chapter one

New books always make me a little nervous. An unopened book holds all the hope in the world until, with bated breath, you meet the first page. In those first lines you often either realize you’ve wasted $9.99 in the Kindle store, or you find yourself settling in, patiently wading through the planting of characters, setting of scene, and foundation-laying of your next favorite story.

You’ve become an adventurer. You’ve let yourself into the front-yard garden and found it enchanting enough to tread down the lane, where you let yourself into an empty house. There you wait, contentedly, for the rest of the tale to grow up around you. You’ve committed, so slowly you’ve hardly noticed what’s happened, until you’re in the thick of it, lost in the magic. It is then that you realize the most important thing: chapter one was just an invitation, and this, now, is what really means something. Chapter two.

Here I am, a newly minted MFA student very wary of my own chapter two- this part of my journey that will mean something more. This undertaking that sounded fun a month ago as a hazy theory is now taking shape in real time, and I’m starting to see a future where I’m stretched and tired, overwhelmed, and likely in over my head.

It’s all so very different than the projects I’ve taken on before; moving from the task-oriented type-A-friendly world of nursing to a place where philosophy, psychology, spirit, and story are what counts – it’s significant, to say the least. I’m walking straight out of the land of flashcards right into a world of vulnerability. Imposter syndrome settles in like a cold as I google “what the hell is literary fiction,” transition from APA to MLA, from symptoms to syntax. I may have seen death in the flesh but, somehow, this feels more dangerous. It’s risky, this road; I’m unsure, insecure, unprepared, and, worse, I care more.

More than anything, I don’t know how to be in this world- I’ve never sunk into this side of my mind so purposefully, where learning is less about tasks and grades and more about craft. Truth. Love. What does this new style of living look like on me? Who will I become when I stop stuffing creativity into her cupboard under the stairs and let her out to see the stars? I guess we’ll see.

In the meantime, I carry on with the revolution armed with a new planner, a new haircut, and an old mantra: I can do hard things and these hard things are good. I keep reminding myself, too, that as hard as it looks, this still feels like coming home to a part of myself, and I imagine that is one of the keys to a good life- to come home to ourselves in more and more beautiful ways until we are home forever in the land where beauty multiplies endlessly. Once again, C.S. Lewis wrote it best: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now… Come further up, come further in!”

And then, a bit of truth from the same bit of childhood magic: “…for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning the Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” 

Into the garden I go, coming home to an empty house, ready to see what grows in this place I’ve planted- a place held together by the author of the Great Story, the Great Story in which I will be writing a chapter. Further in we go.