My name is Michael McGuire. I am a 30-year-old songwriter, poet, and author. This is the brief story of why I have yet to graduate from college.
To start with childhood, I spent most of my time alone, listening to baseball games on the radio, reading or playing guitar in my bedroom. I was a Beatlemaniac and also dreamed of becoming the next Bob Dylan. As I grew into my High School years, and the last of my three older sisters went off to college, it was to happen that my Dad was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I, as already an angry teenager, felt embittered with the world around me, and my relationship with my father was as strained as any could be, for convoluted reasons. To leave out much of what was happening in my life in those formative years, it is as much to say that I ended up graduating from High School with a 3.2 GPA, even as I was watching my Dad deteriorate all four years. As a Senior, I went to school at 6am so I could leave early – driving my Dad to the pharmacy or wherever – and I eventually ended up graduating early as well, leaving school in March to begin work as an Environmental Education teacher at the age of 17. It was around that time my Dad’s health plummeted, and by late May, he was dying. I remember I was teaching a class when the Camp Director let me know it was time I go home; that He was on his way out. My sisters came home some time in the next day or so, and our last week together as a family of six was the most intense situation I’d ever been in. Oddly, my situation years later would trump the emotions of that week.
My Dad died on June 1st, 2006, and I walked to get my diploma that weekend. A few days later, I left to continue working at that Camp, where I spent the summer in the Nature Department leading hikes and discussing more of what the natural world can tell us about life than the names of trees and plants. As someone who wasn’t even of voting age, I was already deeply philosophical about existence, and with small town Ohio seemingly the only thing standing between myself and my dreams of becoming a serious writer and musician I finished the summer and went off to the University of Cincinnati to begin school. Interestingly, I found that a big city wasn’t yet my bag and I transferred to Ohio University after one quarter. I liked OU enough – even coming back after working at the same camp for another summer – but when I went back for my sophomore year, I realized school wasn’t what I then needed. I dropped out in October and moved to Asheville, North Carolina to begin what I assumed was going to be a career as a performing musician.
Time went by. I went back to Camp for one last summer- this time as the head of the Nature Department. I moved back to Asheville again. Then I moved to Cleveland. All through this time, I was fervently writing songs, amassing enough material for three or four albums, which I would make and release on my own over the next year.
It was around this time, at the age of 23, that things began to get a bit wild for me. I had been struggling with my mental health for most of my life, but my early 20s found me riddled with regret and I decided to go back to school to become an Audio Engineer. Days passed, weeks passed, months passed, and I stopped going to class, stopped going outside, stopped doing much of anything but smoking cigarettes and drinking. My writing became everything that mattered. Then, in late winter 2012, I had a full-blown manic episode, was hospitalized for a week, and ended up flunking out of school.
Oddly enough, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. So I bummed around for the spring and summer, couch surfing with family. I eventually moved to Portland, Oregon, where I had a friend with whom I had been playing music before. I wanted to leave everything behind me; wanted to pretend a Bipolar I diagnosis was beneath me. I wanted to prove to everyone that I could beat it without trying. A few months of work and no medication, and I was back in full-blown mania. This time, it landed me homeless.
I lived on the streets of Portland for about 6 weeks in late winter/early spring 2013, playing music sometimes for money until my guitar was stolen. In a state completely impossible to describe in the confines of this essay, what I was doing was writing. And writing and writing. Down to a measly 110 pounds, I still went into coffee shops or bars – depending on the time of day – and rarely asked for anything more than a cup of water and a pen so I could sit, warm up, and write poetry (this poetry became a series I’ve self-published, entitled Just Napkins because of what I was writing on). Reeling, reckless, and nearly dead, I at some point checked myself into a hospital, where I would stay for the next 5 weeks.
Finally to the point where my condition could be labeled a disability, there was simply no way I was going back to work any time soon. The next three years found me moved back to Cleveland, where I spent a great deal of time crafting a portfolio of music releases, poetry collections, and novellas, all of which I would self-release in one form or the other.
To date, I have self-published two works of poetry (Just Napkins; The Wasn’t Tide), a collection of poetry and essays (Time and Essence), and over 200 songs in various form (LP, EP, etc). I am in the process of editing and rereleasing my prose, which add up to four separate novella-length works of fiction (The Will and The Won’t; A Way To Go Sideways; The Way It Is (And The Way It Never Will Be); Oh Yes! or, Pink Lady) that I am certain all add up to an impressive body of work for a 30 year old.
All of this aside, my wish is to go back to school. I’d like to better harness my abilities; to learn how to edit wisely; to finish what I started; to somehow make the memory of my Dad, my Mom, my sisters, proud to see me come all the way back around and finish what I started…school is the only thing I’ve ever begun to never finish. And I’ve gone through too much in my 20s not to start my 30s off by doing so.