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  • Writer's pictureCherie Claire

Back to School

I moved to the Atlanta area last year, exchanging the swamps of Louisiana for hardwood trees and backyard deer. I don't live near downtown, hence the wildlife, but on certain days when the wind blows just so, the endless planes taking off from Hartfield-Jackson fly over my house, interrupting the cacophony of songbirds.

I've gotten used to the flights high enough in the sky to produce more of a hum, than a startling noise, but on those days, when flight patterns turn in my direction, it's a steady sound reverberating in my mind.

I'm starting grad school this month.

I'm excited about beginning an MFA in creative writing at a college known for inspiring writers, but my mature brain, the one born of a time when women weren't lifted as high as they are now, keeps nagging at me, saying "Why?" After all, I'm not a spring chicken. And it's not cheap. And I'm a freelance journalist by day, not exactly the income that allows one to spend thousands on an advanced degree.

And yet...of course, it's important. Of course, my age doesn't matter and there are school loans for education that will pay for my degree. I've worked hard my whole life learning the craft, attending conferences and workshops, joining organizations and publishing, publishing, publishing. I have every right to enhance my writing craft, to hang with other writers and talk shop, to allow a mentor to guide me into new frontiers.

I think about those planes flying overhead, much like the fears that plague my mind. When do we, especially as women, stop listening, block out the noise and forge ahead?

Last night I watched the Red Sox play the White Sox on Apple TV. My husband hails from Boston, and we don't have regular TV, so he was thrilled to see his beloved Sox for three hours. I love baseball but find hours of the game on TV tedious so I usually head to the bedroom to read, or, if I watch for a time, mute the talking male heads who, at least to me, try to one-up each other with what they know.

This time, a voice urged me to remain.

The announcer was a woman, a sports-educated, well-spoken, calm sports commentator.

I sat back down. She relayed what was happening on the field, offered up a few facts about the players and that was that. She even allowed silence to fall, much like Vince Scully reported with the Dodgers, my favorite team.

The Apple announcer's cohort, a man and a former baseball player, wasn't as quiet. He did the usual male reporting, spouting off what he knew about the players, the game, the action. So, for half the time, I wanted to reach for the mute button.

My personality and sports preferences aside, it's clear that men own confidence that women failed to receive, at women my age. They don't hesitate to speak, to tell their story, to relay facts. Mansplaining comes forth easily for most. I noticed this in teaching creative writing, when women would nervously explain their stories, adding "I'm not a writer...." while men would happily report their plots at length, adding how it's bound to be a best-seller.

I wonder, listening to those planes cascading across the sky, when the doubts inside our female brains ease up, if they ever will? When will women exude confidence the same way?

Until then, I'm listening to that female sports announcer on Apple TV. And heading to grad school! Delta is ready when I am. And I'm ready.

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