As soon as I came back to Santa Barbara, I jumped into the writer’s hustle again – pitching stories, setting up interviews, meeting with editors, and, of course, writing.
Other than writing every day, Jason had never seen what it takes to be a freelance writer before. Since we long-distance dated the first year we were together (he, in Washington and I, in California), he never knew the effort it took to make money writing. Later, I quit my job as an editor to move sail with him to Mexico last year (and we know how that turned out). But now that we’ve sailed into town again, it’s game on. I needed to find myself again as a writer, and jumping back into the grind was the only way I knew to do it.
But for Jason, every meeting and interview I did was a brush-off to our life on the boat. And I feared this would happen. We’re on dry land again, and separate interests combined with family and friend obligations and the fact we were now staying at his dad’s house had disconnected us a bit.
So, two weeks into our stay in Santa Barbara, Jason and I fought harder than we ever had.
“I feel like you’re not taking our cruising life seriously!” he said. “I want you to be vested in our life together.”
I stood there, stunned.
I thought back to how much I adapted my life – changed my address, daily routines, and freakin’ wardrobe – to learn to live on a boat and support his dream of sailing, ultimately investing in our life together. Taking a risk for love was worth it, but it didn’t mean I would sacrifice my creative needs in the process.
I told Jason how I felt, and he stared back, taking it in. With tears in my eyes, I said the words that crushed my heart and freed my soul:
“I need a partner who will support me the way I support them. And if you aren’t able to do that, then I can’t be in this relationship.”
I excused myself and went on a walk to absorb everything. After about a mile, I stumbled upon a cemetery and wandered in.
As I passed along graves of the unknown, I wondered how many had died without following their dreams? How many sacrificed their ambitions for another’s? I realized I couldn’t live that way. If Jason isn’t able to encourage my creative life, I would have to walk away for good.
My life as a writer is a part of who I am, and I couldn’t jeopardize it for anyone. It’s a non-negotiable. I had to stay true to my heart, and as much as it would break my heart to end our relationship, the pain would be nothing compared to the pain of a life not fully lived.
I walked home, prepared for a final stand. So much so, I already calculated how long it would take to pack my bags, rent a car, and get the hell out of town.
Jason was sitting at the dining table when I walked in, and his face lit up. I waited for him to speak.
“I’m sorry I’ve taken your support for granted,” he said. “And I’m sorry I haven’t supported you as much as you have supported me.”
Tears welled up; I was so relieved he understood and appreciated all I have done for him.
“You have to realize that supporting my dreams isn’t going to take away from our dreams together. It’s only going to make us stronger,” I said.
He nodded, walked over, and after a long hug, he whispered, “I love you.”
A few days later, it dawned on me: How did I expect Jason to emotionally support me as a creative person when I only just found the confidence to realize I was one?
Our fight became a proclamation that I was an artist – a writer to the core. I was too embarrassed to say the word “artist,” thinking it only belonged to painters who showed in galleries. (Sure, it’s just another label. But sometimes you have to name it to comprehend it.)
I blamed Jason for not understanding, but it wasn’t until he backed into a corner that I really understood my true self. Our argument allowed me to come to terms with this identity. Now, it was my turn to figure out how to emotionally support an artistic life for myself.
Read the next column, inspired by this story, here: How-To Love an Artist.