I sleep on my mother’s pullout couch. It’s actually a love seat. I’m too tall for it, so nights when I’m too tired to remove the cushions and extend the mattress, I curl up in a little ball so I can fit.
My friend Daria recently told me this phrase she tells herself, “Accept all consequences.” It means that for every action there is a reaction and to accept your own power and your own choices is to also accept the results. I don’t regret quitting my job and moving to New Zealand. It was necessary and beautiful. And I don’t regret moving back. I returned because during my time there I found this idea for a novel—and the idea wouldn’t let me go. My mother agreed to let me stay with her for one year. I had one year to finish—one year to sleep on her couch and work a bare minimum job so that I could devote as much time to my work as possible.
And yet. I delayed. I worked two jobs this summer. I nannied for two little girls and also worked full-time at REI. On the rare days I wasn’t working I just wanted to get.out.of.the.city. I discovered through my time in isolated wilderness that I’m not such a big fan of cities so I wanted to break free every chance I got. And there was so much to learn! I had friends to go mountain biking, climbing and back-packing with. So many new towns to see! So many adventures! And all of these things cost money. And while REI is nice, you don’t make much working minimum wage. So it took many, many hours of work to cover even just the smallest trips. And while yes, I did write, I didn’t write enough. I finished the first (very rough!) draft of my novel, but how I found the time I have literally no idea.
I've been working since I was fifteen years old. I've found myself with this opportunity I've never had before in my entire life to hardly work and spend the majority of my time writing and yet, I refuse to take it. Instead, I just got a job as a waitress at a local bar/brewery. This opportunity will never.ever.ever come again in my whole life—so why am I fighting it? Why am I looking for a “real” job that pays real money so I can afford the absurdly priced rent here? Why am I looking for an escape from what should be a dream?
Because, the truth is—it doesn’t feel good to be a 27 woman and living with your mother. In fact, it sucks. It's embarrassing. It’s the first time I’ve lived at home since high school, and even then we all lived with my grandmother. I feel like I’ve lost independence. All of my belongings fit in a tiny coat closet (except my books. Even my mother can’t stem that tide). It feels like failure.
The truth is—to not work any jobs and just write—would mean to actually commit to my novel, to my dream of writing. And to have committed in a real, tangible way. By not working on any other projects, pursuing another career or some other way of making meaning—would mean to give my writing my absolute and complete everything.
The dirty fear I’m unwilling to articulate is, what if I give it my all and I fail? What if I’m not the writer I thought I was? What if this goes nowhere? What if all of this was wasted time and effort?
And those are very, very, very real possibilities. The world is FILLED with unpublished books. In fact, the odds are definitely not in my favor.
But ultimately that narrative is me defining myself by traditional success. I’m not a career driven person, I was never gonna be one of those go-getters. Success was always going to look different for me. Even if the novel goes nowhere, at least I can say I tried. At least I can say I wrote something that meant the world to me.
Stephen King said you can choose two: your health, your writing and your social life. I’ve been trying to have all three and more. I want to write the perfect novel, learn to become a mountain biking pro and lead climb and ski, be a good friend, save money, try to find some authentic connection with another human NOT through online dating (ewww)—it’s too fucking much. I’m willing to take a hundred thousand risks everywhere except where it counts. I’m vulnerable in all the wrong places.
Accept all consequences, Daria says. Well, it’s not pretty over here. I often feel trapped and behave badly because of it. I constantly battle self-doubt and a paralyzing fear that I’m not good enough for my idea. But if I don’t do this—if I don’t actively commit to myself, to my goals, to my dreams, to trying my fucking hardest—then what’s the point? So what if people think I haven’t done anything with my life? So what if my social life is severely limited by the fact that I cohabitate with my mother in the tiniest apartment ever. And yes, this means giving up on a lot of things. Now is not the time for traveling, for learning new things or saving for a mountain bike or car or all the myriad of wants I have in my life.
Sometimes you just have to buckle down and focus on what really matters. Even if it doesn't' feel fun. Because, if I don’t believe in myself, there’s no amount of success or triumph that can help me. And that's a consequence I'm unwilling to accept.