The original title for this blog post was: Happy 10th Birthday LEAVING ATLANTA! #WriteLikeCrazy On Holiday. To celebrate the decade since I became a published author, I booked myself a fancy island vacation. First class all the way. For ten years in the biz, I felt that I deserved it. So that was going to be my post, all about taking care of yourself and learning to give yourself a round of applause. But you know– that’s not what ten years have taught me and a hurricane named Isaac made sure I didnt get it twisted.
Here’s what happened. About 48 hours ago, a tropical storm gathered in the Atlantic. I looked at the weather channel and it was nothing nice. My dream vacation– the one that was supposed to be my reward for a decade in the trenches– was being washed away. I know it’s insanse to take a weather event personally, but I was crushed. In my head, I call could hear all the naysayers. I don’t only mean the ones who warned me against travelling alone to Antigua (you’re going to get killed!) but all the naysayers along the way. I remembered everyone who failed to encourage me in my writing. (You would not believe the things people said. I was told everything from “you’ll starve!” to “all the guys are going to be scared to date a Published Writer.”) I remembered the people who told me to take the safe path and “write on the weekends.” I watched the Weather Channel, hung my head and worried about the process of canceling my trip.
I won’t lie. I cried about it and gave myself a headache. I hadn’t bought travel insurance, so I was going to lose all the money I had put down on the trip and I would start school without having had a few days to myself. I tried to figure out how to do a staycation here in Jersey, but it wasn’t just the same.
The the part of me that is stubborn, unreasonable, and optimistic refused to let me cancel. I decided to wait to see if the storm would “turn.”. After all, how many metaphorical storms have I weathered these last ten years? Since when did I start giving up so easily? I decided that if the planes were flying, I was going.
The storm did turn, not completely, but I am going to Antigua anyway. It’s going to be a Frankie Beverly vacation– sunshine and rain. The airline called and they are re-routing me halfway around the world and half of the trip will be in coach class. I was upset about this for a big chunk of yesterday. I had paid for a first class seat and I wanted to sit in first class. The nice woman on the phone explained to me (slowly like she was talking to a child) that there were no more seats in first class because this was a last minute ticket. I shot back, angry (like a child) that I had booked my original ticket back in April! She was calm. I would have to fly coach or not go. I whimpered and accepted seat 25C. She then suggested that I extend my trip an extra day since all day Thursday would be eaten up with travel drama. No charge, she said. I eagerly seized upon it, but there was a catch. Miami to JFK– coach again. So I had to weigh the options– an extra resort day, or a first class ticket home.
And here’s the lesson. You don’t always get what you deserve, but you will receive many blessings. Ten years ago, who would thought I would be taking an island vacation financed by the returns from my writing? Even five years ago, this type of getaway would still be just another unreachable item on my bucket list. For a minute, I almost spoiled it for myself because of my seat.
You see, I had assigned a sort of emotional premuim to that first class seat. I needed seat 3A because I had worked hard for it; if I didn’t have it, then it meant that I somehow had fallen short of my bucket list ideal. This fantasy of a first class vacation was something I dreamed up for myself when I was just starting out. It was probably based on something I had seen on television, or maybe even from overhearing friends and relatives who had “made it” talk about their vacations. And look how quickly I went from crying because I thought the trip was cancelled to being funky because it wouldn’t be first class all the way. Shamefully, I didn’t even take a second to be thankful that travel would be permitted at all.
In the ten years since Leaving Atlanta, I have worked to curb this kind of thinking. I’ve struggled to learn to put away petty markers of success and remember what the real indicators are of a life and career well lived. I sigh to think of how much time I wasted when I was just starting, fretting over The New York Times? And it’s not just baby-writers that do this. I have seen extremely successful people melt into tears because of some small disappointment. When I received a crappy review last year, Nichelle Tramble read it, agreed that it was viscious, but she said, “Let it have your breakfast, but don’t let it eat your dinner.” It’s so easy to disregard all the bounty that you have been given and that you have earned because of some insult heaped at your feet or some shiny thing that is just out of your reach. Ten years in, and I finally get it.
So– seat 2A or seat 25C, the point is that I am going, and that I wrote my way there.