Why Finishing School?

The great fear of my life is that I will not do those things I dream of doing. And why is that such a great fear? Because that is the great sadness of my father’s life, which I witnessed and which filled me with a lifelong dread of living a life of unmet potential and unrealized dreams.

Wanting not to repeat one’s parents’ mistakes, trying to foil fate, is the old Oedipal dream. We seek not to become that which we fear to become and then we become it in spite of ourselves. We look at our parents and think we will never end up like that and then we end up like that. So as I have traveled and married and made a living as a writer and aspired to learn the art of fiction and poetry and join the ranks of America’s literary community, I have been at the same time filled with a fear that I would never achieve what I wish to achieve, that I would, like my father, begin many things and finish none.

That is why I created Finishing School, to be quite honest. Because of my own fears. Because of the sadness and regret I saw in my father’s face as year after year he composed songs that were never sung, wrote teleplays that were never televised, wrote melodies that were never played and poems that were never read and stories that were never told.

My father lived in his world and it was a funny, strange, vibrant world but it would never reach anyone but the few who surrounded him and enjoyed his indecipherable, oblique jokes and his arcane references and his weird mix of the ribald and the repressed.

I saw him in his office surrounded by stacks of unfinished manuscripts and it made me very sad. I could see what was happening but I was just a child. I could do nothing about it.

I could do nothing about it and yet I sensed, from a young age, that the problem of not being able to finish a project one has started was not insurmountable; it was not a mental illness; it was not even something that one had to cure in oneself.

It was, rather, just the lack of an alarm clock, just the lack of somebody who would come to the door every week at the same time and say, Hey, how’s it going with that lifelong dream of yours that you care so much about? What’s the next step? What are you going to do this week to complete that lifelong dream of yours? You know it’s a lifelong dream and some of us who love you take it very seriously. You know that, right? So this week was slow? You got sidetracked? That’s OK. You’re still on the bus. We’re all on the bus. We’re going to get there.

Together. We’re going to get there together. That was the key, I knew. And yet I could not give this gift to my father because he was after all my father, that immovable, all-powerful, mythic creature, he who created me, he in whose hands my life rests. That is another story of course, the mythic power of the father whom we cannot overcome. But others, with others, I can get there.

All we needed, it turns out, was a structure, a safe house for our aspirations, an incubator for our our  dreams.

That’s what Finishing School is. It’s a safe house and an incubator where our dreams hatch and grow.

Cary Tennis

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