Change came in a tiny box. I registered for the SAT and somewhere on the paper was a box to order a book of colleges and universities. Sure that I was destined for community college, I got out my lunch money that I hadn’t spent on lunches and ordered a copy.
The massive book arrived and though I told myself it was a waste of time, I spent hours reading about other school in other states, all they required and offered. And how much they cost.
I started circling schools. Dream schools. Cheap schools. And each school I circled was far away. Out of state. Out of the South. I wrote letters asking for applications. And while I either wiled the money out of my dad or from my lunch money, I came to believe that I was going to leave home. I didn’t ask the school guidance counselor or my dad. I showed my acceptance letter to my dad and told him this was where I was going. Indiana. Cheap and far away enough from my Florida town.
“Why can’t you go to PCC?” he asked.
“This is better,” I said, not knowing if this was true. Not wanting to confess that I wanted to leave everything. Clean slate. New me. I’d left my dad once before. I hoped he wouldn’t realize I was doing it again. “If that is what you want, Marta,” he said. “You’ll be very far away.”
I nodded and bit the inside of my cheek to keep from smiling. “But it has the cheapest out-of-state tuition,” I said. “And you did it. You left home to come here. And you were 17 too.”
“You do what you need to do,” he said. “You can always come home if you need to.”
How much experience do you need to be a writer? Do you need to leave home or can you stay in your room? Do you need to experiment, take risks, be wild, to be a writer? Is your own imagination sufficient? Eventually the experience has to stop and you need to sit down and write. And some experiences could kill you. And experience alone won’t put the right words on the page.
What experiences have you missed that could make you a better writer? Or is there any such thing?