“You need to get out of Vermont.”
This is something I have heard from numerous people, of all ages, for the passed six years, and even though each person generally has their own reasoning behind that statement, for the most part it comes down to the same thing: My options are too limited here.
The evolution of Becki Trudell has been a slow, tiring, frustrating, and yet fun and completely inappropriate process. Pretty much, I decided early on to let this journey happen at it’s leisure and so it has, but it’s moving in a positive direction nonetheless.
Fresh out of high school, I had no interest in anything aside from two things: boys and booze. (I still have a lot interest in both of those things, honestly.) Anyway, I said what every high school graduate says that hasn’t applied to any colleges, “I’m going to take a year off…” What I meant by that is that I was going to take seven years off and in the meantime, I was going to get hammered as much as humanly possible without killing myself and break as many hearts as a young girl could. Success, because I managed to do those things above and beyond most people’s expectations. I spent my evenings working as a waitress (and being content with that), taking shots in bar stools (and I was more than content with that), and looking for dudes (I was never more content). My dinners consisted of Hot pockets and Doritos. My exercise was dancing on bar tops. My conversations were ripe with gossip. I was about as typical as any person at that age, which is to say I was more or less the most boring version of myself in all of my 27 years. Of course, I didn’t think that at the time. I could draw a crowd better than most simply by telling jokes. My stories were regarded as some of the highest amongst the drunken community. (Shit, I even had one of my friends at the time tell my stories as her own right in front of me.) To be honest, I felt pretty damn awesome.
At the dawn of my 23rd year, I began to grow in ways I had not seen coming. I became restless with the bar every night. I became restless with being a waitress. I became restless with my life. Looking at myself in the mirror, was enough to make me restless because I looked like shit. I had gained a bunch of weight, my eyes were swollen and puffy, and I definitely needed to get my roots touched up– stat.
I was at one of those ‘cross roads’ you hear people talk about. I had two options; I could stay on the path I was on and end up a miserable, obscenely overweight server with a severe alcohol problem and herpes or I could get my shit together. I was in no immediate rush at the time to change these things. I just knew I did not want to be fat and I did not want herpes. So what was my course of action for changing my life? I began an affair with a married man and got engaged to be married to a different guy I had no business being with. Romantic life clean up? Uh, check…? I switched over from beer to red wine and from Hot Pockets to Lean Pockets. Weight problem? Check. I began to resent my job and talked about how I would one day go back to college. Successful career goals and a 5 year plan? Check.
Although hardly huge sweeping life altercations in a positive direction, they were baby steps, and there was one thing that did begin to emerge from all of that: I started writing again.
I began writing in the second grade. I have journals dating all the way back to 1992, and I still have stories that I wrote out on lined paper with a pencil from when my favorite TV show was Saved by the Bell. (Well, honestly, it’s still my favorite TV show. Whatever.) I kept a journal up until about the age of 21, and then I stopped writing. No reason, just stopped. I knew I was a relatively decent writer because teachers always read my essays out loud in class in high school. However, that barely registered with me and as far as a career? I never thought writing would suffice.
But when I started trying to slowly, painfully change who I was becoming back to the person I knew I was and wanted to be, writing began to come back, too. In a totally different form, however. I stopped writing journal entries, and started writing fictional stories. Somewhere throughout my life, I had lost the ability to successfully talk about my feelings in a coherent manner. Maybe it’s because for a while there I didn’t feel much except… drunk. Maybe it’s because all of my conversations had become vapid and hollow. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really think anyone cared. Who knows? Regardless, it happened and writing fictional stories was my way of sharing thoughts and emotions, but without actually having to take responsibility for my feelings. I didn’t feel these things I wrote about. Nope, my imaginary characters did.
So I started writing again and as I began to evolve from sucky to better as a person, so did what I wrote. But another seed began to grow, the realization that this is what I wanted to do with my life. Writing began to consume me. I still got drunk regularly, but instead of going to the bar I began sitting at home, drinking two bottles of wine, and writing until the sun came up. When I was at work, every situation that occurred became plot, and every person I met or hung out with became a part of a story, the bad guy, the bitch, etc. It was occurring to me that this was something I was actually passionate about.
