As Reality Sets in…

Of all the classes I took fall semester, I classify Magazine and Feature Writing as the hardest of them.

The class itself was very enjoyable and laid back, with reasonably spaced assignments. The pain in it was the frequent requirement of submitting my work to publications–As if I was entirely confident in my ability to write professionally, as if I could take rejection without a heavy heart and pick myself back up from the depths of my embarrassment, as if I had the audacity to extend my work forward into the mix of submissions from much more skillful writers.

Freelance is stinkin’ terrifying, and I didn’t realize this until I took that class. In the beginning, I was shocked into wanting to hide in a corner with my scribblings and never give them out to be read over, thought about, ignored, rejected. Now I feel a little better about it.

I have wanted to write professionally since I was eight years old. I made a goal to publish my stories, because I don’t want to keep my inspiration to myself. So I will take the risk. I will pursue this goal even as reality leans in.

I wrote on my novel this afternoon, and after finishing this blog post, I intend to keep working on it. I am nearing the end of it, and then I will be launched onto the next step–unprovoked submission to a writing market, probably to be rejected several times before I find a place.

As I am nearing this phase, I am again faced with that deep, troubling question: Why does my voice matter?

Why should anyone care about what I have to say? Do I have what it takes to make my voice heard?

At this point, I hold firmly to the belief that everyone’s voice matters, and that, by definition, so does mine. I can expect rejection and frustration in this journey, but I know God has me.

A passion so longstanding is worth fighting for, after all, and I intend to see it through.


After a full day of two three-hour classes, I just wanted to go home to my host family. Being around the other students where I was studying abroad in Costa Rica made me melancholy. They were all so outgoing and confident, with a easygoing thirst for adventure that made my stressed-out, culture-shocked self retreat far into the shadows. Don’t get me wrong, they were a great group of people, but even as nice as they were to me, I was endlessly intimidated, and plagued by a foreboding sense that I couldn’t fit in with them.

It was also Friday. The weekend was calling my name, and I was cold and tired and ready to descend the hill to San Rafael where I could unwind. But on Fridays, we had another assignment. We had to stay later, watch a movie, and talk about it. It would be close to 8:30pm when I finally stepped up to my host family’s gate and called my shy, diffident, “¡Hola!”

Trying to ignore the fact that I really didn’t want to be there, I seated myself in a cushioned couch with one of my classmates, whom I had connected with most on this study abroad experience. After watching the movie, the students talked through a bit of commentary. I didn’t express myself wonderfully in Spanish–probably used the wrong word and sounded odd. And then we braved the dark windy night on Monte de la Cruz for the twenty seconds it took to pile into the university van that would take us each back to our home-stays.

The first part of the descent into San Rafael was hemmed in by tall trees, but about halfway down, they opened up, and I suddenly found myself looking at a sight that filled me with joy like a jolt of electricity. I saw the Valle Central spread out, a huge depression in the earth bordered by mountainous hills pulling up the other side. A dense network of countless lights unfolded, as far as I could see before trees blocked my view again. San José, San Rafael, Heredia…and many more cities and communities I hadn’t yet heard the names of, were illuminated, decorated with lights from closely packed houses, buildings, and streets.

City lights.

I was rushed back to my childhood, staring out the window of my parents’ car as we drove home in the dark. I would stare off into the distance at the speckled glow of the faraway urban landscape, and it always filled me with wonder. Even while I vehemently considered myself a country person, I had an acutely fond fascination for city lights.

I didn’t know how overwhelming they could be until that night. No one else in the car seemed as filled with the sense of ecstasy that beat within me. I didn’t know what to do with this inspiration, this joy. Civilization. Life. Activity. Light superimposed upon the dark in an eternity of patterns and variations. I tried to express my rapture in Spanish, but I failed. I would have failed in English too.

The second time I encountered this sight in Costa Rica, I tried to take a picture of it, but my phone couldn’t handle it. Fortunately, I found one on google, but it’s from a different angle, and it still doesn’t quite capture everything.

Like a starry landscape, something so powerful in person is very difficult to express with a mere photograph.

A Happier Best

I generally entertain the idea that I don’t run away from a fight, that instead I relish a good challenge and embrace growing experiences wherever I may find them.

After two and a half years as a science major, I’ve realized my desire to better myself manifests as less of an intentional pursuit of opportunities as me finding something that looks cool, and then throwing myself in to see what happens. For example, I wanted to go to a private Christian university, so I did, not worrying as best as I could about the financial burden. I am very grateful my parents are currently shouldering it until I get a higher-paying job, but the loans have started to make me nervous. Upon entering said university, I wanted to be a science major–partly because I liked science, partly because I liked the idea of being a physical therapist, and also because I wanted to prove I could pull it off. In addition, I thought it would be good to learn Spanish, and I knew immersion would be scary and uncomfortable. Being a Spanish minor, studying abroad was optional, but I did it anyway. I liked the idea of doing research, so I ended up contacting my professor about an open spot in his lab this summer to see what might come of it. This week, I submitted my research proposal and, if accepted, I’ll be spending a couple months in Arizona studying hummingbirds.

I want to write novels, so I’m working on one. I want to be an illustrator too, with a particular interest in graphic novels—an endeavor I’m just in the beginning stages of pursuing. I’m not sure how I’ll do either of these, and sometimes I drown in my own mediocrity, but it’s a work in progress.

So I like to think I’m ambitious. But the last few weeks have made me wonder.

As the semester is quickly drawing to a close with tightly packed projects and exams, I’ve been procrastinating like mad, and a great deal of hemming and hawing goes on before I actually finish anything. I get distracted, spend far too much time on tumblr, and get caught up in drawing for five hours on a school night. But I’ve been doing this all semester.

So I ask myself if I’m not focusing well enough, or if not caring as obsessively as I used to is a lowering of my standards. I always want to do my best, but this pursuit has started to look different than before.

Freshman year of college, my “best effort” looked like pushing most everything by the wayside, my only free time being my self-imposed Sabbath Friday night to Saturday afternoon. I didn’t write or read much at all. I wasn’t even really all that much into drawing at that point. I was usually stressed out, and attended school functions with a sour feeling somewhere deep within my being—the constant worry that I would regret the diversion.

This semester, however, I write and draw quite often. I procrastinate perhaps more than I should. I tend to wait for inspiration to hit me before doing anything academically significant. I don’t get as much sleep as I used to. I’m in bear hibernation mode with regards to my physical condition. I wear makeup when I have the patience to put it on. I am adamant about not letting academics run my life (any more than it already does, that is.)

This can’t be my best, can it?

I still manage to turn in quality work on time, somehow. My grades aren’t really suffering, last time I checked. I still don’t understand how—maybe magic.

I’m tempted to think I’m slipping, because my amount of general life effort isn’t tightly controlled. It’s a lot more noncommittal and easygoing in parts, but I really do believe it still is my best.

And it’s a happier best, I think. I like it better than the stressed basket-case variety. Here, there’s room for failure and frustration, but ample space to breathe.

Even as finals and projects clamor for my attention and stress breathes down my neck, I operate under the general assumption that things turn out all right in the end. I’m doing my best, after all, and if it’s not enough, God will fill in the gaps.