Tag Archives: hiking

Plan B (On Rejection)

The first A minus I ever got in an English class broke me.  I was in eighth grade.  I wrote a twenty-two page story called “Searching for Becca Fischer.”  My teacher faulted it for the little things; she thought that some of the characterizations went too quickly.  At the time, I cried.  I had spent a long time on that story.  I felt like I really knew who Becca was, like she was a part of me.  I still think about her sometimes; she was the first character of mine I really identified with.  So when I saw the A minus, my black and white brain interpreted it as a failure because I was so connected to the work.  I thought that, in rejecting Becca, my teacher was rejecting me.  I reread the story last night when I couldn’t sleep, and I realize now that my teacher was right.  The characterization is weak in places.  There’s a lot that I could do with the piece now that I’m a better writer.  But at the time, I was so connected to my work that all I saw was the failure that wasn’t even a failure at all.  It was an A minus.  A bloody A minus.  But it was a rejection all the same.

Fast forward fifteen years to court and my (now) ex’s stupid face.  After all the things we went through, the end was sudden.  Jarring.  It wasn’t the same sort of rejection, but it was a definite lack of acceptance.  Over the course of our marriage, he invalidated everything that I thought I was.  I tried to change for him, but I was never good enough.  I never made the cut in his eyes.  I could never be who he wanted me to be.  I had ten years of my life between high school and college that feel like a waste, like time that went by and has left me nothing but older.  

I got my first graduate school rejection yesterday, and it brought me right back to that day in my eighth grade classroom, right back to all the time spent in court.  I cried a little.  Ate froyo.  And then spent most of today being sad.  Because a large part of me feels like a failure.  I know that it’s only one rejection.  I know I still have seven schools out there, pondering my future for me.  But I’m still really bummed for a wide myriad of reasons.  One—it was a school I REALLY liked, and they didn’t like me back.  Two—it feels like my entire life is on hold because I can no longer plan for my future.  Three—it feels like I wasn’t good enough.  I talked to a professor today who pointed out to me (or maybe this came from my mouth) that the graduate school application process is really like a lottery.  A bunch of little balls get loaded into a bingo-like cage and some big-wig pulls them out and calls a number.  That number gets in.  The hundreds (thousands?) that don’t get drawn just stay in the little cage.  It paints a stark reality, this rejection letter I received.  A reality where my future is incredibly uncertain, a reality where I have worked my ass off but might still not get in anywhere, because my number might not be called.  I have done all of the right things, taken all the right courses, kept my grades up, become a TA, tutored, edited at the magazine…and I might not be right.  I might not fit.  That reality is very much in the forefront of my brain now, because I am accustomed to not getting what I want.  I have worked my ass off and it might all be for nothing.  There might not be an MFA in my future.  I might not be a writer.  That is so, so scary.

I think that, over the last year, I have put a good 99 percent of my eggs in the graduate school basket—and I’m scared now because I worry I put my hope into the wrong thing.  I had a gaping wound that I needed to fill and I filled it with this whole graduate school process.  What happens if that process doesn’t come to be?  Will I start to hemorrhage again?  Will I lose my place?  Did I fill myself with the wrong thing?  Is it possible I won’t be a writer?  I have carved an identity for myself within academia and this plan that I have made to go to graduate school.  I will have to reshape it if I don’t get in.  It seems like I am always reshaping.  I want to be the cause of that reshaping, just once.  I want to prove to myself that I can be successful without him.  In my head, I’ve made graduate school equivalent to success.  Now I’m worried I will be lost. 

I feel like I need to make plans, somehow.  But without knowing where I will be next year, that’s hard. So, I’ve come up with an awesomely outrageous Plan B.  (The first of many, probably, since I have time to ponder before more letters come, but a plan I really like.)  I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  Really, I won’t have anything to lose—it would be the perfect time to do it.  I don’t have kids or a family.  I don’t have any stuff.  I just have me.  And it would be nice to wander into the wilderness for that length of time and just…be.  I’ve read all of Cheryl Strayed’s books:  Torch, Wild, and Tiny, Beautiful Things.  Her writing is amazing.  Yup, she was pretty dumb to wander into a hike of that magnitude with little training.  Yup, she was very lucky to survive.  But she did.  And not ONLY did she survive, she wrote a book about it.  And that book is amazing.  That book is the story of a woman who figured out how to conquer her shit because she grappled with it and won.  She beat her shit.  I want to beat mine. 

I will start with the tattoo:  “How wild it was, to let it be.”   

How I finish will be up to the graduate school application lottery.

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Choice

Choice.  The act of choosing.  Selection.  An option; a decision.  An opportunity to choose or select something.

