“If only” are the saddest two words

Well, I’ve a bit of good news. I know where I will be going after Aug 31st when the house sit here in East Dulwich ends. I’ve secured a pet sit in Leeds here in the UK from Sept 2-17th. They have a beautiful Siberian Forest cat(who is huge!)named ‘Tarmy’ that I will be taking care of. I haven’t been to Leeds before, so I’m excited! I’ve already looked up what there is to do there, and I know the first place I will be heading is the West Yorkshire Playhouse. They are doing a ballet interpretation of Wuthering Heights. As a former ballerina myself and a rabid Bronte fan, there is no way I’m going to miss it. And they have tickets available for only £15! Of course I will be way in the back, but I’m used to that. As I always say, at least I’m in the building! ( When I was going to college in NYC, I saw many a Broadway production by buying the $15 standing room tickets. And, I will admit, there were also the times when I would see only the second half of a production by sneaking in during intermission with all the smokers who took a break outside. I would just sidle in with them and then find an empty seat. Don’t judge me. )

Anyway, I’ve told ya’ll about many of the people I have met here. And often, when I tell them about what I am doing here in the U.K…that I have sold all my belongings and left my job, family and friends to go traveling around the world and write…so many people say the same thing… “You are so brave.” I’ve heard it time and time again. But here is the thing. I don’t feel brave. I’ve felt MANY things since I decided to do this, and have discovered some new and interesting emotions to churn my belly along the way. But bravery? Nope. Not for one second.

I didn’t embark on this full of bravado, certain that once I flung my brilliance out into the world I would achieve all my hopes and dreams. Far from it. I took this leap out of sheer unadulterated fear. The kind of fear and terror that makes a 140 lb woman able to lift a car off of her trapped child, or leap from a burning building. Or sell all her stuff and run to Europe to write.

There are two things that I am terrified of in this world…lightning(for damn good reason…that shit will come out of the sky and kill you) and regret. And I’ve learned during my 47 years of living on this planet, that the things I most regret are the ones I DIDN’T do. Opportunities missed because I was too lazy or scared to take them…feelings left unshared until it was too late…yada yada yada, you know the drill. Coming up with excuses for not taking chances or risks.

I hate “what ifs”. And the older I get, the more I hate them. Which only makes sense as time marches on and I get closer to the end zone. And unlike a football field (American football), the end zone isn’t clearly marked. Lightning could fry my butt at any moment.(I got “mildly” struck when I was 13 and am absolutely convinced its stalking me to finish the job)

Luckily, one thing I am not afraid of is failure. Hell, I’m good at failure! I’ve failed at all sorts of things. Mind you, it is never my intention to fail. I also have no fear of success, and I have had enough of that that I keep on plugging away. I figure, you keep throwing enough stuff out into the universe, eventually something will stick. But you don’t want to toss it something you gave 50% of yourself to. The universe doesn’t want your half assed crap. You have to give it everything you have, so you aren’t left with any “what ifs”. And when or if you fail, you learn from it and move on and keep going. Sometimes you can even laugh about it. (If we ever meet, remind me to tell you about the time I decided to write and produce a sitcom I had written just because I felt like it. Lesson…don’t try to do it from start to finish in less than two months. But I did, and we all had fun. But you won’t be seeing it on Netflix.)

The desire to write has always been a part of me, since I was a wee tot. I remember when I got a Brother electric typewriter for Christmas. I was on it for hours that day…blissfully creating all sorts of weird stories. Most of my life I’ve managed to squeeze it in between working full time and being a single parent.  Mainly plays that I was able to get produced in community theatre, and a few other things here and there. Nothing I ever got paid for,(or got paid very much) but it was enough to keep me happy. (I’m not even sure I’m any good…and I agonize over every word. But I’ve since learned that all writers feel that way. Boy, that was a relief.) Would I have liked to be able to make a living from it? Sure! But working and parenting came first, so I slid it in when I could.

Until it got to the point where I couldn’t any more. My daughter was out of college, working full time and living on her own. ( I’m very proud of my spawn!) However, my job was quite literally taking up all of my time and life and energy. Night shifts, day shifts, second shifts…back and forth…every week was different. 12, 15 or even 18 hour days. Being called in on a day off for an emergency, working in the Florida heat on my feet all day. No vacation days…no sick days. I became a zombie. Depressed. Didn’t see my friends, had no social life, and certainly didn’t have the time, or even the ability to write. I had ideas…oh yes I had ideas!! (I will say, night shift was great for coming up with story concepts!) I even tried getting up early in the morning at 3 am before a regular shift would start. But no matter what I did…when I would try to put words on paper, I would end up just crying in frustration.  It wasn’t that the work was awful, and I made a decent living…it was just the hours and the energy expenditure that was doing me in. Four years of it, and there wasn’t any relief in sight.

And I got scared. I was scared that this was it. I’m 47. Who leaves a good paying job at 47 to start something new? But did I want to end up in my 80’s…wishing I had had the guts to change my situation when I could?

Fear led me here. It doesn’t take any bravery to leap OUT of a burning building. Its instinct. The human instinct to survive…to live. I was surviving…huddled in the corner trying to keep the flames away…but I wasn’t living.

And so I leaped.

Only time will tell whether this ends up a ‘successful’ venture. If I manage to have enough time to create a finished product, be it the short story collection I have started, or another play. The worst outcome really is that I get to write a bit and have some adventures. I do occasionally get asked…why Europe? Why England? Why leap so FAR? Why not stay in the states…or go live in someone’s basement? And the answer is…if I am going to leap, I am going to jump as high and as far as I can. Because I may only get this one chance. For all I know, the end zone is closer than I think. (Plus, by taking such a risk, I’m removing the possibility of laziness creeping in to derail me. If I want to keep traveling…I have to work. Its like a mental cattle prod. Also, I just love the UK. Always have. Especially London)

I am going to see as much of the world as possible, and work on my stories, and write this blog…and meet people and explore!! And use all of that juicy life to fuel my imagination. And the more I write, the better I will get. And if I am back in Florida at my old job in three months, if I run out of money and don’t have enough coming in to keep going…then so be it. I will go back to work…and if life lets me I will try again. (Up until my daughter marries, and if she gets over thinking pregnancy is weird and kind of gross…then someday I may become a Grandma. I want to be near her for that, wherever she may be.)

So…the time is now….the day is here….

(How many of you just read that and added “One Day More!” at the end?)

My story isn’t that unique. I’m not the first person to give up everything to travel and have adventures or take a risk. And there is nothing noble about what I’m doing. Its just my way of keepin’ on, and making damn sure I don’t end up in the old folks home muttering over and over to myself… “If only I had tried”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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