Five days of self-discovery in the Arizona desert, plus some help from a career coach, and I had decided to make a drastic life change. I actually left twenty-four years of loan-accumulating education and a lucrative career to become a writer.
Incidentally, with English as my second language and immigrant parents, who expected nothing less than a medical degree from their first born, writing had never entered my mind.
Now all of a sudden the craft had put its voodoo curse on me where for two years I simply couldn’t stop writing. To prove serious intentions, shortly after leaving oral surgery an obsessed scribe, I submitted my first essay.
At about this time my brother, a devout Buddhist, tried once again to recruit me into his “life changing practice. Whatever you want just chant for it.” Why not, I figured. What better time than when one is embarking on a new career, which has nothing to do with her old one, and doesn’t even use the same brain hemisphere: oral surgery: left, writing: right.
Abiding by the aphorism, “write what you know,” I wrote about tea, an integral part of any Persian’s upbringing. Then asked for second, third and fourth opinions from writer friends, their friends, and an editor. By the time I implemented all their suggestions, the story changed from teacups and saucers to hierarchy and oppression.
As the essay sailed the digital pathways to its potential home, I unleashed the power of positive thinking on it. You see, Buddhists don’t accept defeat, only victory. Hence, I visualized, set intentions, and chanted like the dickens, so my work would get accepted, despite warnings that first works usually don’t.
Months later, I was just stepping out of the shower when the phone rang. Without having enough time to grab a towel I rushed to answer it. It was Ms. Dexter, Tea A Magazine’s editor. I had been staring at her picture as part of my visualization exercise. She was concerned about the story’s political ramifications. We are dealing with Iran after all. “Oh, no, no. There is nothing political about it.” I assured her in a panic. “It merely describes the social role of tea within families. Really.” God, why didn’t I stick to freaking cups and saucers?
“Ok,” she said. “Let me review it again, compare it to another essay we received, also about Iran, with beautiful pictures of porcelain cups and desserts, and get back to you.”
You mean she actually wanted teacups all along?
I hung up and stood there frozen. Was that a definite no, a partial no? Any chance it could be a possible yes?
You see, when it comes to editors, instead of a badass surgeon I become a respectful subordinate student. So, the idea that an editor had called me, a first time writer, released more adrenaline into my nervous system than it could handle. To prevent a heart attack, still naked, I started chanting at the top of my lungs (living alone had its perks). I just wanted to drown the overdose of “what if” thoughts. Except that, chanting alone was not doing the trick. Such high stimulation called for physical activity. So, without breaking the cycle, still nude and still chanting, I took to cleaning the tile floors. Not the Swiffer mop, either. I am talking down on hands and knees for some vigorous scrubbing, body parts bouncing around. It took two hours before I could collect myself off the shiny floor, put some clothes on, and resume daily activities.
Two weeks passed when another call came in. “Bahar? This is Joanna.”
Here comes the no.
“Ms. Dexter has decided to accept your essay for the Fall issue.”
I thanked her in that no-big-deal-I-get-this-all-the-time voice, hung up, then:
Holy Shit. I’m gonna be a published author.
Scream, jump, “Yes! Yes!” check the phone to make sure I hung up, scream, jump on the bed.
And to think all those years as a Muslim I covered myself from head to toe before praying.