My application for the artists’ retreat was accepted. Or, as I like to put it, I got into France. Come November, there’s the possibility that I’ll be spending a month in Southern France working on my novel. I should be thrilled and proud, and really, I am. It’s a terrific opportunity to return to a country I love, enjoy some time eating delicious food and networking with other artists, and spend the days doing what I love most — creative writing. And yet, right now, I can muster very little enthusiasm.
If this had been a year ago, I would have called my Mom and Dad and Roommate giggling excitedly with starry eyes and big dreams. But now, all I can wonder is, “Ok, what’s going to prevent me from going?”
Because I’m absolutely certain that something will hold me back. That’s my state of mind right now, unfortunately. And it’s entirely unlike me. I think — actually, I know — that I’m protecting myself by trying not to get excited at all. Because getting excited is what I do best, and I’ve learned from recent experiences that it leads to deep disappointments.
“You mean I can go to graduate school and learn about the publishing industry and get my foot in the door through internships and work my way up from there? Awesome. Let’s apply!”
“New York and Boston are the hubs of the publishing world, so all I have to do is relocate, get a great job in the industry, and work my up that way? Cool, when do we move?”
“Oh look, there are editorial positions open at dozens of companies, in various industries, across the country. It’s great experience and I’m qualified, so I have a chance, right? Let’s send in my resume!”
I’m an enthusiast, I’m an optimist, and I’m a dreamer. At least, the person who was eager to take the chances above used to be. Now, however, I don’t recognize myself. At all. Suddenly, I find myself afraid to look forward to prospects, believing that even if I tried I wouldn’t make it. Suddenly, I see opportunity as a road leading to more disappointment.
Usually, it would be a natural tendency to dive in and take that risk — or at least to believe in myself enough to think it was possible. Usually, my heart would naturally hold out some hope, and if I happened to be disappointed by the outcome, I would shed some tears, shrug it off, and continue on.
So what’s the problem now; why am I feeling things so deeply? Why am I letting this situation affect me so much, and how do I change that?
Is this what happens when you turn into an adult? Does life make you lose yourself, that anything-is-possible aspect of your personality? Is all of this telling me that I need to give up on my dream and just be satisfied with whatever I’m doing now, no matter how much it seems to break my spirit?
A neighbor in college used to call me Susie Sunshine, and no, sadly, that’s not a joke. That’s how damned positive I always was. So where is that optimism now? Have I become so discouraged, so jaded that nothing seems promising? Have I lost that annoyingly happy, rainbows and butterflies and puppies-hooray! personality for good?
I wish I could listen to everyone’s advice, to really understand that it’s not just me, that the economy is hard and the job market is difficult for everyone.
I wish I could channel Billy Joel and tell myself to just hang in there, that I’m doing fine (you can’t be everything you want to be before your time…).
I wish I had some words of wisdom for myself about how you have to take risks and that disappointment is a part of life, that the only thing holding me back is myself and my fear, that in order to achieve, you have to learn how to fail. I wish I could look at all of the positive things I have going for me, to see that I have been successful, even if it’s only successful according to my terms, and appreciate what I have. Because I do appreciate what I have; I know, without a doubt, that I’ve been very blessed.
I wish that could be enough for me.
Maybe, despite all of the other lessons I’ve been learning these past few months, I’m still meant to be taught something else.
Maybe it was just time for everything to change.
Maybe I’ve still got a long way to go.