On The Road, With Help Standing By

Lately I’ve been re-living my junior year of high school, in terms of applying to graduate school. The anxiety of reading about individual colleges’ programs and requirements; the strain of remembering deadlines, financial aid, and forms to submit; and the temptation to say, “F*ck it all, I’ll just be a bum for the rest of my life,” but could never imagine actually pursuing such a lifestyle. But the real kicker in this whole process is the most existential question almost everyone has asked themselves, “Am I good enough for this?

For aspiring writers (and anyone pursuing the arts), such as myself, this question is crucial to their own work and can lead to anxiety-induced melancholy and comparisons to other writers who are in the same position. We think about how someone self-published a book of poetry or short stories on Amazon; this other person has gotten published in four literary journals; another person landed a book deal on a novel and is getting a short story published in your college’s literary magazine that rejected you five times in the past… and what have we done ourselves?

Last night, I let all that stressful thinking get to me. It’s a recurring thing, even before the thought of grad school came to mind. But to imagine having a sample of your work reviewed by people who may or may not accept you into their writing program is daunting. For me, I’ve always kept my work quiet; it helps me to concentrate on what I want done instead of telling other people about it and having their expectations of what it could/should become worry me all the time. (This is something that came up after my first fiction workshop last semester, when I presented samples of my novel, and now my novel is at a standstill again…) In a year–god-willing–I’ll be receiving mentorship and peer feedback on my work. The thing that I have kept quiet for years will be exposed to the world–at least, in the small world of other aspiring and established writers.

I looked to my high school yearbook for consolation; it comes in handy whenever I think back on those adolescent days of high hopes and grand ambitions. (Sometimes I wish that I never advertised myself as “the next great American writer” to classmates and teachers in those days.) I read the comments written and signed by people I was able to ask to write in it. Reading what people have said about me comforts me, in a way that I mattered to these familiar faces and names at some point in their lives. It makes you think how time moves on; it doesn’t stop, and so do the people living within it. And within a certain time span, people you knew back then have done so much more: travel or study abroad, participate in student life, do internships/externships, get jobs, etc. As for me, I felt that I haven’t done much with my own life, and I’m always hoping that it’ll get better later on.

Two comments written by two of my high school friends caught my attention, especially in my current status. One friend–a literary enthusiast like myself–said that she hopes to see my book when she walks into a bookstore. The other, whom I’ve known since elementary school and is an exemplary leader, said that he “will undoubtedly see you down the road.” A thought clicked in my mind, “I’m already doing it. I’m already working towards a writing career. And some of these people believe that I can do it.

I think we forget sometimes that we take it upon ourselves to pursue a path that seems impractical or impossible to others, but we continue to push ourselves to focus and do well, even if it costs time, money, and patience. We also forget to acknowledge the people who know that you will achieve much on this path you’re taking, and they are with you throughout the journey. Some of the people who wrote in my yearbook, I still keep in touch. Others, as well as the ones who haven’t signed my yearbook but have undoubtedly been so kind through past conversations and meetings, I don’t talk to much but I know they’re doing well themselves in their own paths.

Though the stress didn’t completely dissipate after going through my yearbook, it has surely reduced with the assurance of getting work done in a more calm and collected manner. I was considering deleting this blog because of the lack of attention I’ve given to it, but it will remain because it will help me to practice writing and to tell stories, including my own. And with time and patience, I hope to see my friends down the road as well.

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