Monday, August 10, 2009
...And Do It Anyway.
In my thirties, I decided that I should do something that scared the heck out of me at least once a year. And I don't mean 'try sushi' or 'drive the LA Freeways at rush hour.' Although, both of those things could, possibly, hold valid fear factors for certain people... People who shall remain nameless... *shudder*
Anyway... I wanted to try something that was so far outside my comfort zone that it would make me break out into a cold sweat, possibly keep me up at night for weeks at the mere thought of how the heck I would ever accomplish it? Okay, I'm a middle child: that need to please, to succeed, and to prove that I, in fact, exist is in the job description.
Writing books was one of my wild hairs. Submitting them for sale, even scarier. Picture yourself stripped naked, holding a flogging strap with a little word bubble over your head saying "Thank you, sir, may I have another? (Name that film.) It turned out, I liked writing and selling books. It became a career.
Teaching writing at a major university extension was like that, too. (I endured an entire sleepless summer wondering how I could conceivably fill a three hour class and BTW, teach anything anyone wanted to learn.) Friends warned me against it, saying it would only interfere with my writing. But I did it anyway, because according to my devious plan, the very idea terrified me. I knew it was a good one. Ten years ago, I conquered that fear and I did not actually expire. I'm still teaching today. Sensing a pattern here?
It's been almost three years since I made the decision to apply to grad school after finding myself smack dab in the middle of an empty nest crisis. I did it with serious prodding from my DH (who understands my middle-child insecurities) but deep down, I relished a new challenge. And I thought it might be a good idea to have a backup plan for the future. Besides writing. Something that might involve a steady paycheck. Like teaching in a real college. So, I applied.
Then, I began to rationalize (Oh, yeah. This was part of the process.) "They won't take me." "I'm too old." "The low residency program is across the country from me. In Vermont. That's just crazy talk." No, I put the application in, I decided, and that was the scary part. I felt vindicated. Relieved. I'd done the hard thing.
Then one day as I was innocently listening to my cell phone messages, counting cracks in the sidewalk, I heard this:
"Hi, Barbara, this is P---, the program director at Goddard. I just called to say congratulations, you've been accepted into the Creative Writing MFA program starting in June..."
The rest I didn't hear. I think I said a four letter word.
By now, this sense of panic was familiar. But this time, I was so scared at the prospect I actually considered not calling him back. It took me two days to even tell my husband about it. But in the end, I did call the director back. And I accepted his acceptance. Because, did I mention? I'm a middle child.
Then, for the rest of the spring, I had a hard time sleeping.
Stay tuned for the stories of my Haunted Dorm Room and other grad school adventures. Meanwhile, inquiring minds want to know: Have you done anything to really scare yourself lately? I'd love to hear.