Two weeks ago I was lying in bed, flicking around the internet. It was past midnight, and I was highly aware that I was a.) breaking my no-laptop-in-bed rule and b.) dishonoring a rare opportunity to fall asleep before midnight when a page unfurled across the screen announcing a journalism fellowship.
The title alone unleashed a familiar sensation through my chest, like steel coils winding around my ribs, deep into my intestines, and through the curvatures of my brain. It’s the same sensation I’d felt when I read of the directing internship in California, when I saw the boy with the square glasses in the bike shop that purple fall day, when I laced my running shoes and pointed myself towards the Golden Gate Bridge that one spring break. It’s the feeling I get every time I’m about to go after something that I have no business or qualification or hope for success in even considering. But the idealist in me latches onto a course of action before the realist can catch up and dissuade such foolishness. And no matter how much the realist tries to reason with the idealist, the terror of letting the small possibility of something great pass me by overrides the larger possibility that I will fall on my face.
So I close my laptop, lie back in bed, and think, You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. The deadline read March 1.
Over the next two weeks, I do my research, gather my recommendation letters, and write my application.
And the entire time I oscillate between laughing at the absurdity of attempting this goal and daring to warm my fingertips on the slight hope that I could get it simply because I am applying.
The fellowship would provide funds and mentorship to pursue a story I have wanted to tell about Western Alaska since I arrived in the region. While compiling the application, I decide fellowship or not, I’m going to write the story. And finding myself within this decision, I look behind at the preceding moments and years, questioning too often why I had waited for permission or approval or means to pick up the pen and begin checking off my scrolled list of whispering enterprises. So I jump into that cavity of self and start excavating what taught me that external endorsement exists as a requirement instead of a bonus.
I am still unearthing those answers.
And then an unexpected gift, a reviving, a cleansing. Last Sunday and then again on Friday, late at night in a studio, typing for hours without thought of water or food or surroundings or time, entering and submitting to the vulnerable terror of wanting something— really wanting something— and feeling that fire blaze through the brush of ennui and cobwebs of self-doubt.
Saturday night, I hit submit.
Whether I get the fellowship or not has become irrelevant. It’s out of my hands. But a door now exists that didn’t before. A new possibility has entered the world. Who knows, something extraordinary might walk through.