I became a freelancer.
I have a cousin, Lillian, who is my opposite, not just because she has fair, straight hair and brown eyes and freckles, but because of. . . everything. She perms her bangs. She was practically born wearing sensible shoes. When she was 14, her dream car was a minivan. While the boy cousins and I spent our summer nights catching milk jugs full of tree frogs and playing sardines in the dark, she was probably watching The Sound of Music again. She played with dolls until. . . . Actually I’m not sure she ever stopped.
Lillian is a teacher for 4-year-olds. She’s slightly overweight and is married to a very overweight man and they have two obscenely overweight dogs and they all sit around and watch NASCAR. She eats fast food and posts inappropriately personal things on Facebook. She lives in the same small town she always has, in her husband’s house where she moved from her parent’s house when she got married.
I loved to dive when I was little: stretched out full and eyes wide open, even off the high diving board at swimming lessons. Lillian, though, with her goggles on tight and her nose held and her little toothpick jumps, still got nosebleeds in the pool about once a week.
And once, when she thought I was still under water, I heard her say, “I wish we could all be as brave as Beatrix.”
I became a freelancer, which is to say that I quit my job.
It was a brave thing to do, I think, but it’s a fine line. What if we take a dive off the highest cliff, not because we aren’t afraid of the water below, but because we are terrified of what might be up there with us?