I see her there. This sad reflection of myself. Sitting.
Alone only with her thoughts and the icon flashing fierce on the blank screen.
Cautiously I slide into the seat opposite her. Offer coffee. And a smile of recognition.
She looks up, bleary eyed. Befuddled. “How did you know?”
The question sighs from her, sings over the casual conversation around us and lands with a deflated thud that shakes my soul.
“Thought it would be so easy, huh?”
“I did. I actually did.” A half laugh escapes and tears come. She swipes at them, angry. “At first it was fun, you know? Because I didn’t really know what I was doing and who cared anyway and then . . . and then it got real. And all these . . . stupid expectations . . .” She shrugs and sips, leaving it unfinished.
“You think you can’t measure up. Think you’re going to fail.”
“I do.” The whispered words widen her eyes. Her lower lip trembles just a tad. And it makes my heart ache. “God, it’s terrifying. You know?”
“I know.” That I can relax into the thought, even smile, seems astounding. Yet here we are. “You’re not going to fail.”
“Yeah?” A grin comes out of hiding and hints at hope. “What makes you so smart?”
“Oh.” I push fingers through my hair and wonder that I’ve any left. “Years of practice. Years of staring at that same blank page, wondering if the words will ever come. Wondering if I’ve really got what it takes to do this. Wondering how fast I can fall off the planet if I don’t.”
“Well, you’re still here obviously.”
“Obviously.” A shared smile seems to lighten the air. “Can I tell you something?”
Her eyes narrow with an almost imperceptible shake of her head. “I don’t suppose I can stop you.”
“Well, go on then,” she huffs after a moment.
I lean in a little, because this is important. I don’t want her to miss it. “Screw them.”
“What?” I can tell she wants to laugh at the audacity of those words, but doesn’t. Stares back at me like I’ve lost my mind though.
I nod, serious. “Just what I said. Don’t study that pile of expectations a moment longer. Forget who wants what from you. Forget who said what and why. Don’t give the critics any more leverage, any more power. Seriously. They can’t touch you. Do this for you. Not for anyone else.”
“Easy for you to say.”
The challenge crests, almost within her grasp. Yet doubt still dances in her eyes. It’s in that moment, that infinite spilt second between rejecting truth and taking hold, that I remember.
It’s a leap of faith.
And if you want to finish the race, you have to take it.
“Some days I forget what it’s like,” she admits. “Believing in myself. Knowing this is what I was made for. Some days I forget what it was like at the beginning. When it was fun.”
“Hey.” I tap the top of her laptop. “You want it fun? Stop listening to all the crazy and kick that fear the heck out of there. Otherwise it’ll chain you down. And where’s the freedom in that?”
“That’s funny.” Elbows on the table, she rests her chin in her hands. “That’s why I started in the first place, you know. To give the words their freedom.”
“And I was good.”
“You really think I can do this?” She sits back, shoulders a little straighter. A spark settles in her eyes and I let out my breath.
“You already are.” It had to be said. And finally she nods.
“I am, aren’t I?” And then she smiles.
A smile that stretches wide like doors flung open on a spring morning to let in fresh new air.
“And even if I fail, well, there’s no shame in that. Because I tried. And I’ll know I did my very best. And that’s all anybody can ask for, really, isn’t it?”
“It is indeed.” And the words are more for me now. Because I needed the reminder.
“Okay?” I reach my hand out and she clasps it tight.
“Let’s do it.”
So we will soldier on. Together.
Victory sidles up and slaps us both on the back.
Hello, writers. Welcome home.