If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably already know that I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman. I have read almost all of his books, and even have a few signed copies. I also have tickets to see him speak in November and I am ridiculously excited (hit me up if you have tickets to his event in Long Beach). He is absolutely brilliant with words. Whenever I feel completely uninspired, I head over to Youtube and watch his “Make Good Art” speech. His writing makes me simultaneously want to become a writer (even more than I already do) and feel completely inadequate. Because it’s beautiful.
Recently, I finally got a copies of his graphic novel series, Sandman. More precisely, I got the giant two-volume omnibus of Sandman (it’s gorgeous and so worth it). And while there are numerous Gaiman quotes from other books that I keep in the back of my brain, there is a quote from Sandman that really inspired me to take a huge gamble on myself.
It is sometimes a mistake to climb; it is always a mistake never even to make the attempt. If you do not climb, you will not fall. This is true. But is it that bad to fail, that hard to fall?
I’ve been afraid of that climb most of my life. I never did drugs, had detention, or even sipped alcohol someplace other than a family party before I was twenty (I almost made it to twenty-one). Twice in my life, I have taken huge risks. When I was twenty-one, I transferred schools and moved to Boston without ever having visited. I moved into a crappy apartment I had never seen, and did it all by myself because my parents couldn’t afford to come with me. All I had was two suitcases and a cat. It was terrifying.
I first read this quote about a year and a half ago. I was just starting to read Gaiman’s books (I think I’d just finished Neverwhere), and was feeling incredibly restless. I had a job that I hated that didn’t even pay me enough to move out of my parents’ house. I couldn’t find a good job doing anything else. I missed school and I didn’t really have anything to look forward to. Every day, I tried to convince myself that my life was fine. That I could be happy, and one day my boss would actually appreciate me (which literally didn’t happen until I gave my two weeks).
I thought about this quote a lot after I read it. I started to realize that, no matter how often I told myself otherwise, I was miserable. And I know from experience that when I’m miserable, I become a horrible person. I didn’t want to be that person. I decided that there is no excuse for remaining miserable.
Grad school was always something I’d said I’d do. I was the smart one. I was the one in bed with a book while my sisters were out partying. In a family where being a cheerleader was more valued than being a stage manager, I was kind of the black sheep. My intelligence was all I really had going for me. Of course, I’d get an advanced degree. But honestly, I never thought it would happen because I was to scared and lacked the confidence to actually do it.
Going to grad school might be a mistake. I might graduate with nothing but debt and not be able to get a job doing what I want to do. It’s entirely possible that I will never get a book published or even finish writing one. It might have been a mistake to climb. But I realized it really was an even bigger mistake not to try.