Just over a month ago, I did something that was high-risk and whose failure would have been disastrous.
With very little money in my pocket, I packed 9 day's worth of clothes and road-tripped from South Carolina to New York City.
I had a tenuously promising job opportunity lined up and a few couches to crash on. I knew I'd be gone for five days but that it could potentially turn into a much longer trip. And I was hoping and, let's be real, praying, that it would work out.
Because I'm a New York person. It is my city. It is my home. It is the place that meshes with my soul. And I craved being back in its movement, wildness, momentum.
So I took a risk. I leaped, knowing that if I fell there was a very thin, very hard net that would catch me. Some bones would break, for sure, cause the net was made of, like, thickly woven mesh or something else uncomfortable, but I would be alive.
And somehow, more than a moth later, I am still falling.
I took this chance because I felt the need to be in the city that matches the rhythms of my heart, and because I figured, hey, worst case scenario there's a great story in this, right?
It's been a rough month. There have been high-flying moments — when I found out I was going to be offered a training position and get paid for my work; when I was brought onto the overnight shift; when I found a place to stay for free for a little over two weeks; when I reconnected with old friends and laughed so hard I thought I wouldn't be able to breathe anymore; when I finally sat down and drafted my novel-in-progress for the first time in weeks and it felt so, so good.
There were low points, though. When I was off my medication and crying so hard I thought my body would break; when I was so broke I literally had no food and a negative account balance and I had to ask a friend for a long because I was so hungry I was crying for no reason; when the freaking MTA just up and took a nap in the middle of my trip because, well, that's what the MTA does.
But you know, that's kind of...how life goes?
And I think that kind of story, the one with ups and downs such that if you graphed it, it would be roller-coaster-like, is the best kind.
In middle school they taught us about storytelling and it was this super clean graph, it ascended to a point and then came crashing down.
But real life isn't like that. Maybe it's because I write contemporary, but I really feel like stories should reflect that side of life. It's messy. It's tumultuous. There is no steady growth, no noticeable peak, no neat denouement.
I'm reading Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennet right now, and what I love about it (in addition to the swoon-worthy romance and clever banter which is basically my catnip), is that it's messy. The characters are messy. They're weird. They have quirks and ups and downs and their relationships start and stop and start again, take a wild turn here and are flipped upside down over there.
It's real, is what I'm saying.
To me, that's what literature should strive to do. Reflect reality. Honestly, whether you're writing contemporary or fantasy, romance or sci-fi, dystopian or historical, literature should reflect truth. Not the truth of what actually happened, perhaps, but the truth of who we are as humans.
This month's journey has been wild. It's been unexpected. It's been both far better and much worse than I every would have imagined.
It's been life-like.