I am currently faced with the age-old question of “why do I want to be a writer?” as I struggle with editing my personal statement for graduate school. I get this question a lot, in many different forms. “Why are you majoring in English?”, “Why do you want to go to graduate school for this?”, or “Why can’t you just write?” There is no simple answer, not really. My current hook line in my personal statement is “My life is not a love story. This doesn’t mean I can’t learn to write one.” I love this line; I’ve toyed a lot with my statement, but this idea has remained the same. My life is not a love story. It has been rough and hard and unfair. But I can’t sum that up in a simple statement; I can’t tie together everything that makes up my life in a matter that is eloquent yet short. I can’t make them love me. I can’t make them accept me. I’ve never been able to do that with anyone. I’m only just beginning to see that.
I’ve spent so much time changing who I am for people that there are days where I’m not sure who I am. Everyone wants something from me; everyone wants me to be a certain way. But when I write I’m myself. When I write I’m free of life’s everyday restrictions. I’m just me. My writing isn’t made of rainbows and unicorns; I know I’ve said that before. What I’m writing is hard and rough and brutally honest. I’m taking my experiences and shaping them, finding a way of getting control back. As writers, we write to tell a story. Sometimes that involves talking about “the darkness within.” I want to tackle pain and tragedy and things that make people feel uncomfortable, and I want to dismantle them into a form that people can come to terms with. Love takes so many different forms, but verbal, emotional, and physical abuse can never be one of them. I want to release these things on my own terms; I want them to reach people. I don’t want to change myself anymore. I don’t want to be someone I’m not. If I surround myself with people who accept me for me, it will help me figure out who I really am. The things that have happened to me don’t make me who I am, it’s what I do about them. One lesson I have learned from my writing is that I can’t blame myself for what’s happened. Where it sometimes feels like things are my fault, and even though I tell myself that a lot, they really aren’t. Some people are just broken.
The reason I have such a difficult time, I think, summing myself up in a personal statement is because there are just too many versions of myself to count. There are too many things that I want to say. I can’t get a grasp of myself on paper because I don’t know myself in life. I just know the girl who got hurt, the girl who changed herself to make everyone else happy. I’m scared that I won’t get in. I know it’s a possibility. I’m worried that I’ll crumble if I don’t, but then I remember that I have never crumbled before. Is this any different?
Sure, I might not get in to grad school. My life is not a love story, and so the possibility of not getting in makes sense in the grand scheme of things. Cheryl Strayed writes “The wanting was a a wilderness and I had to find my own way out of the woods. It took me four years, seven month, and three days to do it. I didn’t know where I was going until I got there.” I don’t know where I’m going. I have eight different choices; though I have a favorite, I would be ecstatic to get into any one of them. What I really want is the chance to craft that love story, to write about something that doesn’t involve pain and suffering. I want a new story to tell. I want to finally be doing something I love. What I really want is an ending, for something to go my way. I’m not the smartest, or the prettiest. I’m not extraordinary by any measure. I don’t ask for a lot in life. But I really want this.
Why do I want to be a writer? Because I want to craft my own ending. I want it to be my choice.
So please take me, grad school. Any grad school. In my head, this is my happy ending.