This is a song for every girl who’s
Ever been through something she thought she couldn’t make it through
I sing these words because
I was that girl too
Wanting something better than this
But who do I turn to
I’m leaving Virginia in less than a week. There’s something breaking inside of me, something beneath my bones, something latent in me, something that has inflicted my mind for quite some time, like a virus, like a ripple, like the sea. Am I ready? Am I scared? Am I excited? All these questions lead to one blaring one: Am I strong enough?
A dear writer friend has asked me the beginning one: am I ready? I don’t think she knew the depth of that question. It isn’t just this “MFA journey” I’m trying to prepare for. It isn’t just beginning this romanticized version of the writer’s life that I’m skeptical and evasive of. What I’m really asking myself, when I ask this question, is am I ready to live an unbridled life? Am I ready to leave the one person who has kept me grounded for the past 10 years? Am I ready to leave to live; am I ready to lose to grow?
Yes, people know I’m leaving my husband so that I could study English at a master’s program in the Bay. Yes, I’m going to live apart from my husband for quite some time (and the timespan is unknown to me–maybe three, maybe six), and yes, I’m strong enough to live apart from him, and yes, I’m strong enough to say I’m going give this my all, and yes, I’m strong enough to be ready, and yes, I’m strong. But there’s the inward me, the one that bequeaths me this strength, that’s telling me it’s okay to be scared and strong and everything in between. ‘Cause fuck, do you know much faith and trust and openness and vulnerability and willingness and idealism it takes to do this? How much pain?
When I prepare to leave him, my body shuts down. I heave, I clasp my chest, I cry, I grip my arms, I take in loneliness. I must do this, just for one moment, one day, because the emotions create a storm inside. They’re incommensurable giants. And I allow myself to do this until my body has had enough. In an Anais Nin’s vein, “I live emotional algebra.” I do this alone. And when my husband comes, he collapses with me until we’re filled with laughter. It’s the only way we get through it, this incomprehensible notion of preparation.
The dislocation feels like a divorce. It literally is a divorce in corporeality. It’s an agreement to love in dissociation. But life moves on, and we love each other. We carry the burden. And the pain does become easier every other day. It gets lighter.
I couldn’t really name this pain, this fear. I’ve been carrying within the moment after we renewed our vows in June.
Two weeks ago in the Sunset District, when I had the honor to interview a writer I’m enamored by (please read his short story collection, Monstress, you sincerely won’t regret it), he asked me that same question–if I were ready. I kept repeating that I was scared but willing and desperate to learn. And though I’m sure others are as desperate as I am, I couldn’t mean those words more. I’m desperate. I’m literally leaving, forsaking, everything I love to do this, to learn how to write. It’s selfish. I know it is. I look at my husband and I feel the weight in his eyes when he stares back at me. He repeatedly says he’s sorry he joined the Navy, apologizes for the things he has done, the things he has to do, the separation we chose to partake in, and I can’t help but feel a rush of selfishness when I look at him, because he’s not the only one who’s leaving. And in that same moment, I feel blessed. Lucky. Happy. Sad. Everything.
Three weeks ago, when I was downtown Los Angeles at a coffeeshop with my loving and beautiful professor from USC, I repeatedly told her I felt blessed and lucky. I am. I have someone who believes in me–in the entirety of those words, that belief–someone who’s willing to provide for me as I write, for now. My professor, too, believed in me, and understood the exact dislocation I feel. For the first time, I didn’t feel alone. She and her husband, also an academic and writer, have never lived with each other for the past 7 years (they have been married for 5 and together for 10). She teaches in Los Angeles while he teaches in Birmingham, Alabama. She knows, intimately, the looks that people give me when they say, “Wow, you’re a Navy wife? I could never do that.” She laughs, like I do, at the pitiful gazes, the confused faces, the sighs and disbelief, but she also knows the pain, the day-to-day battle.
The truth is I know I’m ready. Because it isn’t really about being ready or being at that state of preparation. Nothing really could prepare you for constant heartbreak. Nothing. You take it in like you take in the sun, the moon, the stars. You stand in its forceful light and you breathe. Because that’s the only thing you can do. You must leave yourself open. And it hurts, it’s scary, it’s beautiful. But you grow.
Now we’re moving from the darkness into the light
This is the defining moment of our lives