It’s a question that’s at the heart of my short story “I Wanna Get Off Here,” which is available in the wonderful, eclectic collection, The Corner Cafe: A Tasty Collection of Short Stories.
On June 14, fellow CC author, Morgan Mandel, talked about life-altering events in real life and in fiction at Straight from Hel. In most life-altering events, the choice to be moved to change presents itself.
A choice is definitely given to Bay, the main character of “I Wanna Get Off Here.”
In the story, Bay is a sweet, quiet bus driver with a dream in one hand and a bucket full of pain in the other hand. Her dream is one that many of you reading have or have achieved: to write and to more importantly DO something with her writing. In the bucket full of pain, we find low self-esteem, we find familial strife, we find a relationship that leaves so much to be desired. Much of the pain she endures keeps her from believing she could be better, that she could do something with the words she writes.
Does she ever find herself moved to change: to face the pain head on and say, “Enough is enough! I’m doing me now?”
Well, you’ll have to pick up The Corner Cafe and read my story to figure that out.
But that move to change, that final hurdle, obstacle where you have to make the choice to fight to the death to obtain your desires or to tuck tail and call defeat is a powerful one. It’s what we read stories for. It’s often what makes the most significant moments in our lives.
I know about the move to change.
The summer of 2001, I was trying to figure out what to do next in my life. I knew I wanted to pursue a master’s degree, but I had so many passions in my life it was hard to narrow down to one thing. One day, in an online group digest e-mail, I read about a school in Louisiana that was looking for students to apply to its MFA program. Only thing I knew about Louisiana was the stereotypical things I knew about Mardi Gras from TV. But something stirred in me to apply. Writing stories had been a part of my life since I was ten, and being able to better my craft and teach appealed to me. On a whim, and with the new semester beginning in a month (Gah!), I applied, and two weeks later, the fiction professor called me. We shared the best two-hour phone call I’ve ever had. In the end, the professor said, “We want you, Shon.” I felt a warmth spread in my chest as I said, “And I want to be wanted.” I had the choice to continue trying to figure out what to do with myself or to take a leap of faith and follow this path. I was moved to change, and that move has changed my life.
My life would be moved again in 2008. At the time, I feared that I would be losing my job soon, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I lamented over money, had a hard time finding another job, and I was right at the point of thinking I was a loser. How could I have all of this education, yet no one want to hire me? One day, while I walked across campus, a breeze touched my face, and I heard God say, “Apply for your Ph.D.” I had thought about doing so numerous times in the past, but always said no, thinking I wouldn’t get in, fearful of taking the dreaded GREs again (I absolutely SUCK at standardized tests). God made things even more interesting for me when he told me to apply to one school and even told me which school to apply to. Who did that–applied to one school? Wasn’t the goal to hedge bets and have at least one “safe” school–just in case? Again, life had build itself up in a way where I had two choices: go for the gold or tuck tail and stay lamenting. Again, I chose to act instead of retract. And again, the move changed my life, presenting me with new experiences, new friends, new milestones achieved, and new dreams to fulfill.
Like Bay from “I Wanna Get Off Here,” like many other characters, like many of you reading this, there always comes a moment when we are finally made to choose between breaking through fear and achieving a goal or walking away with our dream still in one hand and our bucket of pain and regret heavy in the other hand.
[Join The Corner Cafe Tour tomorrow as it chugs on to Alberta Ross’ blog!]