“‘Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be.
And I will hold on hope.
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck.
And I’ll find strength in pain.
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again.” Mumford & Sons – The Cave
I drove down tree-lined streets with no real direction, no end destination. I just drove. Using my car as my method of escape, I ran from everything. Hoping that somewhere, a path would clear and a sign would point me to where I needed to go. I drove fast, furiously, with tears streaming down my cheeks, desperate for the pressure I had created within myself to release.
Mumford and Sons blasting from the radio, trying to empower the positive voice, the beautiful voice, within me to come forward and free me from what I perceived to be my reality.
That day forever changed my life. Two months later, I was on a new path. In January of 2013, I left my career of 11 years in retail management and took a leap of faith. I started grad school. I went back to my roots, and chose to embrace the one thing that has always made me feel better: writing.
Of course, a lot of stuff happened in those two months in between the long drive and starting graduate school to get me to that place. But I finally had a frame of reference, some structure for myself (because working a 50 hour week, being a mom to a one year old, and being 6 weeks pregnant doesn’t allow for much structure).
As I sat in Bresieth 107 for CW501 on a chilly Friday night, looking around at the 17 other people in the room with me, I felt the panic welling up inside me (two years later, I’d learn that EVERYONE felt that same way). I told myself I needed to be there. My sister once told me that I was “good at going to school,” and while I didn’t know what that meant, I held onto it, because at that moment I just needed to be good at something.
Michael sat at his desk, supplies laid out perfectly, and ready to take on his first task. Austin entered, and I swear a Fabio photo shoot was in session. The air blew his chin length hair perfectly, and I swear the sky parted and a ray of sunlight shone into the room, adding a soft glow to his presence. Elisabeth looked so put together and sophisticated that I swore she was on her fourth degree. Nina already knew Bonnie, and Austin, Debbie and Bonnie had already been acquainted. I didn’t belong here.
Two and a half years later, I’m not sure I belong anywhere but there. In such a short time, I accomplished so much. Obviously, I’ve grown so much as a writer. Thanks to that leap of faith, I am now a full-time copywriter, juggling projects and freelancing, working as my own boss. My work is out there, my screenplays are getting great feedback in contests, and I pretty much spend a large portion of my day writing in some context.
But even more impressive (at least to myself) is the personal growth that came from this experience. As I received my MFA this past weekend, I had to really come to terms with reaching that destination that saved me from miles of endless nothingness.
I’m not nervous. I’m not worried. Because it’s really NOT over. The friendships that I have made during that time period are more valuable to me than the piece of paper in my hand that tells employers I may be able to write.
I network without panic. I accept that rejection isn’t personal. I deliver feedback and receive it respectfully. I have found the balance between my family, my writing, and my friends.
I drove to escape my reality. Constantly running. Now I write. Not to escape reality, but to change it. To better it.
Special Thanks to everyone who made this journey possible for me: my cohort – Austin, Elisabeth, Reagan, Rachel, Tiffany, Chris, Kelly, Leah, Draper, Jonathan, Debbie, Joe and Michael, and an extra special thanks to Nathan and BFF Nina for putting up with me and keeping me grounded. My honorary cohort members: Taylor, Dawn and Barb (we wear pink on Wednesdays!) Casey: for being another insomniac weirdo that can make me laugh at all hours and truly being a great friend. Ken for reminding me to keep comedy funny. Shadowfax, Artyfax, Casey (the cat not the insomniac), Alice and the late former feline Japanese stripper Kiki for inspiring my fashion choices that got me through the days of residency. Kendrick and Aurora, because Michael Richey said “Your kids will only ever know you as a writer.” And you guys are the reason I chose to be better. Wally, because the endless support from day one is more than I could have ever asked for. And to my family: Mom, Dad, Robin, Shelley, Bud, Andrea, Mike, Billy, Dallas, Noah, Abby and Colleen who made every residency a possibility by taking care of my children and supporting me even when they had no idea what I was doing.
I’m finally living my “life as it’s meant to be.”
Check out my website: nicholekanney.com
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