The following is adapted from a conversation I was having with Sara, and includes one quoted response from her at the bottom.
Do you know when I flunked out of school? What else was going on in my life around that time?
My failure in school is one of those things I mention casually to get out of the way sometimes, but which still cuts deep. I’d never unintentionally failed at school before. I knew I wasn’t ‘genius’, but I’d always been smart enough. And drunk, non-attending frat boys could stay in at ASU, so what was wrong with me?
I can make all sorts of excuses about not agreeing with professors’ philosophies and about it being my first year working in my life and it getting to be too much, and while they’re factual excuses, I think I’ve been covering up that it was due to emotional stress. And loss.
I took 17 credits a semester plus 3 credits each summer session for the first three semesters of my college career for 60 credits in a year and a half before transfering to ASU, and I maintained a GPA above 3.5. I transfered to ASU in the Spring Semester of 1997, and flunked out in the Fall Semester of 1997. By Spring/98, I didn’t even bother to try to go back to school or to get ahead at work or to make anything from my life. I was coasting.
There’s another side to this story though, because I’m not just a student. When I set up to transfer to ASU I was engaged to Amanda. When I started at ASU I was engaged to Melissa, and when she broke it off with me, I had some difficulty continuing to do well there. I think this is because I had changed my path in life from being an academic to trying to get a degree to make a living and support a family, but then my attempts to build that family had fallen apart and I didn’t know why I was there at all.
Then during the summer of 1997 I moved away from home for the first time, still drifting emotionally, and after a time started dating Sara. Which wasn’t an easy experience for either of us, as I’d guess she’d agree. And it was about as far from being engaged with a date set and making plans as I could get, dating a 14 year old I rarely if ever saw. And I was doing a job I didn’t care about and I was studying a subject I didn’t care for, and things fell apart.
And while I didn’t know what I wanted, my life was the way it was because I’d decided before to get married, and then in February when someone appeared to be a ready-to-order family complete with bun-in-the-oven, that old, dirty, neglected part of me that wanted to at least HAVE a track went along with it. My mind and heart and body didn’t want to, but they were under the sway of my own old plans and thought they were doing the right thing at the time.
And Sara and I fell apart and since I hadn’t really wanted what February brought, that disappeared too, and at work my department disappeared out from under me in March and I had to drift over to a desk doing something I liked even less just to pay the bills, and I just didn’t have an idea of what I was supposed to do next, where I was supposed to go next.
That year I moved into the apartments down the street from Collins College that Amanda and I were supposed to live in, and I ran out of plan. That was the last thing from any plan I’d made that I could still really do, and … it didn’t help anything. After 8 months I broke my lease and moved somewhere else, selecting it because it allowed for High Speed Internet Access… and still I drifted.
I started to become depressed and apathetic about my life, about how without direction I had become, about how far from satisfied I was with my life. About the only thing I was happy with was painting, but I only did two or three paintings a year at the time… I let myself go, becoming more depressed than in a long time, attempting suicide on several (including my final) occasions, and I began to act out of character, allowing myself to become physically involved with people I didn’t care about, could never care about, just to see if I could feel SOMETHING. And I lost Art. By best and longest friend, and my roommate. He couldn’t stand me the way I was living.
I was still drifting when I met Iain. He was at the same time a person looking for a plan to follow for his life and someone who knew and accepted (at least the idea and proximity of) the life of hedonism I was slipping into. So, kindred. I was working on trying to figure out how one figures out what one’s goals are, and Iain and I worked on that together for a while. He got me back into creation. Comics creation at first, but that led me back to where I was reminded that I loved to create.
He and I pursuing that with intensity led him to the point where he stepped over the edge and suddenly knew what he wanted out of life and from then on it was a pretty straight shot for him.
So, I tried to do the same thing, that even if I couldn’t have the relevatory experience he had had, I’d do what I wanted with my life, figure out what I wanted most and go after it. So I decided that even if I could only do it part time because I had to support myself financially by other means, I was going to be an artist. And I started pursuing Sara again.
And I hung my art in my house and was very happy with the feeling of being surrounded by my own art. And people loved it and that made me want to do more. And people started offerring to buy it or trade for it, and I started to get the idea in my head that maybe, just maybe, I could make money being an artist.
And at the same time I was able to find some sort of place back in Sara’s life. I’d never stopped loving her or wanting her in my life, but now that I’d decided that the things one wants ought to be the things one goes after in life, I knew I needed to go after Sara. And the more I heard from her and the more I saw her and the more we professed our love for each other, the more I began to believe that maybe, just maybe, I could spend my life with someone I love.
And I was in plan-making and goal-seeking mode, and I tried making plans with her, to be together during or after her first couple of years or college, to move where we could both be happy, and be happy together, and for a week or so we were even engaged to be married, and I thought I was doing well, I was going to be an artist, maybe go to art school wherever we ended up, and above all, I would be with the person I love above all others.
(Besides myself. I knew I needed to love myself before I tried to love someone else, and this whole thing was part of living the love I was growing within and for myself as myself.)
