Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Stupidity or Bravery? I'm not making that call.

Agent Jessica Faust wrote a post today about how she began making her dreams come true. It's got me thinking about bravery, and taking chances, and what kind of person am I.

I'd like to think I am that kind of person. The kind who takes chances and risks and sets out on adventures. I'm not sure if I actually am that person, but I want to be that kind of person. It's the reason I chose to go to an out of state university when there were plenty of in-state universities and private colleges I could have gone to - but were crowded with people I knew.

It was the reason that, when I was 21 and graduating college and looking for a teaching job, I thought to myself, "This is the chance to break out and go somewhere completely different." I wanted badly to go overseas, but the schools overseas required two years of experience, so I resigned myself to getting those two years under my belt in the most un-east-coast-like place I could find.

In January of 1992 I packed my Toyota Tercel to the hilt with everything in the world I owned and drove from Virginia to Texas to take a job in a state I didn't hardly know a soul. As it turned out, I didn't really know the food or culture or language either. Or the music. Or the fashion.

It only took a few weeks to begin to feel like I had made a huge mistake. I hated teaching - especially since I stepped in to take over another teacher's class who clearly had spent half a year not teaching. I hated my lonely apartment. I felt trapped by my less than livable wage salary ($812 a month, $503 of which went to the rent). To call it homesickness wouldn't even come close. But I'd made a commitment, and I determined to stick with it at least until summer.

By summer, I'd made a few friends, including the man I would later marry. I'd bought a pair of Justin Ropers, fallen in love with Tex Mex food, and could say y'all casually as well as the next guy. I was vastly afraid of looking like a failure, so I signed up for another year, determined to really give it a go before quitting.

And it turned out that having a class from the beginning was a far different cry than taking over someone else's. And I loved it. And slowly, that place became home.

My parents love to tell the story of how I packed everything in my car and drove across country to a place I didn't know. They think I'm brave. In truth, maybe I was more stupid than brave. But I look at that now and think, is that going to be the main act of courage in my life?

When I decided to write and pursue publishing, that felt brave. Even braver - telling people that I was doing it. But I won't lie. Sometimes I wonder if I am more stupid than brave. Is it only bravery when it actually works out? I wonder if I am wasting my time pursuing a dream that may not be meant to be. How much persistence is important, and how much is just plain desperation going nowhere?


  1. Sounds like you're pretty brave. I loved one of your last lines. Is it only brave if it works out. I feel like that all the time. Good luck on continuing to be brave.

  2. Look.

    You are a brave girl. You are also pragmatic. This is a goooood combination.

    How many books before Babs had you finished? And then you did Babs, and *really* worked her. She is fantastic, as are you. Okay, she is still out there, but now you're working on Riley.

    This is not stupidity, this is not cowardice, this is working until you get the job done. I am not going to let you give up and nobody else is, either. Don't give up on yourself, bb, you are a *good* writer.

    It only takes one.

    And you'll find it, I know it.


  3. Yup, what they said.

    But I feel your pain, sister!

    You left out the bad timing aspect though. I think we're just caught in a time when the whole industry is acting very timid. It moves so slow in good times and now it's just crawling.

    Maybe if we combine brave and stupid we get a special brand of crazy???

  4. I think that's incredibly adventurous. If you don't try, what's the point of dreaming?

  5. Patti - thanks! I've been really dwelling on that idea of whether it's the outcome that determines the line between stupid and brave. I guess I'll keep at it until... well, until I don't.

    Jen, Heidi and Kerri - I'd never keep going if it weren't for y'all. And I like the idea of a special brand of crazy! :)

  6. When I moved to Germany, I didn't know a soul. Was kind of crazy but I did it, and I'm still here :)

  7. So much catching up to do - I'm sad to say that I didn't know most of this.

    To be honest, I'm not sure I know what brave is when it comes to myself. Brave is something that someone else says about you - or that you say about someone else. To the person who is being brave, it is something completely different - it may be taking a chance, or doing what was the only thing to do, or finding a way through a situation, or following your heart. In fact, I kind of wonder if someone is being brave if they are, in fact, setting out to be brave.

  8. Lenore - that is crazy. I went to Saltzburg on my own once.. just for a day. I didn't know the language or the train schedules... nothing. I thought it would be adventurous. As soon as I set foot on the ground I realized how stupid I was! I'm so glad you are liking it!!

    Tony - there are big chunks of time we've lost, eh? I tend top think the really brave things are the smaller things, the ones that just feel really hard to do instead of adventurous. And it never feels brave. It just feels scary.