July 06, 2012

Things I Wish I Hadn't Worried About

I love summer. I do. I love watermelon, and raw corn on the cob, and pulled pork BBQ. I love having time for live music again. I accept the trade-offs: calves speckled with mosquito bites, this sunburn on my shoulders after a Fourth of July baseball game. 

But the slowdown of these months can intensify brooding, too. Fall is the season in which I renew my vision of where to go. Summer is the season in which I fret, ineffectively, about that impending renewal. Maybe that's why I associate the ocean with melancholy. It's not so much the landscape as the timing of those beach trips.

These last two weeks have included hours of repetitive and recursive deliberations over things outside my control. I exhaustively imagine outcomes; I rehearse responses I'll never use. It's a bad habit but one, I suspect, not uncommon to artists. 

So, historical perspective is a good idea. Dear Younger Me: here are five things you worried about that I wish you hadn't worried about so much. 

-That B you'd have pulled if you hadn't dropped the class. UVA Reunions made me realize how much I missed by not taking classes outside English where, even if the grade had been poor, the info would have been rich. I'd trade my 3.8 GPA for the chance to learn about the Civil War and Galileo from those professors again. 

-Getting your first book out as soon as possible. No one does you a favor by publishing your thesis as-is; it should marinate in the real world. With each year a writer accumulates friends, interested editors and reviewers, and contacts for readings. When people resort to blatant (and annoying) promotional efforts it is usually because they didn't build up enough post-grad community before publishing a book. 

-Moving farther away from home. Life is long. What seemed like an unimaginable break in being close to Virginia family probably, in hindsight, would have been a blip. 

- Making it work with a man who liked what he saw of you on the page/in theory more than what he saw day-to-day/in person. Love should not require dog-paddling to keep your head above the waterline of someone's expectations. You were meant to be in that relationship, sure. But you weren't meant to stay there. 

-Opportunities falling through. Guess what? They will. Important emails go unanswered. People talk big talk to get a comp copy of your book, then are never heard from again. Meetings you rearranged a week for will be cancelled on a whim. Big payoffs evaporate. But you are not letting everyone down if something you got excited about does not happen. You only let them down if you aren't honest about it. 

One could argue that worrying is a part of ambition. I don't begrudge that of you, me, or my younger self. But so many of those hours are probably better spent on a dance floor. I have never--not once--regretted an hour spent dancing in the summertime. 

7 comments:

Andrea (Andee) Beltran said...

Lovely post. The third one resonates most with me. Thanks for sharing, and for the reassurance.

Sandra said...

Thanks so much for reading, Andee! I hope we get to meet in person one of these days. ~SB

Nicole Testa said...

I related so much to all of this. Thanks for writing it, so I could read it, and feel a little bit less worried about all the things (1-5) that I am currently worrying about.

Jessie Carty said...

these hit home for me as well ;) I especially regret not taking opportunities to move around

Joshua Gray said...

Halfway through my Chaucer class I picked up The Republic. I'm glad I did - I never would have read it otherwise. And getting a D in Chaucer because I was too busy reading Plato did not mean I didn't enjoy the class.

I also love being close to family, to my roots, to the city I love. And being in another state for college, another country now, is an experience that strengthens the soul.

Nice post.

Diane Lockward said...

I've lost countless nights of sleep worrying about things beyond my control. Over and over in my brain I replay the same broken script. Here's a really stupid one--I worry on holidays that my sons are lonely because they don't have girlfriends or wives. I keep Mark Twain's words in my head: Half the things I worried about never happened. I just wish his so true words stopped me from worrying. I'm worried that they don't.

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