Some people just seem to hit the ground running, focusing in on a particular path or lifestyle choice with a kind of laserlike precision. They walk out of college—even high school—with a clear idea of what it is they want to do, and spend the next however-many years working steadily toward that goal. (Although of course what looks like extreme clarity and direction from the other side could always feel like a deep, dark rut, a case of burnout in the making—I’m not the one to ask.)
And then there are the rest of us who dither, to one extent or another—dropping out, switching majors, changing careers, taking time off to procreate or care for a loved one or go to rehab. Living, in other words. And while that may not be the best strategy for someone climbing the corporate ladder, or who should really have gone into publishing as a bright-eyed 22-year-old intern, not a cranky broad with mouths to feed at home (coughcough), it’s not a bad thing for a writer. Sure, there are those wunderkinder who emerge from their MFA programs with fully rounded, mature voices, but they’re more the anomaly than the writer who has an entire geology of experience, strata of bedrock, silt, and glacial upheavals acquired over the years, to work with.
I am excited and inspired by individuals from whom a determined self-reinvention—a digging in, a deep breath, an about face or leap off a cliff—has been required at some point in order to pursue the vocation that has called from within but for which there has been little native tailwind.
With all the attention the media gives to 20 Under 40 lists, or even, bless ’em, under 30, it’s good to see the full ripening process get its due. As someone who’s leapt off a cliff more than a few times—the fact you’re reading this blog is proof of that—I’m pleased to have contributed to their effort. My essay on Isak Dinesen, a marvelous storyteller and grande dame extraordinaire, is up over there, and I hope that in appreciation of all who took their time on the journey, you’ll mosey over and take a look.