I wrote for two years straight. Taking my own personal stories and making them someone else’s and I actually learned a lot about people and myself during that time. I realized some of my friends sucked. I realized some of my relationships with family members were completely fucked. I realized I was in (some form of) love with a dude I would never have again. I realized that my job as a server was not a career. I realized I was actually pretty smart, and honest, and compassionate, and like… a good person. I realized that I could in fact be a writer and love my job. It was a good working period for me. It prepared me for actually going back to school, changing up my social scene, switching from broccoli and cheese Lean Pockets to just fresh broccoli, and cutting back my drinking to once (or twice… or thrice) a week.
By the time 25 years came for me, I was in a good spot. I enrolled back into school. I met a great dude. I circled myself with mainly good people. I had a tight handle on who I was. Blah, blah, blah. Things were becoming productive. My plan was to do what I could at a community college and then transfer to a state college within commuting distance. The keyword here is was. That was my plan. I didn’t want to be too far from my boyfriend who owns a house in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t want to have to uproot my life at all. However, in order to keep this plan in action I would have to slightly alter what I wanted to major in, sacrifice if you will.
So here I am, 27 years old, and about 6 months ago when my birth clock clicked over to that number, another evolution began to take place. I decided I was changing my school plans. I was not sacrificing what I wanted to do with my life because my boyfriend bought a house before I met him that is not within driving distance of my dreams. I am not sacrificing what I want to be when I grow up because somebody told me I’ll never make any money doing it. And I am not sacrificing what I want to do with the rest of my every days because I live in Vermont.
I love Vermont. It has become a cocoon of comfort for me. I love that 10 minutes away there is 7 day-a-week farm stand filled with local produce. I love that there is no traffic. I love that I know most of the people I cross paths with. I love that I don’t worry about locking my door at night. I love that it’s so beautiful, and I love that people from other places tell me that it is and that I’m lucky to live here. I love Vermont and I am lucky to live here.
Unfortunately, in terms of careers and young people, it is not the mecca of success. I have a girlfriend who loves Vermont too, but can’t move back because if she does, she’ll end up using her degree to waitress again. I have another friend who wants to stay, but she can’t because unless she wants to work in a restaurant or sell sneakers at a discount outlet, she will not likely find a job. And college? Vermont has good colleges, but hardly any of them are within driving distance, and I plan on going to graduate school, which is definitely not happening as a writer in Vermont.
I sat my boyfriend down a bit ago, and finally had the balls to tell him my new plan. I knew he wasn’t going to be happy about it, but fortunately, although a bit disappointed, he seemed to take it rather well and understood my argument for heading out.
So, it’s a new cross road of my life, and this time the road that is going to eventually be the better of the two is leading me out of Vermont. My current plan is to head to Burlington in a year after I’ve done every thing I can do at the school I’m at now. I’ll be up north about two years finishing a degree in professional writing, spending a semester of that studying abroad in Florence, Italy. And then? I don’t know where I’ll end up. I’ve been looking at grad schools all over the country– it’s pretty much my new hobby. I could end up in Washington state. I could end up in Hawaii. I could end up in Maryland. I could end up in New Mexico. I could end up just a stone’s throw away in Massachusetts. I’ve even been looking at some graduate programs in other countries. I could end up anywhere. And although it’s sad because Vermont is my home, and it’s scary because Vermont is safe to me, it’s also very exciting because I’m going to be able to see and do things I can’t here.
I don’t want to leave Vermont, but maybe it’s a good thing that I’m forced to. The fact of the matter is we’re just not looking for the same things anymore. Vermont will always be my first love, and I hope when I do run into him again I’m not wearing sweatpants with no makeup on and my hair all tangled, because I’m hoping in the end…
Vermont will take me back.