Best Of GS&NS: "On Vulnerability And Turning The Page: A Farewell" By Joshua Watkins
GirlSense & NonSense is sharing our most favorite pieces to celebrate our 2nd birthday!
"On Vulnerability And Turning The Page: A Farewell" by Joshua Watkins first appeared on our website on April 7th, 2015.
Part 1: An Unneccesary(?) Prologue I moved back to Boise for the wrong reasons.
This is not to say that I don't love Boise, or that it wasn't the right place for me to transition out of academic life and into "the real world" (I'm still not sure what that means), or that I haven't enjoyed being around so many people who are so dear to me. But that's a case of a situation working out in spite of arising from a poor life choice.
Reasons I Moved Back to Boise: The Version I Told My Parents
1) Most of my academic resources would be unavailable during the final two months of writing my dissertation. My dorm room was not a conducive environment for writing. It would be easier to get a job if I was actually in the States instead of in London.
2) I could use the money I would save from leaving early to go on an expansive, if not epic, European vacation, complete with cycling through the Swiss Alps and napping on a rock off the northern coast of Spain.
Reasons I Moved Back to Boise: The Version I Told My Friends
1) I had someone waiting for me.
2) Most of the people I cared about were leaving London early as well.
Reasons I Moved Back to Boise: The Truth
1) I was scared.
A few years ago, when my future comedy partner/current spirit animal Kristen Wiig was being interviewed on a podcast, she told the host, "My life right now is not what I thought it would be six months ago." Ever since, I've been jealous of how genuinely excited she seemed about the uncertainty of her life, and tried to view the world and the opportunities I had in life the same way. Up until the summer of 2014, I knew where I would be in six months: from high school to college, undergraduate to graduate school. The location may have been undetermined, but I knew what I was doing. Having that kind of certainty, an absolute of who I was and what I did, was a comfort, an assurance, but most importantly, a privilege.
When that privilege was taken away by the countdown of finishing my education, I was afraid of not being able to know the next steps. Where would I live? Where would I work? Wasn't it unfair to force someone in their early 20s to make such long-lasting life decisions? So I retreated into the safest place I knew--the place I still referred to as home, the place I felt I knew like the back of my hand, so much so that I should have actually had a map tattooed there.
Part 2: To Whom It May Concern (Otherwise Known As, Please Hire Me, I'm Not An Unemployed Statistic) ((Otherwise Known As, The Real Application Process))
*No Phone Calls Please*
The faster I type
The louder the clicks of the buttons echo in my head
I am a qualified candidate.
I will be a positive contribution to your organization.
I can be who you want me to be.
*Due to the high volume of applicants, we can only contact those we are interested in moving forward with*
I’ve got 75 confirmation emails and 7.5 rejection letters
The rest can’t be fucked, or should I say, be bothered
After all, I left the slang of London in an airport garbage can, along with the notion of greatness and remnants of a skinny vanilla latte
*As much as I enjoyed talking to you last week, we chose someone who had about 6 more months quantitative experience*
Click Ctrl + N
Attn: Human Resources
Here are 500 words
Where I attempt to simultaneously be self-congratulatory and humble
Because while nothing beats a backdoor brag
I don’t think one page is enough to tell you who I am
*Please attach a writing sample not to exceed 250 words*
*Describe what you’re passionate about*
I’m not so naïve that I equate my life having purpose with being employed
There’s a classroom of 27 people who twice a week remind me where I come from
One says, “I know it’s not what you had planned, but for what it’s worth, I’m glad you are here”
There’s my purpose.
*Thank you for your interest in our organization. We will review your applications shortly.*
Thank you for your consideration of my application; I look forward to hearing from you soon
(Question: Too presumptuous?)
Part 3: I'M NOT LISTENING TO ALICIA KEYS, DAMMIT//Capital State of Mind
In 12 days, I move to Washington, D.C. to work on digital media strategy (I don't know what this means either). It's been a difficult 9 months of questioning myself, how I see others, what it means to have a sense of purpose, what it means to define yourself.
SPOILER ALERT: NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, gets to define who you are.
The other night, I hiked the foothills with one of the most amazing friends I could ask for. When we reached the end of the trail, we climbed onto a gate and sat on the edge, looking over the hills, the city, the place I had so unquestionably retreated to in moments of weakness almost a year prior; we really were just sitting there in silence, the sort of silence that is easy and natural and probably represents a higher level of trust and vulnerability than you would care to admit if you took the time to think about it. (Side note: If you're reading this, I'm sorry for sharing this moment with the world.) The wind was picking up and some clouds had started to block the sun, but despite the cold, or perhaps because of it, I thought of my favorite memoir, Emily Gould's And The Heart Says Whatever; I thought of how it's the one book I've read more than any other, the moments I've used it to guide me in my life, and what Gould writes at the end of her introduction:
"I can look back and recognize the things I've done and said that were wrong: unethical, gratuitously hurtful, golden-rule-breaking, et cetera. Sometimes the wrongness was even clear at the time, though not as clear as it is now. But I did these things because I felt the pull of a trajectory, a sense of experience piling up the way it does as you turn the pages of a novel. I would be lying if I said I was a different person now. I am the same person. I would do it all again."
I'm not sure I've earned the right to try to pass along wisdom, or draw some sort of larger meaning from any of the rambling I've done thus far. (By the way, if you have read up to this point, THANK YOU. You are braver than I.) But if I did learn a lesson from all of this, something I would want to tell anyone who would listen, it's this: Don't retreat into what's comfortable because you're scared. Exposing yourself is a lot more courageous than putting on a front.