This phrase "the war is over" keeps running through my mind these days. The main reason of course is John, the love of my life, having appeared so unexpectedly, spectacularly and irrevocably in my life, blowing my mind in every conceivable way. I have written about that in the past few blog posts, so will not review that territory other than to say: yes, it is real and happily, as of today, he got his passport so we will finally be in the same physical room (not to mention country) together relatively soon. That has been a cause for general merriment and celebration between us.
So, the war is over in this deeply personal part of my life. No need to fight, defend, hold back, etc. and that is just an astonishing gift, the gift of the resting heart - held safely by another. Breathtakingly beautiful.
But happening alongside this (and this movement had begun before John and I connected and is part of how we did connect - because I was following this train), I began to give up other wars as well. I decided to stop fighting the fact I am an artist first and foremost. And, most relevant to my recent past, I have decided to stop my war with academia by surrendering the field for now.
Yes, I have a PhD, which means I fit myself into that ill-fitting model long enough to do that, like the proverbial jigsaw puzzle piece that almost fits, but doesn't quite. The role chafed. I chafed at everything to do with the process. I succeeded, but almost as soon as I had, I thought: really? Why on earth did I do that? The irony being that in defending the artistic process as a methodology, I feel like I seriously hurt myself as an artist and independent thinker.
Don't get me wrong, I have lots of friends who are academics and know people who thrive and do great work in that environment. This is not about: academia is horrible, etc. This is about: academia is horrible for me. At least for now. [update Aug 2013: Glad I said 'for now' because as all things turn, so has this - again. I am seeing places in academia (which is of course a big 'place') that I may be able to thrive. The main thing I need to do is make sure it's the right fit, in the Spinozan sense, wherein we make each other bigger rather than smaller. I am re-opening my mind to this possibility, and I feel the need to write this here in case one of the places I apply and/or contact reads this blog post and wonders WTF I have applied at all...]
It's been 3 years since I received my PhD and only now do I feel I can go back and read my beloved philosophers like Deleuze & Guattari with joy again. Instead of looking for proofs, justifications and footnotes, I get to listen to their music, enjoy their provocations and make work and have ideas in response to their actual, activating playfulness and subversion (humorously enough, autocorrect tried to change subversion into supervision!)...
And my work, which I am tentatively moving back into now can happen outside of the stultifying frame of "research." It's not research other than into the creative process itself and in order to make better work. It doesn't exist as raw material to make better theory. Not for me anyway.
I feel like I'm detoxing from having been in a cult of some kind...which means that I was in the wrong place. Again, I will say, for lots of people this is Not their experience in academia, but for me it has been. [update: and again, as above, I am beginning to see, now that I'm not locked into the places I was that there are alternatives where people are experimenting with new models and where I may fit]
So, the war is over. I go away now. I let the academics do their thing and I come back into myself. All of my goals now are about becoming a self-sustaining artist and teacher (preferably doing independent teaching, such as at The Brecht Forum, and every once in a while at any institution that likes what I bring to the table as an artist-teacher such as Hunter). [update: I have recently been hired to teaching writing at Fordham and am deliriously happy about that, hence my reassessment of this whole situation.]
I love teaching. I love my students, passionately - and therein lies the rub for me. Because I can't teach except with 110% of myself involved, which means it depletes my creative energies. If it didn't, I would not be bringing everything I can to the table, which would be robbing my students. That is unethical and frankly impossible for me to do.
So, I have to balance even teaching with my creative energies. In June, I will turn 50, so my energies are not infinite anymore. They haven't been infinite for a while, but the fact of their limitations is more and more obvious the older I get.
There is a paradox, though, which is: when I surrender the idea of what I "should" be doing or become, and instead focus on who I actually am and what I do best, I have way more energy and things seem to flow. I met John during a week when I had thrown up my hands to the Universe and said: OK, where next. I woke up every morning and before checking email, etc. on my "smart" (aka idiot-making) phone, waited to remember my dreams and wrote them down. I was doing this partly guided my Marion Woodman's experience as recounted in Stephen Cope's excellent new book The Great Work of Your Life (which I highly recommend).
Hilariously, one dream was about a dating site (!) that a friend had recommended. So, against all my better judgment I decided to sign up to this site (OKCupid in case anyone wants to know...) and within minutes, John appeared, because he had put into his search field "Deleuze" and "photography." Much to his surprise, someone showed up (only one): that was me.
I hated the dating site, except for this interesting Canadian dude with the philosophy/art thing going on, so signed out of it fairly quickly but not before exchanging email addresses with John, who I thought would be an interesting pen pal (seriously)...so, there you have it. Oh, and in case anyone wants my sage dating site advice, here it is: if you want to filter out creeps, don't publish your photo (because if someone can't be bothered to get to know you without knowing what you look like, what's the point?) and be honest about who you are. Don't try to give answers you think people want to hear, because then you will be dating someone who is dating a facsimile of you, not you. Simple, but true. It was the very idiosyncratic nature of our profiles that drew John and I to each other. They simply did not look like anyone else's. That's kinda the point.
Another random piece of advice, completely subjective: Canadians are great. Believe it or not, the daughter of my best friend's husband met her partner, now wife, on OKCupid, too - and she's Canadian. Not sure what is going on with our friends North of the Border, but whatever it is, hooray! You all are the best.
Speaking of which, one of my best friends, also Canadian, Dr. Kélina Gotman, is an academic and she rocks the house. She is a perfect example of someone who is creative, vital and sustained by academia. She and I work together beautifully, because there is a synchronicity there. Her writing about my work (links to that on blog in right margin) is gorgeous. This is why I know academia itself is not stultifying in and of itself. It's the Spinozan thing wherein certain bodies enhance one another and others diminish one another. The interaction between the bodies is all.
So, the war is over. I am not attempting to fit into jigsaw puzzles with pieces that almost fit but don't quite, whether it's professionally, creatively or personally. I was beginning to feel my way along this road again when John came along, but his presence has lit the path and made me feel held and more secure on what had seemed like a pretty damn lonely road for many, many years and looked to be pretty gloomy up ahead. What a difference true love makes!
Here's to finding the right traveling companion (and your very own path - because if you're not on your own true path you won't find your true traveling companion) and a wish for you all that you find the right companion or, if you already have, that you never, ever take that person for granted. He or she is the greatest thing that's ever happened to you, so please don't forget it. I hope I never lose the knowledge of deep love I have for John right now, the sense of cherishing and deeply felt, abiding joy. There is simply nothing like it and certainly nothing better on this earth.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.
I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.