I’ve always been someone who tries to seek out safety. If there’s an option between a wild choice and a safe one, I take the safe one. It’s something I’ve written about before.
The relatively safe choices of my past have given me a lot in life. I’ve worked some really interesting jobs in the tech world, and learned a ton of skills I wasn’t introduced to in school. The financial stability my career provided me allowed me to do amazing things with horses — mainly taking Simon to as many shows as I have and knowing what it’s like to have a well trained, reasonably talented horse.
They also led me to Tim, and I wouldn’t dare change any decision of my past if it meant jeopardizing that relationship. But as carefully thought out as all of these choices were, they didn’t save me from heartache. Until I turned thirty, I thought I did everything “right” in life, but things fell apart anyway.
Everything felt hopeless immediately after I lost Tim, but as time progressed I started to peer into what my life might look like without him. The things that previously satisfied me, like the career that I didn’t hate but didn’t exactly love either, weren’t enough. I started thinking about the risky choices I’d been too scared to follow before, and what it might look like if I pursued them now.
The thing about living your worst nightmare is that things can never get worse than that. I’m probably taunting the universe with this next statement, but I don’t believe things will ever get as dark and terrible as they were before. Of course I’m going to feel more loss in my life, and undoubtedly things will be really hard at times… but nothing will be worse than that night in June. As this year started, I didn’t know where I wanted to go forward in life, but I knew I didn’t want to be safe.
The biggest safe choice I made after graduating from college was going to work in tech versus pursuing writing. For many years I identified as a writer and remained secretly proud of my writing accomplishments in school… but stopped writing entirely. I made excuses. I told Tim we would support his career and his school dreams right now, and maybe I’d go back one day when we could afford for me not to work. I half hardheartedly looked for writing groups where I lived, but dismissed the options or never got enough courage to go meet strangers. I’m not sure when exactly, but it all slowly drifted away until I realized I couldn’t claim to be a writer anymore.
Then Tim died, and I lost so much. I couldn’t lose anything else, and clung to that part of my identify like it was my only way to survive. I started writing longer pieces not meant for the blog, something I hadn’t done in years. I signed up for a memoir workshop. I met real writers in Austin, and they became my friends. What was a little candle of a flame inside me caught wind and grew into a wildfire, and soon writing and reading and critiquing work became the happiest joys in this new phase of my life.
Since writing the book became an inner drive that took precedent to everything else, I decided to take a risky choice — I applied to graduate school. I picked seven creative nonfiction MFA programs across the country, and told myself that if I was lucky enough to get in, the decision felt right and I got funding… than I would go.
For about three months at the end of last year, I busted ass on these applications. Some amazing people helped me, from my past and present and even blog readers. I whittled down my writing into two samples, re-wrote my statement of purpose until I felt dead inside and got everything to the schools before Christmas vacation.
And I got in. Out of seven programs, I was accepted into three and waitlisted at two. Please forgive the brag, but for my first run at draft season… this was a great success.
Then I picked the school that seemed like it could be a good fit, and flew out for a twenty-four hour trip to meet the faculty and get a sense of the town. At the end of that quick jaunt, I couldn’t think of a reason not to go.
So last week I gave notice at work. This fall I’ll move to Southern California, where I’ll start my first year as a creative nonfiction student at the University of California Riverside’s MFA program.
Put simply, I’m terrified… but I’m also excited. I have no idea what my life is going to look like in two years, and I don’t know if this degree will change my life or be a really interesting detour before I go back to a career in online marketing.
There’s so much I don’t know, but that’s life really. Even when we think we know — we don’t. It sounds cliche to say that I’m excited for the journey, but I am. For the first time in my adult life, I’m really looking forward to the risk.