This blog has never held any personal content but I realized recently that I’m living out my last few months in New Paltz under a rock i.e. at work or in my bed. If this post comes up on your dashboard chances are you are one of my studio friends and if I have not reached out to you since December I just want you to know I am alive and I miss you and I have some explaining to do. I had a lot of grand plans in November when I was on high thesis-alert and lusting after free time and non-obligatory art making. I was going to cook family dinners with Julie and visit the studio on a regular basis and have this wonderful goodbye-college experience but there was something holding me back. That something? Oh that was just the thesis document. The infamous and illusive thesis document that is kept in the office for years after your departure, when your presence in the studio is long gone and your work is no longer seen or explained. That document is the most important little piece you leave behind. And here is my confession: mine is still not done. Now, many people reading this already know from my own admission that I have not completed my paper. Others have probably overheard comments. But let me put it in print on my own for everyone to read: I finished school in December, I have not finished my thesis paper. I have not published the book. Therefor, I have not officially graduated college. That fact has been a black cloud heavy with guilt and embarrassment hanging over my head for months. But here’s why it is so: Life has a way of happening. And here is how it happened to me.
On December 6th I had my thesis opening. It sounds a little cornier than I would like to admit but that evening was a wonderful whirlwind that I can barely remember but I do remember one thing: I smiled more in that night than I did during my entire final semester of college. It was an amazingly proud experience just like I had hoped it would be and I am still so greatful for the help I received from my friends and peers that helped make it happen – all of the thoughtful suggestions, emotional support, patience from loved ones, coffee/cig breaks at odd hours of the morning, and the helping hands during installation. It was all amazing and I am so thankful that I ended up in an environment that put me in contact with such wonderful humans for 4 short years. But no one tells you what really happens after thesis, during winter break before your paper is finished but after the work is made. You need a break. You need to sit on the floor of your mothers house for two weeks and feel sad about how much you already miss your best friends and how you no longer have a place to work but how intensely you feel you need to keep working because stopping cold turkey after your summer grant and a semester-long thesis is HARD, and how difficult it seems life is going to be now that you have a BFA but you have no job prospects outside of waitressing and youre poor because you had to take off of work Nov/Dec to make time for your thesis which cost you nearly a grand to make. In fact, youre so stupidly poor that you cant afford christmas gifts and you cant afford your rent or your portion of that disgusting $700 oil bill you just got because you have a housemate who thinks 72 is an appropriate setting for the heat. All of these things come up and its absolutely overwhleming to think about WRITING about a body of work you just stressed yourself 10 pound thinner to make. Because you didn’t write all semester. All you did was drink coffee and make. And you thought it was okay.
So then you look for a second job. You apply to a chocolate shop on a whim and get hired. You work 6 days a week in two different towns to regain some financial stability. You start doing your laundry again and cooking on a semi-regular basis because groceries are affordable and grown-ups make dinners in advance and freeze them. You watch your best friend start to draw in her room at night when you get home from work and you pick up that crewel yarn you’d been dreaming about and start making new things that don’t really mean anything other than a new start and a continued love for pattern. And then you write and it starts to feel natural again. Your sentences make sense and the words come easily and you forget about all the hang-ups you had in January about third-person, and present versus past tense. You adapt out of the intense 18-hour studio days and notice how much more fluidly you work in 30-minute increments, in silence, between unrelated tasks on your day off. You take cigarettes breaks alone. You just write some shit down because it just needs to be done. I’m the first person to admit that my biggest shortcoming is my inability to finish things. And by things I mean everything. The last 2 sips of coffee because it’s not hot enough, the last drying cycle of my laundry because I already finished 3 other loads and my thesis paper because oh well, you won’t get a diploma until May so who fucking cares anyway?
Well, its happening. Just like life in the studio happens after you’re gone. The paper is being written. Truthfully I’m just a couple edits away from finishing it and just a couple hours of finicking away from completing the book. I don’t know how many days that will take but I’m hoping that by the end of April my thesis document will be archived up on the shelf in the office with all the other successful graduates. And I’m making plans. Dreaming about my own space to work. Saving up to buy a space thats big enough to invite my friends. Emitonally preparing myself for the next big phases; finishing up my lease and moving back to Middletown. You know, just trying to be.
But my biggest reason for writing this is to say that feeling shitty is temporary. And if you’re a little more responsible than I was and a little less scared of change, you’ll be fine. Make your thesis. And don’t forget to write about it too.
aka Daniel Aktas
Keep your Dreams alive. To acheive anything you must understand that it requires faith and belief in yourself. Remember, all things are possible for those who dont stop believing.
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