On Maturity

Transitions. I forgot about those.

It is official now. I quit my job. I'm going to visit my best friend in Chile in about four days. I will be starting a graduate program in creative writing a week after I get back. There are moments when this feels like the best decision in the world, and moments when it feels like I just shed about ten years of maturity, lost and unsure of myself.

Last night, while at a dinner party in my parents' neighborhood, I met a young man who is doing an MFA at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, perhaps the most prestigious graduate program for writers in the country. I asked him what his experience has been like, and he asked me what my goals were. I sputtered like an old gas pipe and started to repeat the feeble little mantras that have been rolling around in my brain for the last three years.

"I want to write," I said first. "I mean, I want to be better. I want to know what I'm doing, and know what to do next. I want to know how to submit work properly. I like teaching. I could teach. I want to learn about publishing and editing. Journalism's cool too."

He looked at me blankly. I cringed. It sounded like I was reading the back of an educational leaflet and highlighting all the words in bold. That's kind of what this application experience has been like. But I've got to start somewhere, right? The reason I quit my job was the same reason I am going back to school: somehow I've learned how to do whatever work I am assigned, but I never manage to get around to what I feel is important. This sudden invitation to write what I want, and to work creatively, is so open that I find myself missing the confines of a 9-5 job.

And then I blinked, and he pushed a glass of red wine across the table to me, and I remembered where I was, and how these are the internal ramblings of a truly lucky person. It was just past midnight, and we were sitting at a long table in my neighbor Lizzy's dining room. Lizzy had just prepared a gourmet organic meal for twenty people. Almost all of the guests were kids I had grown up with, a band of tall, loud and happy siblings who have since scattered across the globe and come back. I watched them all in the dimmed white lights, many of them bearded, nearly all of them over six feet, all of them grinning. All of them, from my high-school-science-teacher brother to the Lizzy, the event-planner-turned-chef, had made their careers piece by piece. There's no one way to be. I knew that, and I know that, but sometimes it's easier to allow others the freedom you can't (or won't) allow yourself.

Freedom, eh? I guess freedom starts with a ticket to Santiago, Chile...