Some friends and I had organized a conference on fantasy literature, and the weekend went really well. I was fortunate enough to meet some amazing writers and scholars, and among those are people that I now consider very dear friends. And then about a week later, I wrote a story. And writing it felt kind of amazing. And I was at a crossroads - my marriage had recently ended, and I had moved from the constrained microscope that was the life of a faculty wife to a sudden and terrifying amount of freedom. I didn't have to be anyone's idea of appropriate anymore. I could be just a little bit mad, and try on being a writer.
So I wrote a couple more stories, and applied to Clarion. Because if I was going to fail (which I was sure I was) I was going to fail big. Because I had tried the smaller failures, and been exhausted by them. But more importantly, while I was waiting for that rejection letter, I kept writing. Because by that point, I didn't care what anyone else thought, I was going to write. And that was where the change came - I'm a driven overachiever who craves recognition, so I had lived my life using other people's opinions to define my worth. So, you know, I taught my first law school class at 24. Which sounds impressive, but I was miserable. Other people thinking you're awesome isn't so great, it turns out, if you hate your life. Writing changed that. I was finally doing something not because other people thought I was good at it, but because it meant something to me.
And then I didn't fail. And I've changed my definition of what failure means. Failure means retreat: to see the edge of the cliff and not jump off. And so I'm thankful. I'm thankful that my life upended itself to the degree where jumping off a cliff seemed possible. I'm thankful for the friends and family who have supported me, and encouraged me, and been the safety net that has kept me from hitting the ground. I'm thankful that I got scared enough that believing in myself was the only option.
I'm thankful for you, who read what I write here, and will, I hope, read me in other venues as well. Your support, your comments, make me so glad to have an audience, rather than the feeling of shouting into the darkness. And I'm thankful that now, even if the darkness was the only thing there, I'd still raise my voice.