Let’s talk about Fear baby.
Sometimes I’d weep on the drive home thinking about how terrible I felt after sharing my stories aloud. Nothing could have prepared me for the harsh criticism that ensued between those walls each week during our 2-hour evening classes.
I missed when the words would effortlessly slip out of my fingertips, and my ritual was simple as: hear words, find paper, write. I never worried about whether what I had to say was right or wrong, good or bad. I shared my words because putting something out into the world that other people could connect with made me feel alive, and I always understood this work would be my ultimate purpose in life.
I had chosen a memoir class, because myself seemed like the best topic to be an expert at as a starting point. In my first class, I eagerly volunteered to start the live readings. I enthusiastically shared a childhood story, confident of the praise to ensue after reading the last line. But the room was silent. Everyone, including my teacher silently um’d and uh’d under their breaths, as they attempted to convey a tactful way of saying “are you sure you’re in the right place”?
After my last class, my teacher sent me a carefully crafted email, telling me it wasn’t too late to choose a different career path. Fabulous, not only were my skills not good enough, my life was also not interesting enough to survive this avenue.
I felt incredibly beaten down. I had quit my job after feeling spiritless in my work to take some much needed time to focus on myself. After spending half a year exploring India solo, I returned home certain that whatever it was going to take – more education, writing for pennies, being poor – I was ready to pursue my writing as more than just a hobby.
And for a long time I did. I met with publishers of big magazines, interviewed, cold called, applied to go back to school, enrolled in every night class I could find remotely related to writing, accepted ghost writing gigs on topics I knew nothing about. Begged, pleaded, cried, everything was on the table.
There were little wins, but for every one, there were huge losses to counter it. After 2 years all in, and what felt like little to no progress, I finally decided to accept that perhaps all the doors were closing on me for a reason – they were clear signs indicating this was not the right path for me.
I never considered myself to be a fearful person. I was the first in my family to go away for school, first in my group of friends who dared to quit my job and travel, and despite all the warnings globe trot through India solo. But these acts of “bravery”, didn’t change that in facing my biggest fear – being vulnerable – I gave up when it got too hard.
I am not changing careers, leaving the country, or even professing a specific direction for writing. Writing is still a scary place for me to return to, and I struggle with whether I will ever belong here. What I will leave you with is one of the key lessons I did manage take away from all the criticism, rejection and tears: not all stories have to have a happy and positive ending, sometimes the story just ends, because it’s where it’s meant to end.