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Not all choices are easy.  In fact, some are utterly ridiculous and lead to equally insane life events.  Not all choices have a good and a bad.  Sometimes they are only good; sometimes they are only bad.  But they are ours, as individuals, to make.  Black and white do not always exist.  I have often swayed between whether our lives  are governed by fate and the universe, completely predetermined, or crafted by self determination?  I like to think it’s a little of both worlds.  I am meant to be here; I believe that I have a purpose.  However, I believe that I have the power to change the events on my given path.  This is a lesson it’s taken me a long time to learn, but I think I’m finally at the point where I am ready to control my own life.  

When you make a choice, you have to be careful in the choosing.  There are consequences.

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This idea is never more at the forefront than when I am hiking.  A couple of weeks ago, I went on a hiking adventure with a good friend of mine.  I am ridiculously out of shape, due to my entire summer of teaching, performing, and NOT running.  I was gung-ho at the prospect of hiking, but also aware of my level of unfitness.  We broke the hike down into quests; our first was to scale a bluff and then search for something called The Stone Elephant.  We got out of the car and this was the terrain:

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In the city of Boston, there is a sixteen year old girl who was raped at the age of fourteen by a twenty year old man.  He was not considering the creation of family, merely the taking of power from a defenseless child.  And yet, he is suing her for parental rights to the baby that came as a result of the rape.  The court is allowing him to see the child, and tying them together for the next eighteen years.  If the ruling stands, she is not allowed to leave the state.  She can’t take the child anywhere that he does not know about.  She can’t make choices.  When she made the choice to keep the pregnancy, she didn’t know what consequences would rain down on her.  There was no way.

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Keep in mind, we were hiking in the summer, so there was a bit more foliage.  (I stole this off Google images.)  But the entire hike up to the bluff was straight up just like this segment.  It was ridiculous, and I was fairly certain around halfway up that I was going to die.  We hadn’t even met the bugs yet.  I bitched in my head, I complained about the stretch of the trail, but I kept walking at a pretty good clip and we made it to the top:

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This whole adventure sums up my view on life.  I chose to keep going on the trail, just like I have chosen to keep going in life and keep fighting for myself.  Sometimes, life tells us that we can’t do things such as climbing mountains.  But we do them anyway.  Sometimes life tells us that we can’t get over something, but we do it anyway.  Decisions are made every day that consider all of the factors.  Fate and the world around us can not dictate where we go and what we do; this is a job that rests solely on an individual’s shoulders.  I control my own life.  I make my own decisions.  I am not governed by fate, but rather by my own choices.

This past year has been a dumping ground of me struggling to get others to make decisions for me; it is easier to follow (and sometimes blame) the choices of others rather than take a risk and make choices on my own.  There was one moment when I went on autopilot; I went to school on time and started walking towards class, but then stopped and hid in the library instead.  I found a special section that was all for me in the back of the top floor stacks, and I hid there essentially all day.  I only emerged for tutoring appointments.  Why, you ask?  Because I was trying to make a choice.  Sometimes there are decisions that ONLY the person in question can make, where there is not even an option to ask someone else.  This was one of those.  

I had class that afternoon, a class that I loved and didn’t want to skip.  But I was at the end of my rope with school, and life, and everything else.  I left the tutoring center after my final appointment and emailed the professor from my phone as I walked.  Ridiculous question, but if you have some time before class can I stop up?  She replied that she did.  My assignments were done, of course.  But I couldn’t go to class that day.  Even if I did, I wouldn’t be in class.  There was really no point.  Because I had a choice to make, and I couldn’t think.  And I couldn’t ask for help.

I wanted to say that it was someone else’s fault.  Anyone else.  But no, it was mine.  My failure.  My disobedience.  My screw up.  And so this choice was mine, despite fate trying to screw me over.  I wanted to say something, tell someone, but I didn’t know how they would react.  I wanted someone to tell me what to do, but I knew that nobody would.  Or if they did and I followed, would I always wonder if I had made the right choice?

We have to make our own choices.

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The justice system does not consider feelings, only black and white pictures.  Society does not consider all sides, only the stereotype that is presented. Many people get their kicks out of telling others how wrong their decisions are, without taking the time to consider the ramifications that those decisions would have were they reversed.  My choice was really the only choice that weighed in on all the factors.  I had already made it by the time I got up the stairs to the English department.  I handed her my sheath of homework papers, commiserated for a moment on the horribleness of life, and the proceeded to tell her there was absolutely no way I would be attending class today.

Because I was stuck.

Thinking.

Knowing that I had to do the impossible.  Knowing that I would bear the consequences.

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Consequence.  Something that logically or naturally follows from an action or condition.  The relation of a result to its cause.

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Sometimes the choice we make is what gets us over the mountain.

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