a whole new set of skills. I moved to this area from the city about 10 months ago and have felt uncomfortable ever since. My job can be extremely stressful and sometimes very sad. The poetry which has come from me during this time is so grown up and has so much courage I was surprised it was coming from me. And as I continue to grow and evolve my writing does too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny, I’m glad that you’ve found that your discomfort has transformed your writing. I think that as we feel through things, writing not only helps us communicate things but also helps us process things and transform ourselves along the way. I would not be surprised if the challenge of your new job facilitated tremendous personal growth as well.

      Best wishes and thank you for your thoughtfulness response!

      Like

  2. Hi, Ashley. It’s funny how uncomfortable and vulnerable go hand in hand. I’d have to say my most uncomfortable time was when I had to ask for help from SOS, now RISE. Like you, when my marriage fell apart, I was not ready. Knowing that I was throwing myself and my children down a very long rabbit hole by blowing the whistle on my ex, and leaving the seven of us alone—almost by CHOICE….and all of the challenges we have faced over the past eight years because of that “choice”…well, nothing in my life had ever, or has ever, come close to that level of discomfort.
    With my writing, it’s made me less fearful. My poetry is honest and I’ve written some wince-worthy words. I like to end my pieces with a statement– a punch. I am still working on second guessing myself with publishing…should I really put that out there for everyone to SEE??? I still just don’t know sometimes. Best of luck with your internship! ~~Celena

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Celena,

    I like to end my poems with a gut-punch of honesty too! I think that my willingness to be open and vulnerable in my work is one of the best things to come out of my situation. I’m glad you found your honest voice after your experience.

    As far as attempting to get your work published, think about the poems you like best, and what connects you to them. For me, when someone bears their soul and has a strong sense of voice it is difficult for me to not feel deeply connected to their work. Remember that vulnerability is what connects you to your audience and know that the first step is always the hardest.

    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Eleven years ago, I lost my father-in-law, a close friend, and my long-time church in the space of a few months. I was not writing poetry at that time but, over the past few years, as I have begun to write more, I have gone back to those events. In recent months, two poems that I wrote about that time period have been published. I find that I need a lot of processing time before I write, so it is natural for me to go back to significant past events as subjects for poems.

    Thank you for sharing part of your story with us, Ashley. Although I was a traditional-age college student, my alma mater, Smith College, had a well-established program for non-traditional-age students, called the Ada Comstock Scholars. I always loved the perspectives these women brought to our class discussions. Diversity is a great gift to education.

    Liked by 1 person

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