“The desire to be good is one of the loveliest things in the world, but in order to have a genuinely good life, we may sometimes need to be (by the standards of the compliant person) fruitfully and bravely difficult.”
I have to write an essay as part of my application to graduate school.
I’ve struggled a bit in writing this essay. Not because the essay itself is technically hard. It doesn’t require research, really. It’s all about myself and my thoughts. Nothing should be easier to write, but I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to make it especially outstanding because it’s symbolic of something. And when I try to describe its significance, even to myself, I struggle. It’s hard.
So many things have happened. So many things have changed. I’ve made the change.
This is important. I have not been passive. I was, for so long, but in the last three years I have effected more change on myself and my life than in the previous 35. I have been carefully carving away at it, trying to make it beautiful. It’s getting there.
I don’t mean to imply that there’s an end state – I think the carving away at life is a life-long process. But I am astonished at how different it looks now and how different it will look in just a few short months.
And this essay – in which I have to reflect on my past and explain what I’m working toward in my future and discuss the experiences and influences that have led me to this point in time – it needs to reflect the way my entire outlook on life has altered.
This essay is symbolic of change, taking control of one’s life, embracing risk, constantly seeking improvement. It’s symbolic of being – as E.E. Cummings wrote – yourself “in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else.” It’s symbolic of the hardest work, learning to ask for help, friendship and loyalty and love. It’s symbolic of the realization that life is too damn short to wake up every morning dreading the day.
I’m certainly overthinking it, because that’s what I do. But in the end, when I submit this piece, I want to feel about it the way I feel about all the other decisions I’ve made in the recent past.
As I was thinking about all of this for the essay, it made something else I was worrying at a little more clear.
I have what I think will be a difficult conversation coming up in my near future. People won’t like it. They won’t like me for it, and because I put a great store in being nice and responsible and liked, I’ll have to steel myself for it.
But it occurred to me that it won’t be nearly as difficult as telling my husband I wanted to get divorced and facing his considerable anger and disdain. It won’t be as hard as facing an uncertain, potentially difficult future alone, wondering if I was being brave or stupid. I’ve already done that, and I feel no regret.
I’m facing that question again, and I know the answer without hesitation. One difficult conversation isn’t going to stop me. The poor opinion of people for whom I have little respect is not going to stop me. “It’s not the critic who counts.” I’ve been brave, and I’ll continue to be brave. I’ll take the risks and accept the consequences. And I’ll work my ass off (starting with this damn essay that has me paralyzed). Nothing and no one will stop me.