I have always been a woman who knows my own mind. I know what I think, what I feel, what I want and I also know which of those things are set in stone and which might change under the right set of circumstances. In fact, I would go so far as to say that one of the reasons I was able to climb out of an emotional pit (the big one – the one I don’t talk about much) is that I knew myself so well and I knew I was going to be okay.
A couple of years ago, I briefly dated a woman who was incredibly ambivalent. She told me more than once she didn’t know what she wanted and that she felt she didn’t know herself very well. I did not understand that at all. How is it even possible to not know what you want out of life? Or out of a partner or a job or anything? How is it possible not to know yourself? I have tolerance for that in teenagers. I have no tolerance for it in anyone over the age of about thirty.
But then about six months ago I went through my own period of having absolutely NO idea what I wanted or even what I thought about things. You name it, politics, love, celebrities, global warming, history, modern literature – I had no opinion. I didn’t know. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know if I wanted a relationship and if I did want that, I didn’t know what kind of person I wanted to be with. If someone asked me about my personal style, I would have been frozen in fear. What style? I wear what’s in the closet and I don’t buy new things because … I don’t know what I like. I don’t know what I want. It was a little bit terrifying.
There have been so many changes that have happened over the last two or three years that I lost track of it all. I felt overwhelmed and I felt stuck.
And then an old friend from elementary school sent me a brochure for a place called Ghost Ranch. She goes every year for a writing workshop. She invited me last year and I kind of blew it off because … well, because I didn’t know what I wanted. This year, I opened the brochure. And I thought about it. I told my friend “maybe”, which I’m sure she accepted as another “no fucking way.”
I thought about the book I wrote. It is terrible and I am deeply grateful for every person who read it who managed not to tell me how much it sucked. But I thought about how I felt when I was writing it and the answer was – amazing. I felt really, really good. Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I decided that since my first effort was so painfully awful that I shouldn’t try again. I don’t know. I just know I didn’t try again and I haven’t given writing a serious effort in 17 years. What I’ve learned since then is that it was bad, but it was also a first effort and more importantly, it was fixable. But by then I had given up – without any kind of fight at all.
I kept thinking about this week-long workshop. In New Mexico. Where I can’t have a private room without paying an outrageous sum. Where I will be assigned a roommate (unless I choose one) and even then we won’t have a private bathroom. And there’s the writing that I would have to do. I was giving myself massive anxiety. Then, in the midst of my mental chaos, I suddenly just felt I should go. It wasn’t a little voice. It wasn’t that my friend pushed me to do it (because she didn’t). In the middle of an almost-panic attack, I just knew I needed to go.
Once I made the decision, it just all fell into place for me. I don’t know what it means. I don’t know if I still suck at writing. I don’t even think it matters if every word I put to the page is laborious and inferior.
I’m going. And I think it’s going to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.