And things started falling apart. Sara told me she couldn’t be with me, for complicated reasons. My financial situation became troublesome because Woody stopped paying rent/etc. My mother was becoming increasingly ill. My grandparents health was beginning to fall apart. And then Iain was getting married and had a job doing what he wanted to be doing.
And I sortof gave up again. I went back to floating, emotionally, as far as the people around me were concerned. Sara moved to Spain, never to be seen again, and I moved to a small house by myself and rarely allowed visitors to stop by. My performance began to suffer at work. Somewhere in there, Art got married, too, and when we’d last seen each other I’d have thought he’d never marry. And it just made me feel all the more alone.
See, somewhere back there around the time that I began to fall in love with Sara, my whole life began to change. I stopped attending school, no longer trying to attain a degree I didn’t care to have or to learn subjects I wasn’t interested in. I stopped dating, no longer trying to attain the love I could never seem to hold onto. I started painting again for the first time in almost seven years, and was creating in other ways that made me feel fulfilled and happy.
Sara had drifted in and out of view for long stretches, but the ways my life has changed since I fell in love with her and began to love her have left an indelible mark on my life. I may eventually have gotten to the point where I knew what I wanted out of life and was trying to get it, but loving Sara burns in me. It drives me to succeed. My love for her makes me want to be the best and most successful version of myself I can be. For Sara. I wasn’t the best version of myself for Amanda or Melissa, and I wasn’t on track to be; I had subverted the me I wanted to be to be with them. To be the me I thought they wanted me to be. But for Sara I’ve always wanted to be 100% genuine Teel.
When I failed out of school, there were a thousand things going on, but I believe now that I failed because I didn’t want to succeed on that path. That that path was a reflection of the person I was becoming for someone else. I see this as true partially because when I decided to go back to school for Art & had to pass the same class I’d failed that got me kicked out of school, and to do so in 1/4 the time, I got an A+. And then in my art classes, even the one where I disagreed fundamentally with the teacher, I got A’s again.
Because I was on the right track.
I may now be closer to the right track. Actually, I think I am exactly where I need to be right now. Family has become a prority for me, and that factors into my desire to help my family out by living here, but moreso, I am able to work on my art unencumbered here. Today I was working in the store all day, but I have an easel and supplies in there and started a new painting this afternoon.
I’ve started more paintings this month than in most of the last several years.
I’m pursuing art the way I want to pursue it, AND I’ve enrolled in a correspondence Art class as well.
The only thing about my life that isn’t going exactly the way I wish it would is that I’m not with Sara. That doesn’t mean the rest of my life is a sham. I’m very happy with it most of the time.
And still in that, I know in my mind that there are circumstances that are for the best that keep her where she is, and I’m fine with that.
What upsets me is … well, I suppose it’s that Sara counts me as a friend… that she keep telling me that she can never love me as much as I deserve to be loved… that it can’t be me travelling through Europe with her this summer instead of some new beau…
It isn’t supposed to be about how much she loves me, for me… and it isn’t…
There’s a smart episode of a TV show I saw where the wife was worried that she didn’t love her husband as much as he loved her, and that it was a problem. At the resolution of the episode, when she finally said something about it to him, asking who loved the other more, he responded with something like “Oh, honey, I love you more. Is that what’s been bothering you? I’ve always loved you more than you loved me. It’s why we’ve always stuck together.” And she thought back and knew he was right, that since they’d first been together, he’d loved her more. And she realised that it wasn’t a problem, it was just how they loved each other.
What upsets me is when I honestly try to explain Sara and I to someone who doesn’t know. When I say that I love her more than anyone, and she loves me more than anyone (save perhaps her mother), and we’re good friends and have known each other for years… and ….
And they always want to know when she’s getting out of school and we’re getting together if I say she’s studying in Spain, or they want to know why we aren’t together now, or why I’m not in Spain, or what…
Because they believe in love when I speak of my love for Sara, and I don’t need to use flowery language; the love is so real they can feel it, and if they’ve known it they want to encourage it, and if they haven’t then they want the people who have known it to enjoy it, so maybe there is love in the world.
So since I moved to Pine I’ve not mentioned Sara to anyone who didn’t already know, and the only people who know I love her are the ones who have caught me answering the phone with her on the other end because they could feel me loving her the minute she was on the line. Because not having to try to explain why we’re not together is a relief of sorts.
And I know full and well that the way Sara loves me is not the intensely palpable thing that the way I love her is. As far as I know, the people around her don’t sense a change in the air when she speaks to me or or of me or thinks of me. But that doesn’t mean we don’t fitt. It doesn’t mean we can’t be happy together.
I wish I’d made a copy of the letter I sent to Sara from Maui. That letter had something in it… I think I’m still living by the sentiment, and I think it was that I’m pursuing her, I’m not giving up, I’m not relenting. I love her and I want her, and I don’t want to stop.
“Teel, I know that I could be happy with you, I know that we could work, but I also know how I feel about love, I want to love someone as much as you love me, I have had hints on how that feels, and I want it too, and I worry that I may not have that with you, but being with you will forsake my having it with someone else”
“Your not being with me does the same for your having it with me.”