First published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel, 2018
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 this part of me before.
We dated long distance for the first year we were together (he, in Washington and I, in California) so he never knew the effort it took to be a working writer.
For him, every meeting I took and interview I did was a brush off to our boat life.
That, mixed 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 experienced the biggest fight we’ve 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, my daily routines, my 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.
Standing My Ground
I told him how I felt and he stared at me, 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 that was said.
After about a mile down the road, 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 wasn’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.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
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.
He 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.”
I cried, relieved he understood and appreciated all that 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 embrace he whispered in my ear, “I love you.”
Finding My Way
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 became aware I that I was one?
Our fight became a proclamation that I was an artist. I was too embarrassed to admit it before, reserving the title to painters who showed in galleries.
(Sure, it’s just another label. But sometimes you have to put a name on something to know how to comprehend it.)
I blamed Jason for not understanding, but it wasn’t until I was 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.