Risks and Rewards in Choosing to Rewrite your Story
By Elise Miklich
I woke up to the sun pouring through one of the few windows in my tiny city apartment. While trying to remember everything I read last night on late 18th century Dandies, I dressed myself. During my ten-minute walk to the train I started to regret my choice of footwear and realized, all at once, that I never thought I’d find myself attending one of the most prestigious fashion graduate programs in New York City. I also never thought that I would feel so unfulfilled and out of place when I finally got there. On a city sidewalk I felt a knot in my stomach telling my feet “you’re going the wrong way."
While growing up, I had my heart set on two things: becoming a writer and working in the fashion industry. It took 22 years, moving 250 miles away, spending thousands of dollars and one month in graduate school to realize what I thought I wanted was actually the farthest thing from it. Although I knew I would bounce back, losing all sense of direction and purpose left me vulnerable, seeking meaning for a short while through romantic relationships, wine, and massive amounts of New York style pizza.
It was only by being in this emotional state that I learned I have the power to create possibility from nothing. Without hitting what felt like rock bottom in regards to executing a life-plan, I wouldn’t have discovered that I had the strength inside me to create (and decide to change) my own destiny. I learned that plans are nice to have, but they aren’t truly going to help you unless you have the guts to listen to your intuition and change the plan when necessary. There was a solution for every negative feeling waiting for me- it just depended on what I chose.
Choosing to not only leave my program, but to leave the city as well, was the hardest decision I’ve made since choosing to attend graduate school there in the first place. It was hard at first to realize, but neither of these decisions made me into a success or a failure. There was no right or wrong choice- only the choice to follow my gut or to ignore the warning signs and live with the consequences.
I always thought there was only one formula for achievement. That formula relied heavily on following consecutive, laid-out steps. Like N coming after M when we learned to sing our ABC’s when we were younger, college comes after high school and, if you’re crazy enough, medical school after pre-med. I didn’t feel like I could quit, and I was terrified to change my mind. To me, disturbing the order was to risk the security of my future. I was stuck in my mindset and believed I had to stick to the plan and ruthlessly chase it until it came to fruition. That was until mild warning signs in my stomach grew strong enough to no longer be ignored. Even though it was difficult, I am forever grateful for risk and disturbance, because without them I would not have had the courage to change my course.
Living in Upstate New York pursuing a career in writing and communications may not be as glamorous as city life at a fashion institute, but it sure feels right. I encourage all of you to break away from this linear thinking: Strip away everything around you. When you are clear on what you want, it is easier to determine what’s for you and what’s for someone else, and sometimes this means being clear on what you don’t want. Listen to the knot in your gut and rid yourself of it, don’t just mask the pain and force yourself to follow the original plan.
As Anis Mojgani writes in his poem “Here Am I”, “Will I be something? Am I something? And the answer comes: already am, always was, and I still have time to be."