Sometimes I feel like time is rolling past me in fast forward while I stand watching the montage of my life in a combined state of bafflement and wonder.
Long time readers may recall how excited I was when I passed my GRE on a whim and was accepted into my first choice graduate school program to major in Literature and Creative Writing. I felt smart, vindicated and motivated to succeed. I needed that degree. I attended grad school for a total of four semesters, accumulating 18 credit hours with only one B. I have always been an exceedingly enthusiastic student (much to the annoyance of some teachers) and I rarely (see also: never) quit at any kind of academic challenge. One day, on the way to a midterm examination in my History of the English Language class (during the layoff weeks at work) I began to feel my chest become increasingly tighter. I called my Mom, I called Jared; I panicked. I pulled over on the side of the road and proceeded to have a full on meltdown. I couldn’t breath. I had about fifteen minutes until I needed to be in a seat with pencil in hand, I watched the seconds tick away, I felt trapped. I felt like a failure.
That’s when I realized (between tears), I have control. I have control over my own destiny and if I don’t want to take this midterm… then I don’t have to. I mean, who was really making me go to graduate school anyway? I didn’t need the added stress or monetary strain, and yet graduate school was something I had always seen myself doing. It was the next step in a succession of (ultimately wrong for me) “obvious” next steps. So, there I was on the side of the road, hyperventilating, and simultaneously experiencing a universe altering epiphany.
In the end, I did not go to that midterm. I also did not return to graduate school, I filled out a resignation letter (much like the one I was to sign a few days later) and faxed it to my school. I had mixed feelings that perhaps I had disappointed everyone and perhaps I was living out my destiny. I half-heartedly applied to an online MFA program in Maine (I believe my recommendation letters may have made it) — but then everything else happened.
Which led to a series of stress-induced-panic-attack-revelations. Finally, I realized: I tried to do too much too soon. I am impatient about my ideas, if I get an idea for anything I want it to take shape immediately. I was attempting to shape my life without really thinking about what was truly best for me. I was still following the path I had set out for myself when I started college at eighteen. I am not that girl anymore. But, I believe a lot of early-twenty somethings do this: we graduate from college and attempt to take on the world all at once. The world swallows us up, and then we realize at 24 this is not the life we planned around backyard fires with friends and Tecate. A world of change, brought on by (perhaps nothing more than) the high esteem of ourselves and our potential.
But I realize now, if I really want to change the world, I have to be free to make my own choices and my own mistakes. Was I ever really cut out for a typical job, housewifery and a two-story in the suburbs? Maybe one day, but in retrospect it seems like all those things were a part of my next step mindset. And right now, I need to be unfettered — traveling, moving, experiencing, living. So that’s what I am going to do. Until I get tired of it, or I find what I am looking for.
Will graduate school still be there if I ever want to come back? Yes. Will my house still be there if I ever want to again call it my home? Yes. Do I still want to make a difference in people’s lives? Of course. Will life go on? Always.