michaelleepoetry

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(via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx6-xRJibSQ)

I try and keep it 100

I realized that on my artist page, apart from sparse political and social commentary, I mostly post positive things, publications, shows, grants, gratitude and excitement for the future, and there is something to be said for that. For me, seeing people doing well and succeeding inspires me to work harder, but at the same time in a world where we are always expected to show our best sides all the time we can be faced with hugely internalized self doubt and depression when it seems things are coming easily to everyone but us. Here’s the deal, I did get the biggest literary award of my career yesterday, but here’s what you haven’t seen. I have been consistently applying for grants and and residencies since I was twenty. 

I have received two. Between June of 2012 and August of 2013 I was rejected by every literary journal, grant, fellowship, residency that I applied for. 30+ journals, 10+ grants and fellowships. Of the booking emails I sent I probably booked at less than 15%. There were days I “quit” writing. There were days I didn’t want to get out of bed. There were weeks I didn’t touch a pen or open a book, times I looked in the mirror and told myself “I should quit” as many times as I looked in the mirror and told myself “I can do it”. I spoke badly about another writer’s work solely because I felt poorly about my own. I talked badly about a literary journal because that was easier than heading back to the drawing board after another rejection. I projected by anger centered in my own shortcomings and self doubt towards friends and family who have done nothing but support me. I have talked poorly about myself. I have felt insecure in my own skin and with my body. I have broken someones heart and had mine broken. I have believed love did not exist and I have believed that it does though I am unworthy of receiving it. I have wanted to die. I have wanted to leave and never come back. It might be a more pleasant experience to read the good news and the successes, but its also not human.

I am not extraordinary. I am a normal ass dude who falls short often and then admits it. I like being alone. Sometimes I wish I had been able to pursue a life as a track athlete. This does not speak to any sort of personal resiliency, it speaks to the human experience. My senior thesis professor was rejected 500 times before his first publication and now has more than 10 books. My story, which is hardly at its beginning, is not about being extraordinary, its about failing 100 times so that you may succeed once before failing 100 more times after that. Its about realizing that nothing is wasted, that every time you miss the mark you can learn something, you can better yourself and your process, whatever it is. 

I am a human. I fall short. I get angry. I cry. I say hurtful things. I admit when I’m wrong, but not always as often as I should. Sometimes I want things to happen without working for them, sometimes I feel owed. We aren’t owed anything. We are responsible for the input and not the outcome, we are responsible to ask for help when we need it and give help when it is requested of us, we are responsible for being honest in our humanity and vulnerable in our honesty, we are responsible for giving the world the most real versions of ourselves as we can at any given moment. The work never stops. The most extraordinary thing about humans is that we are are not extraordinary at all, god how beautiful is that? What a curse it would be if everything came easy.

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“The only history I trust is the one written by calloused hands…”

“Anvils”, Michael Lee, Texas Grand Slam 2013