In May of 1987, I put on a stupidly expensive evening gown that I'd bought (while still in high school) without any hope of ever getting to wear the thing. If you're friends with me on Facebook, you know I have a thing about wildly impractical gowns. Even though my day to day uniform consists of cut-offs, flip flops and a tee shirt, I'm all about every woman buying at least one such gown in her life. I wish I could tell you I'd limited it to one. What I can tell you is that in May of 1987 I finally had a legit reason to wear my silly evening gown out in public. (Yeah, sorry, I have a photo of it, but only that - it's not digitized. I wish. Frankly, it was over the top and slightly garish, but hey. It was the 80s. I was an artiste. O_o)
I got to wear it for a graduation ceremony that almost didn't get to take place.
It was the graduating class from Cornish College of the Arts. My class from the acting department was graduating ten people. Three years before, we'd started with twenty. Of those twenty, only eight remained (we'd gained a few along the way, too.) Attrition was a THING. An acting conservatory sounds like something that ought to be a walk in the park, doesn't it? It was three years of mentally, emotionally, and physically hard, hard work. Long hours. And lots and lots of digging around in your own emotional guts. For a lot of people, it got too hard and they turned away from it.
Yet even for those of us who dug into each challenge, our paths were not necessarily assured. Each year, we had to be invited back to the conservatory in order to continue studying there. We faced three hurdles, GPA, a professionalism score solicited from teachers and peers, and our final hurdle, a frank assessment by the teaching staff as to whether, in their opinion, we had a future in the craft. That last one came down to a yes/no vote. Clear all three and you got to enroll. Fail any one of them and you'd get a form letter explaining that your time at Cornish had come to an end. Don't call us, kid.
Between my junior and senior year at the conservatory, my stats were solid. Yet when my teachers voted on my potential, I split the staff. Half of them wanted me gone. The other half just as adamantly wanted me to stay. The director of the program declined to break the tie and none of the teachers could talk any of the other teachers into changing his or her vote. So, by the skin of my teeth, I got to stay and I got to graduate. I only knew about it because one of the teachers took me aside and told me about it, after. He also told me that the teachers who'd voted to keep me in the conservatory all cited the same reason. Sheer determination and stick-to-itiveness. He said that if success came down to never giving in, I had it in my teeth.
I'd had no idea that I'd made that impression on anyone - that I was determined (I was). I was disconcerted, and maybe a little defensive about nearly being kicked out, but I was also proud. It was another challenge that made me work all the harder that final year. And I was prouder still to get to graduate despite the doubts of half of my teachers.
This story plays directly into what I'm proudest of in my writing. I won't give up. I've stuck to it and will continue to. Slings, arrows, and outrageous fortune notwithstanding. I keep on keeping on. I have story gripped in my teeth, and I am that bull dog that will not let go. There's no graduating this time. And no one voting over my fate. Just me and the stories. Which in some ways is too bad. Because it means not getting to wear another silly evening gown in public.
I vote we create a writers tea somewhere fancy. White tie. Impractical evening gowns encouraged. We gather once a year to celebrate everyone who stuck with writing, no matter what. Determination. Stick-to-itiveness. That's something to be proud of.