Want What You Got

I’m going through a lot of uncertainty lately. I’m taking a leap of faith by going to grad school, borrowing all this money in the hopes that it will pay off. I have no way of knowing this won’t be like my previous grad school experience, after which I realized that it would be close to impossible to get a job, and the jobs I would get would be so low-paying it wasn’t worth it. Statistics show that nutrition is not the same as creative writing, that there’s a lot of opportunity and it pays well. But then my fear kicks in that it will be like my experience in marketing: I won’t be good at it or I won’t like it, or it will be too competitive to get a good job. Then I’ll be saddled with a huge amount of student loan debt that I can’t repay, with barely any retirement funds, so that I’ll be working a job I hate or am not good at until I’m 80 or dead.

I didn’t do a lot of research before getting a master’s in creative writing. I trusted my friend, a student at the university I decided to attend, that I could get a job teaching English at the college level with an MFA, which is true. One can start out as an adjunct professor position teaching English, but the job market is surprisingly competitive. I calculated that I’d make about $25,000 a year, which is the same as what I’ve been making as a grocery store worker. And most likely I’d be working more than 40 hours a week.

There’s nothing wrong with making $25,000 a year. The problem is that in my area it does not allow me to buy my own house and pay my bills. It may be fine in a rural area, but there aren’t many jobs in rural areas. Staying here means I have to live with other people, which I’ve been given the opportunity to do, and I only have to share a bathroom with one other person. This is temporary. I’ve calculated that it will take about four years for me to get through grad school, which really is not that long in the grand scheme of things. It’s like being an undergrad.
Whenever I think about gratitude this line from a Sheryl Crow song pops into my head: “It’s not about having what you want, it’s about wanting what you’ve got.” It’s a common phrase that took me years to really get. I couldn’t understand how that helped me to get what I wanted. This is the life I wanted. This is the life I chose. This is the life I’m living. Today, now. Not many people get this opportunity. Most people just stay where they are, and maybe that works for them which is a good thing for them. But I am trying something new, and this is it. This is the beginning of my journey.

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This Is It… Remember?

When life gets tough, the important thing is to remember that God has a plan. I don’t know that that necessarily means God made a “good” plan that includes everything I want, and that I’ll never encounter tragedy, but rather that God means for me to grow and learn during my time here on this earth. No matter how big the disappointment, I will survive, and hopefully come out stronger, and will have had an opportunity to learn something. That’s the question to ask: what am I learning in this situation? It’s hard not to ruminate on all the mistakes I’ve made in my nearly 40 years of life and how I wish I could have done certain things differently, but what happened is what happened, and had I done things differently I’d be ruminating over how I could’ve done those particular things differently.

I hate the feeling of starting over. I just want to find that one place, stay there, and be happy there. But every time I get into that place that I think I want, eventually I want out. I want excitement and change, yet when I get that change, I’m so full of fear and I just want to turn around and go back to comfort. It’s an endless cycle of not being grateful for what I have right here and now. The reality is that life can always get worse. I’ve heard of enough tragedy in the world to know that no matter what heartache I experience, worse things have happened.

When I’m going through difficult times, I tend to catastrophize and project into the future and make it all about how this is how it always has been and always will be, that the mistakes I’ve made and the disappointments I’ve encountered will just recycle themselves over and over in a new form but they’ll be the same at their roots. During this down time I forget that one day the sun will show, and I’ll feel that peace and happiness again.

I don’t know what God means for me to learn. Maybe it is to focus more on myself and what I need to do to get through school. Maybe it is to acknowledge that I’ve been keeping a much more open mind about all the ideas I had about how everything should be, and I’m learning that it’s possible to give up those ideas, and that love grows when that happens. But also that maybe there are still some old ideas I need to let go of.

My mentor has told me before that whatever happens is really all up to God; I have no control. I can try with all my might to manipulate the situation into how I think it should be, but that approach often blows up in my face. I get these ideas about how my life should be, and I don’t understand why, when what I want seems so little to ask, that I don’t get that. But everything I’ve ever wanted I’ve eventually gotten in some way, just always in combination with something else that I really did not want. Instead of being grateful that I have this thing, I focus on the negative. It’s time for me to start focusing on the positive. How many people have the courage to do what I’m doing, and have done, with my life?

I spent most of my life hiding behind a drink, and finally started to get my shit together nearly six years ago, and since then my life has been on a spiritual path. I’ve married and divorced twice. I left a high-paying, soul-sucking career to live in near poverty, sacrificing domestic comfort to do something that will contribute to society in some meaningful way. Before getting sober I bumbled through life, baffled with the way it all worked. So many people out there go through the motions and just do whatever society deems correct—that’s what I did for years—and they don’t really stop and question anything. A lot of people never really find God. I am grateful that I found God, because I just don’t think I could survive without a higher power in my life. There is a reason for all of this. I don’t know what it is, but this means something. I don’t know what it means, and I wish I did, I wish I knew my purpose and where this is all going, but I guess if I knew where it was all going I’d be on my deathbed. Probably what happens is I’ll get to my deathbed and I think, Wow, so that was it. I spent all this time wondering what life was all about while forgetting to live it. That’s the thing. This is it. THIS is it. This IS it. This is IT.