Most of the time, I vacillate between being brave and being safe, i.e. stuck. I have my entire life. I’ve “broken into” state parks late at night with friends, deciding at the top of the fence I’d just scaled with abandon that I was too afraid to come down.
“It’s ok, they can just arrest me,” I shouted down to my friends.
Thankfully, reminders that I’d be charged with a felony or might be surrounded by coyotes before the rangers found me was enough to coax me down.
I tried to break up with my husband on a daily basis from the time he asked me to marry him until our first wedding anniversary (obviously, I married good and patient man). I’ve run over a mattress that was left in the middle of the road one night because I was more afraid of driving off the road in the dark. I once accidentally shifted into reverse instead of drive and drove high-speed into the car behind me because I was afraid of rolling backward into them in the first place.*
And I’ve done many, many, other things. Fear makes you do a lot of stupid sh*t.
But, I think you get the point. I’m ambitious, sometimes a bit reckless, but almost always afraid.
Maybe a lot of us are this way.
One of things I've been most afraid of in my life though, is wasting it. I've been afraid of making the "wrong" choices. And by "wrong", I mean the least efficient, effective, and beneficial ones. I got a degree in education because I believed that it would offer me job stability, even though halfway through, I knew teaching wasn’t for me. I got a Master’s degree in theology because I believed that was the best way for me to impact and care for people. By the time I was done, I realized that I have major issues with the church as a system and Evangelical Christianity, what I had spent most of my life practing, especially.
While I was getting that undergraduate degree in Education, I took some creative writing classes as a bright spot in an otherwise dark and draining time. I loved to write, but I was terrible at it. I had countless meetings with my professors and instructors, usually at their behest.
Conversations typically went something like this:
Professor: “Are you sure this is the class for you?”
The nicest thing that a professor, one who taught poetry, ever said to me was that I had the essential 10% talent, but that I wasn’t showing her that I could do the required 90% hard work.
So I stopped. I was bad. It was a waste of time. And in my early twenties, I didn’t think I had much of it to throw away.
I barely wrote again for the next seven years. While I was in great school, I hated writing research papers, so I convinced myself that I hated writing, ignoring the joy and ease I felt when I was allotted a creative writing project.
Once I graduated, I didn't write anymore.
Until one day, I couldn’t not. You can read that piece here.
Writing about what it means to be a woman and Latina and mother and wife and just a citizen of this crazy society is how I make sense of it. I need it. It helps me to find perspective, and in many ways, parse out what I really think and who I am.
If I want to write well, I have to be honest. This could mean offending or confusing people. It could mean that I might recognize things I don't like about myself or my life or the world, for that matter. I could encounter things that I need to change. I can't just be a passive participant in my life. It's no wonder I didn't try harder to succeed in my writing classes before. I was terrified.
My husband, Ryan, has been telling me for years that I’m a “really good writer.” Not even just a good writer, but good enough to “do something with it," which is what I think most people hope for. I could just write for myself; keep my thoughts curled and locked in old-school journals, littering my bookshelves. But I like sharing my writing. I like for other people to read my words and feel less alone. I like feeling less alone when someone else understands what they mean.
I don't know if I'll ever "do something" with my writing. I don't know if I'll ever make money by writing or win any awards. I seriously doubt it'll gain me any notoriety. But despite not offering any financial security or a concrete sense of purpose, writing helps me to make meaning of my life. It's this creative act that invites me to have an imagination beyond efficiency, effect, and how beneficial something can be to me. And in my sharing, you're invited to dream, too. We're in it together.
So here I am today, a stay-at-home mom/nanny with 100 grand in student loan debt, and no real plan to use the degrees that landed me in it. I'm pretty much living out one of my greatest fears. But I’m writing, for myself and for you. And I’m ready and, maybe for the first time, able to do that 90% hard work. It feels more worth it to me now.
*I realize now that maybe I shouldn't have used so many driving examples. But, I was a much younger woman then. I don’t make those kind of mistakes anymore.