I was basking in the glory of reading adult books in silence during my holiday break from working as an elementary school SLP when the Facebook notification illuminated my dark screen: Vanessa Mártir has posted in Writing Our Lives. I typed in the too long passcode twice before I unlocked my phone. Maybe it’s information on the January 7th class or the Writing Fiction From Real Life workshop I’m thinking about taking.
It was neither.
It was the final essay in a 52 week challenge that Vanessa embarked on in 2016. She called them the Relentless Files. I read it. It was glorious as usual. I went back to reading.
One hour later. Another Facebook notification illuminated my dark screen. I glanced up from my book again, easily distracted by bright and sudden lights: Vanessa Mártir has posted in Writing Our Lives. Alright, for sure this is it. The information I’ve been waiting for.
It was not.
Instead, she posted: “I’ve been writing an essay a week in 2016 and have learned so much from the process that I’m considering doing it again in 2017. Anyone want to take on the challenge with me? Let’s hold ourselves accountable and surrender to the mystery of process. Who’s in? Vamos!”
#52essays2017 she hashtagged the challenge.
I hated her. I was sure of it now. Like when we used to sit in class and she would ask these deep, thought-provoking questions that made me doubt my entire existence and then gave me a warm, but also kind of smart-ass knowing smile before saying, “I want you to dig into that.”
Or like when I put up a nice profile picture, and she commented, “What a gorgeous pic! Future author pic? Wink emoji.” I wanted to be like nooooooooo … I’m not really a writer. I don’t even know how I ended up in this class, carajo! Damn her and her all loba, all fierce Brooklyn writer energy.
I am sure of one thing. I despise this #52essays2017 challenge. It is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of and I live in New York City so that says a lot. I loathe the idea of using my life as a writing prompt and putting out regular work for others to read. I’m not trying to do all that! I already took a #yearofyes challenge and that led to one of the most difficult years in my life so far, outside of my sister’s fight with cancer. 2016 can kick rocks. No more damn challenges. No more stepping out of my comfort zone. #52essays2017 can go dig a hole, bury itself and die a slow suffocating death.
That was a lot. I apologize.
I think that maybe, just maybe, the #52essays2017 challenge is an object correlative and my inexplicable, violent anger and desire to kick kittens through rainbows is actually fear.
I am terrified.
And this terror is worse than the anxiety I felt in the weeks leading up to the Fall semester of Writing Our Lives. All I can hear in my apartment as I sit in bed alone is the steady fizzing of the seltzer can on my nightstand as it goes flat and my heart pulsating in my stomach.
And that’s why I’m going to do it – because I’ve been debating whether or not to commit ever since I got the notification to my phone. Because it will force me to write, to produce work and to practice my craft. Because the woman who created the challenge is a woman, a mother, a writer and a teacher that I deeply admire and respect. And because I need to keep on stepping out of my comfort zone if I want to continue growing.
Lord knows I hate announcing the acceptance of this challenge publicly. What if I can’t keep up? What if I have nothing to write about? How about the weeks where what I want to write about is too personal?
I still don’t have the answers, but a quick google search of fear is almost as good as having Oprah Winfrey for a life coach. See results below:
“Fear is the brain’s way of saying there is something you have to overcome.”
“F.E.A.R has two meanings: Forget everything and run OR Face everything and rise. The choice is yours.”
“What we fear of doing most is usually what we need to do most.”
“Your largest fear carries your greatest growth.”
I get it. I am surrendering. Every week for the year 2017 I will come to the empty page and I will write about whatever or whoever is calling me.
I will show up.