Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The First Day of My Writing Life

I was recently offered a job as a caretaker for an island property in Panama. It was an unpaid position, mind you, but it would have been a place to live in Panama for free in exchange for showing guests around the island and a nearby town.
This may seem like an easy equation for people who have full-time jobs: no pay+work as caretaker+no vacation time=no. And they would be right. The fact that it’s unpaid is only one of many reasons it’s not a good idea. However, I labored long and hard over whether or not I should go. I thought about it for most of the day, then emailed the property owner and told him I wouldn’t be able to make it down there for three weeks. I am a writer, taking time off from “the real world” as some people call it, and it doesn’t really matter where I am when I write. Or that’s what I told myself. I told myself that it was just my kind of opportunity; it wasn’t the first time I would have worked for next to nothing (or nothing) to go abroad.
The more I thought about it, the more I decided it was almost inevitable, and the more and more depressed I got. I felt like it was the straight path I had been following for years: work, hate it, quit, go abroad, spend all your money, come back, get a job, hate it…
And out of nowhere, as I went through the day-to-day activities of my meager but pleasurable existence, I realized that I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to start my cycle again. I enjoyed getting up and knowing that I could do whatever it was I wanted to, and all I wanted to do was write. If I moved to Panama, it would be admitting that my path would never go anywhere but in a circle. I would inevitably not make it where I wanted to go, because being abroad would take precedence over my writing. I didn’t want that spiral into madness. I wanted to write.
It really shouldn’t have been that big of a decision. I should have perhaps been able to come to the conclusion sooner, or earlier in my life. However, when it did come to me it was like a thunderclap. I want to write. I knew it, I told people about it, I worked at it, but until I decided not to go to Panama, I didn’t realize how much I had grown to love my writing. Not as a person in love with themselves and their own prose, but as someone who has given birth to a child and cared for her by necessity for so long that they don’t realize how beautiful she is until one day she comes into the room in a prom dress and spins around.
My writing isn’t very mature yet. She is not grown up, ready to drive or move out or go to college. She doesn’t quite fit into that prom dress yet. In fact, my writing is prone to tantrums and illogical conclusions and PMS and adolescent hormone imbalances. She has pimples and braces. But somehow under the awkwardness I see something to love, someone to lavish with praise and patiently wait for her to stop wobbling and begin to walk with confidence and grace. She may be a late bloomer, but I want to be there to watch her bloom. So I’m going to stay here and let her grow, where I know it’s safe and stable and where we’re happy. There will always be time for Panama when she grows up.

Love and pubescent writing kisses

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