“It was the best of times, it was the worst of the times” is the opening line to one of my favorite Victorian novels, A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. My curiosity was piqued when I spotted the line parodied on one of Dad’s writing manuals last spring. Blogging was a weekly staple, and I had begun browsing my journals for ideas to include in the accident book I dreamed of writing. I’d been housebound from seizures for five months. If it was “the worst of times” as far as my lifestyle went, then maybe it was the “best of times” to brush up on my sentences.
God must have thought it was the best of times to begin more than a sentence overhaul. The manual was written by a copy editor; as I read her anecdotes, I found myself wondering if I could do a similar type of job. Then I thought of my plan to write my own book. Why couldn’t I learn from other writers by editing their work? I used to edit dissertations and scholarly papers while I worked at my old job, after all. When I Googled “copy editor” I discovered that anyone who wanted any sort of legitimate editing job needed at least a BA in English. Yikes. That I did not have. Still, I’d fantasized about studying literature for a long time. Wasn’t dovetailing my fantasy with a practical skillset a good reason to return to school? Having something to do while I was stuck at home reinforced this was the best of times for a scholastic endeavor. Ivan and I couldn’t find a “worst of times” counterargument.
We had no idea that BA in English would lead to an MFA in creative writing instead of part-time work as an editor. I’d like to think my sentences are pretty spiffy at this point – at least compared to the ones I was writing in 2018. But I’ve also been shocked to realize the difference between dashing off weekly blog posts and writing seriously at the graduate level. In the past eight weeks, God’s taken me from trusting my writing instincts, to scrutinizing my competence, to sighing in relief every time I submit an assignment at a somewhat decent level. God seems to have decided this quarter is the “best of times” to lead me into a season that’s not the “worst of times,” but is definitely an uncomfortable time. And this new uncomfortable time is reminding me that success is not the point of my daily life. Yes, I have to feel awkward and insecure as a writer before I can grow as a writer. But the truth is that no matter what the earthly payoff for my earthly pursuits might be, God calls me to a higher pursuit. Worshiping God and cultivating my walk with Him should matter more to me than getting good grades or being published one day.
God’s method of initiating my writing adventure and refocusing my attention on Him as I continue that adventure is unconventional, to say the least. It’s amazing that the opening line of my favorite novel and the title of a random book at my parents’ condo launched an academic journey that will end in 2023, and a writing journey that I hope will continue for many years after that. As for my spiritual journey, I am certain that will require a lifetime.