THE GREAT ESCAPE

In this series apprentice Imari Berry selects essays from Jessica Conoley’s archives.  Imari shares why the essay resonates with her as a newer creative, & Jessica’s original essay follows.

Imari chose this essay because: “It’s so authentic and inspirational. It shows step by step how one’s dream can become reality.”

Initial publication Date: July 7, 2015

The Great Escape

4/20/15-email from agent after reading my whole The Color Eater manuscript.  I’m super excited because I know an email like this means I’m getting close. There’s merit in my writing. Includes the phrase “I really liked a lot about it; the writing was excellent, the action was well-executed, and the different powers people had were super cool.” Followed by lengthy suggestions where the story could be fleshed out in addition to an invitation to resubmit once re-writes are done. 
 
4/22/15-Panic attack at the idea I am getting into serious rewrites again.  Overwhelming terror at the thought of trying to go to my evil day job and intellectually find the headspace to world build the entire bad guy domain, infrastructure, and back story for a half a dozen secondary characters.
 
4/27/15-I call in sick because the thought of going in to evil day job makes me want to die.  I hide in movie theaters all day.  First I see The Age of Adeline and then Adeline’s husband in The Woman in Gold.
 
4/28/15-I sit down at my desk, check my voicemail, and burst into tears.  I am not a crier.  This is a bad sign.  Work brother convinces me not to walk out; I make it to five o’clock.  I call my dad on the drive home. Even he agrees a comfortable salary is not worth this misery.  Opening the door to my condo, my roommate looks at my tear-stained face. I declare, “It’s time to quit.”
 
4/30/15-1 p.m.- I meet with my money guys.  They tell me I don’t have to work for nine months, and longer if I’m smart.  “Like-no work.  At all?”  I make them say it three times. 
 
4/30/15 – 2 p.m.-I take my grandparents a tiny pie to tell them eighteen-year-old Jessica made good decisions and earned thirty-five-year-old Jessica a lengthy birthday vacation.  I leave the pie to distract them from the fact I will not have a paying job for the first time since I was fourteen.
 
4/30/15 – 4 p.m.- email “I was asked by a local librarian to identify active and aspiring writers to attend a forum with an internationally known author/editor who specializes in science fiction and fantasy. Your friend suggested your name.”  Immediate response “yes, please!” Immediate research of who is in town that weekend.  Ummmm, George RR Martin is here.  Holy shit. What if it’s George RR Martin?
 
5/3/15-I walk down the hall and tell my roommate. “I just had no idea I could feel this happy.  I keep wondering when it’s going to disappear.”  He replies, “What if this is normal.” 
 
5/6/15-Email@company that bleeds my soul dry: “Dear Boss, Thank you for helping me through my ten-year career.  I have decided it is time to pursue my birthday vacation with the attention it deserves, please accept this as my two weeks notice.”
 
5/7/15-I turn down a request for a job interview, because I realize I may never have another chance to write for an entire summer. I also realize I’m thirty-five.  If I spent the first third of my life doing all the things I was supposed to, maybe, just maybe, I get to spend the 2nd third doing what I want to.
 
5/8/15-I wonder if Mom will hate Obama less because the only reason I really felt I could quit is because I can afford health insurance with Obamacare.
 
5/10/15- I solidify my rules for my writing summer.  1) I have to leave the house once a day. 2) Write. 3) Read anything and everything I want, but focus on Pulitzer Prize fiction winners. 4) Tell people “no” & don’t over commit.
 
5/12/15-A friend a few years younger than me tells me she’s so proud of me for quitting.  Says so many women would never be in a position to do this, especially not on their own.  For the first time I realize that my quitting is affecting more people than just me. 
 
5/13/15-I obsess that George RR Martin is in town the weekend of the 22nd.  What if I really get to have last day at evil work on the 20th & then go to private event with George RR Martin two days later.  I might die.  I literally might die.
 
5/16/15-Things I’ve noticed since I decided to quit: I no longer want to binge watch television.  It’s easier to work out.  All of my health problems since the beginning of the year are non-existent. Alcohol doesn’t sound as tasty.  I don’t feel guilty for all of the things I should be doing.
 
5/17/15-I sleep fourteen hours.  Quitting is exhausting.
 
5/20/15-My last day at work.  They bring me doughnuts. That’s nice.  But really all I can think about is the event in two days.  What if it’s George RR Martin?
 
5/22/15-10 a.m.  It’s super secret author day.  What if it’s him… I’m getting ready for the event and think When I’m a writer this is what my life will be like. I stop brushing my teeth.  Today I am a writer, and this is my life…
 
5/22/15-11:55 a.m.-It’s George RR Martin
 
5/22/15-12:27 p.m.-I ask him a question.  Out loud. With my words.
 
5/22/15-12:29 p.m.-He says, “That’s actually a really interesting question.” And then answers me for the next five minutes.  He’s looking at me.  Like in the eyes.  He’s talking. To me.
 
5/22/15-3:11 p.m.-I’m still alive.  I write this blog post.  I’m a writer.  And this is my life.
 
By Jessica Conoley

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