Should I Stay (Or Should I Run?)

It feels like I’ve been treading water in the sea of a quarter-life crisis for two years now. Desperate to keep my chin above water, but oh so curious to see what lays beneath the surface, a grand vastness that holds too many possibilities to fathom. But, neither do I swim to shore, the safety of sand beneath my feet almost as terrifying as the prospect of drowning.

That metaphor has thoroughly run its course.

There are certain things I love about my job. I love helping people. I work with those who are often dismissed as “cr*zy” or some other ableist term, and certainly the folks I work with will likely never live on their own. They have coped with poverty, homelessness, and social rejection all as a result of their mental illness. I truly enjoy their company and their stories and being someone who can guide them when the voices act up or their anxiety takes hold.

On the other hand, I love to write. I love to craft stories, molding characters and worlds into fully formed beings. This passion intersects my desire to perform, to be on stage and become a character with just a flick of my wrist and the slightest inflection in my voice. I want to be the face of my stories, sing their songs, let their actions bleed through my own limbs until they see through my eyes. Until their eyes are mine.

What I’m terrified of is that I cannot have both.

In order to be successful, one has to dedicate, at some point, to a career. Put down roots at a position that doesn’t make you grind your teeth, with opportunities for advancement, that requires years of building bridges and baby steps until one can look back and think “This is my life’s work.” And, I don’t know how to do that, because I’m constantly torn between looking at PhD programs and local auditions, writing progress notes and outlining the next chapter. I’ve stopped running at the moment, letting my feet get used to the ground beneath me, but it seems that every minute that passes has my eyes flickering towards the nearest escape.

I don’t know how to keep still anymore. I only know how to run.


Published by Ren Martinez

Ren is a thirty-something Lost Boy whose personal aesthetic is “suspected of witchcraft by local villagers.” She subscribes to cheerful nihilism, the destruction of the patriarchy, and the belief that glitter makes everything better. She is a Richmond-based writer and performer who has fiction and non-fiction work found in a variety of publications, such as The Mary Sue, RVA Magazine, The Quotable, and Nostrovia Press. She is currently the fiction editor and a regular contributor at Quail Bell Magazine. She is also the co-host of the podcast, This F***ing Guy! Find out more at or read her dumbass tweets on Twitter @itsrenmartinez

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