Thursday, September 1, 2011

Begin at the Beginning

I went for a jog today. Kind of a joke actually, as Google Maps measures the entire route at about 0.4 miles. I wasn't even that out-of-breath.

I ran cross-country for a year and a half in high school, but I had to quit because I had shin-splints and bad knees. It's amazing how quickly you stop thinking of yourself as an athlete after quitting cross-country. Some days I don't even remember that I used to be a good runner.

Nowadays, it's not uncommon for me to forget I used to be anything. That's what happens when you graduate college a semester early and then spend the next six months looking for a job. If you had been smart, you would have realized that no one wants a Spanish major with only three months' experience for a lab tech, and would have gone back to your old lab, where everyone already knew you. Either that, or you would have looked in a genetics lab, because they're always hiring, but of course, you're the sort of passionate person who only wants a job in an interesting lab. Of course, you should have expected that most of the P.I.s you email won't even take the time to say "No thanks."

Eventually, you find something in a lab that's perfect: a place in your hometown that studies the signaling pathways involved in nerve injury and regeneration. So you work there for two months as a part-time volunteer, but then you find out that they didn't get the grants they were hoping for, and they kindly suggest you find something else. But by this time, you're so sick of St. Louis, because you've lived there your whole life, so you decide to move to New Jersey and try your luck there. Your half-brothers say they know people, but that doesn't really mean anything unless you're a businessman, but either way, it's a risk you're willing to take.

Besides, you keep telling yourself you'll finish this novel you've been working on for nine years. Your last draft hit 75,000 words before you realized it was time for revisions, and half of that was written in the last nine months, so there's no reason why you can't have a finished novel by the end of the year.

You're everything: you're pre-med, interested in surgery but also in spinal cord injury and hand transplants; you're a writer, and you're sure your novel is different and that your characters are complex and interesting, but it's really hard to focus most days; you're a Spanish major, and you love to travel, but you won't be able to leave anytime soon, because you have no money, and besides, you need to stay in the country for med school interviews; you're an adventurer, but adventure is something that has to find you, and it probably won't when you're browsing the internet at home or sitting in a cafe writing.

That's the problem with being everything--you're so unfocused and spread out, that you don't know who you are. You end up being nothing.

There's hope to this, or at least that's what I keep telling myself. You'll get into med school, you'll eventually finish the book, and if nothing else, you'll fail at everything, but that's okay. Losing everything means you have nothing more to lose. And that means you won't be a coward anymore. You'll be free. And then you can really start having adventures.

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