A couple of Tuesdays ago marked the last time my non-fiction was workshopped in graduate school. Of course, there are still three more weeks of class to attend, three more weeks of workshopping my cohorts’ writing, but this was the last time my own work came under the microscope. It’s saddening, that two years have passed so quickly, and that I’m about to move back to Chicago and leave behind all these magnificent people. But I’m also ready for a change; two years has been as long as it has short, especially given the location. Every day, I miss the city—for its symphonies, museums, skyline views at twilight, and darkened corner bars not filled with college students.
The past weeks have been a whirlwind. It’s been hard to balance my priorities: There’s still schoolwork at hand, and I do enjoy what I’m reading for my Travel Lit class: It’s based on Dean MacCannell’s The Tourist, a sociological look at the mass production of tourism in the modern age (whatever the modern age really is . . . Hasn’t everyone, throughout time, considered his era “modern”?). But it brings up interesting issues of space and how it becomes marked. Particularly, I enjoy MacCannell’s ideas on how spaces become landmarks—usually, it’s via a socially produced movement that elevates a space to something more than its concrete, physical presence. Here, we get into issues of semiotics, into the signifier and the signified: The place no longer represents just a place, but some emotion or ideal.
This has led me to think, in turn, about our ownership of space. Pete and I talked about this a few days ago, about how our having agency in a place—or at least, feeling as if we have agency—leads to a greater sense of ownership. In places where we feel as if our presence can disrupt the status quo, we’re more likely to feel a sense of propriety. What, really, are “our spaces”? Again, it’s a return to semiotics over the concrete, given that we never really own anything, except in our ideals.
Speaking of ideals, I’m trying to plan my near-future—namely, this means to find a job. I won’t bore you with the details, except to say that I’m really going to do it; I’m going to take the risk. I’m going to try to write for a living, whether it be free-lance or full-time. If I don’t try now, I think I’ll always have that slight sense of regret, of the “what if.” Because, after all, what if it works?