In which I am surprised.

My UIC friends, specifically Ms. Sacha Fierce, threw me a surprise birthday party this evening.  It was so successful that I walked in, everyone said surprise, and I turned around to see whose birthday we were celebrating.  It took a solid ten seconds and Sacha pointing at me for me to clue in, “Oh hey!  Me?”

They hid it from me for two weeks.  And the day of, I changed plans not once, but three times, and somehow twelve people managed to wrangle me into the bar with the silly hats and the cupcakes only an hour ahead of schedule, and I WAS SO SURPRISED OMFGKITTENSWIN!!1!

It is all about the people.  I am speechless, wide-eyed and glowing.

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Awesomesauce.

I have been meaning to post the utter happy for a week.  It’s spring break, though, so procrastination has ruled ’til now.

I won a thing!  A big department thing with money and stuffs!  But even better, way better, my brilliant colleagues (brilliant, I tell you) have given me collective warm fuzzies.  In what kind of program is the response to winning a thing not “I cut you,” but “hey, congrats!”?  I love these people more than conversation hearts, more than spring break, possibly more than alcohol.  I’ve won things before (haven’t we all or we wouldn’t be here?), but never when the field included a wall of geniuses.  My writing is unrecognizable from itself a year ago, and that is about the caliber of work I’m reading and criticizing–my colleagues’ work.  This is how a program is supposed to be, fear and loathing and a commitment to stop sucking and the joy of failure.  And then the rare success that is all the sweeter for everything that got cannibalized to get to three paragraphs that work.  Surrounded by devious minds, mine struggling to keep up…I couldn’t have conceived this life a year ago.

Girlwonders is a smiling girl.  Trying to pay close attention to what that feels like, for some future rainy Clarion day.

A life so full of joy.

So I keep track of my people on that ancient social networking tool, the Facebook.  Was bumming around and came across the pile of pictures from my hometown theater’s faux-prom. Everyone all dressed up snappy sassy and getting wild.  I miss Patty, and Laura, and Rich, and every time I see pictures of Matt my breath catches a little because even when making terrible faces with a garter on his head, he’s still the prettiest thing ever and I miss him.  I even miss the grumpy ones, the bitter ones, the ones who didn’t like me all that much.  ‘Cause they’re my people, you know?

And I know, because it’s theater, that likely as not all those laughing people are probably harboring secret resentments and crushes and what we see in the picture is an illusion and blah and blah.  Then I have to keep from idealization in absentia.  If I were there, I’d be desperately wishing to get out.  Now I’m out and I’m pining?  WTF?  I want to tell all those people to look through those pictures and see the happiness spilling out everywhere.  Good to stop and notice joy every now and again.

I just submitted to Clarion, two brand new stories, both of which I’m actually rather proud of.  It’s been so long since I devoted my brain to fiction, it was a rusty trap, and yet once I pushed through the shitty first drafts, well…yeah.  Working titles: existential crisis of robot and gender-swap Jesus.  As I said, I’m actually pleased.  If I don’t get into Clarion this year, I’ll at least know I did my best.  Opened the docs up last night and spotted five (five!   How?!) typoes, but that’s just Murphy.

Last night I rode the bus for two hours going nowhere.  I need to learn to read maps.  Was trying to get to a steampunk meet-up, but…epic fail on my part.  That said, Chicago night bus drivers are sweetness itself.  This guy was determined to help me reach my destination, despite the fact that I’d written the directions down wrong.  He was genuinely disappointed when I gave up and got off the bus to head home.

Chicago is worlds of awesome.  I went to see Brian Dennehy in Krapp’s Last Tape, $13 nosebleed seats.  I’ve never seen theater like this.  Luis Urrea is still a love. Although I’m tragedized that I missed Neil Gaiman’s pitstop in Naperville.  Director of the Program for Writers is setting up a mini-class with me and the other trauma memoirist, to “address issues you’re having with the form.”  So that’ll be fun.  And tonight I’m going to Mexican food and then on to a giant reading/party for a literary magazine run by one of my colleagues.

When I line everything up, I know I’m happy here, happy and productive, my little brain chomping away at everything I’ve been feeding it.  Critical theory!  Memoir!  Fiction!  I can see myself getting better, which means change must be happening quickly.  I fear plateauing, boredom, and loneliness.  But it’s almost Spring Break, when I’ll get a shot in the arm of Flag love.  Almost there.