I'm waiting for a letter.
College acceptance or refusal letters come in two sizes - large, full of information and tantalizing photographs for the former, and small, with paltry words of, it'll be alright, for the latter. My mailbox is small - they're all lined up in a neat row of condo-dwelling - and I don't know if the big envelope will fit, and I don't know if I want it to.
When I was working, I decided that applying to graduate school would be the catalyst for a graceful exit, the moment of triumph which would allow me to declare, I'm not coming back. I signed up to take the GRE, knowing that my math skills were atrophied and pitiful, and actually began to study numbers, take practice tests, beg for algebra lessons from my logical, genius husband. I dedicated myself to an hour of study each day, interspersing equations and word problems with vocabulary and essay practice. I poured myself into it, not sure if I would succeed - but I had to. I had to get out.
I took the GRE. I performed highly in verbal and written assessments, and poorly in math - unsurprising.
And then life took its natural course, leading me on the inescapable path of never knowing what would come next. I went back into therapy, mandated by my doctor. I spent two months talking, laughing, crying, building up the confidence to admit to myself and others that I could not continue, I could not maintain a life which was slowly and inexorably graying, fading, too beautiful and ugly and painful to endure.
I started writing again. I assembled short stories for my application, and began to dream about what this blog could be. I became a housewife.
Now, waiting for my letter, I'm not sure which envelope I'm hoping for. Graduate school was going to save me - I was going to rededicate myself to my truest passion while having the perfect excuse to leave my job. My acceptance at JHU would exculpate me, my weakness, my growing despair. I really, really needed it then; I'm not sure if I want it, now.
I love what I do - and I think it is the first time I've been able to say it. I loved college, but was restless for something more; I loved my jobs in retail, but hated the hours and physical labor; I loved my work as a special educator, but it wore me down until I was breathless as the ocean and salt-heavy with tears.
It bears repeating, then - I love what I do. I love writing, solitary, drinking coffee and sitting on the porch, and I love walking to the gym, each footfall a word in the growing story of my life. I love taking care of the house, and sometimes I really do love folding laundry.
Waking up is a joy, with no regrets and no desire to hide under my layers of quilts. Going to sleep is a blissful experience as I plan what I'll do the next day. I've become a better person - my relationships have improved as I have gained a measure of self-respect I never knew was possible. I am not scared; I look forward to things, like talking to my parents on the phone, seeing new friends in May, going to the gym and not caring about my sweat, heavy breathing, worn t-shirts and former insecurities.
And then - oh God, what letter is coming? What letter do I want? Am I willing to face a new challenge, or am I perfectly content here, listening to the birds, typing out missives of who I am and who I can be?
When I think about graduate school, I imagine something grand and noble - that creative life of wine and writing and swift lines of ink like Hirschfeld and Picasso and Joyce. I think about leather bags filled with papers and scribbles and the smell of tobacco and tweed. I conjure images of my former TAs, so intelligent, so quick with advice, kind words, cold beers. All of that sounds so amazing, and I think about driving to Baltimore and seeing the sun rise over tall buildings and the football stadium, passing the new theatre space on North Avenue, parallel parking and climbing the hill to the upper quad and grabbing a cinnamon latte in the library cafe.
It's all very romantic.
But is it what I want?
The point, of course, is moot - I'm still waiting for my letter, whichever it will be. But I'm beginning to realize than when I compare the two possible paths, I see myself writing as a housewife - blogging here and, in May, another space - and I'm not quite able to picture myself composing the Great American Novel at JHU. Grad school has a lot to offer, from the free tuition to the workshops with published authors to the pink magnolias and the smell of spring.
This life has a lot to offer. This moment, in my pajamas, doing what I love most.
I'm not sure I'm ready to give that up.
I'm waiting for my letter.