Lately, I’ve been forced to grapple with the fact that getting what you want can be terrifying. For years, I called it a fear of failure. Only recently did I discover it’s very much the opposite.
What if it all works out?
Before you can get what you want, it helps to know what you want. This is a challenge all its own. But I’ve found the world has a way of leading you there just the same.
Case in point: here are eight very short, entirely true stories illustrating how I’ve been wrong about pretty much everything…
PART ONE: HEAD
“Can you stay for a moment after class?”
For once, I haven’t been overly chatty, nor was I writing a note to, from, or about a boy. What is this about?
“I want to ask you something,” says my eighth grade English teacher, appraising me with a tenderness not rivaled by any human before or since. “Have you ever thought about becoming a writer?”
“That’s not a job,” I say.
My boyfriend is tall and blond and vaguely resembles Jared Leto. We have nothing in common. In the universe I inhabit (a place where “sparkles” is a color and “fructose” is a food group) we will be together forever, and his college applications are of the utmost importance.
“I want to go to school in New York City,” he announces (mere months before he’ll end up in a pasture).
“That’s FINE if you want to go there,” I spit. “But I HATE New York. I mean, I probably won’t even come visit you. That’s how much I hate it.”
My college history paper is bleeding. The word count is rivaled by the number of red-penned comments cluttering the margins.
“Very funny, but not appropriate.”
“Highly entertaining! Not sufficiently academic.”
It is the worst grade I’ve ever gotten.
Moments later, it meets its fate in a shredded heap at the bottom of my wastebasket. “Why am I so droll?” I wonder, for longer than is useful. “I should really tone that down.”
“You guys, I think this could be the one.”
“No, but really, this time I mean it.”
“I KNOW I’ve said it before, but this is actually different than anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s like, I’ve never felt so seen. You know?”
I am in need of a dress, to wear to everyone else’s weddings. I find one, track it down at a small boutique, ask for the style by name.
They’re currently sold out in black, I am told, but they do have one in white. Would I like to try it on for size?
The dress and I are left alone in a changing room. It is, for all intents and purposes, a wedding dress — a much different beast than a dress for weddings. Against my better judgment, I put it on my body. I want to burn it immediately. I want to never take it off.
A head bursts through the dressing room curtains.
“Oh my god!” exclaims the sales clerk, clapping his hands. “Are you getting married?!”
“No,” I say, a little louder than necessary.
“You should try dating again,” says every friend always, but one more emphatically than the others.
“It will be fun!”
“You always say that, but then you’re glad when you do!”
“No. I’m tired. And I never like anyone.”
“I’m willing to make a bet. In one month, you’ll be madly in love with someone wonderful, and we’ll look back at this moment and marvel at how you almost didn’t let that happen.”
I cross my arms. “That is utterly impossible.”
PART TWO: HEART
(Photo of Lillian Gish, early 1920s)