“A few times in my life I’ve had moments of absolute clarity. When for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. It’s as though it had all just come into existence. I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be.” —Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
I’ve only ever felt this way when writing, which is why I feel I need to revisit it, on my own terms. Writing for work isn’t the same—it’s a job, and one that’s not as introspective/more robotic. It’s neater, and less vulnerable. For some reason that vulnerability has scared me a bit more over the last year, and I think it has to do with wanting to seem like a capital-P professional. Perhaps, I thought, it would be best to stop spilling my guts on the Internet.
But it begun to gnaw at me. Mornings that were once spent religiously throwing up and detangling my feelings—highly recommended, might I add—melted into mornings spent looking for clickbait-worthy kernels of fashion news. A new tradition had unfolded, and it made me feel dirty, like I had sold my soul to Forever 21.
The thing is, I’m great at belittling my feelings. It’s so easy to shake my finger at myself and my “dramatic, art-fueled” proclivities. A lot of people spend their days doing gross shit to pay the bills, I reminded myself. But if that comes at the cost of the work you enjoy, and, frankly, your self-worth, should you keep it up? That’s a question I’ve wrestled with a lot over the last few months, and one that I don’t have a definitive answer to yet.
I’m still too caught up in what other people expect of me, and that’s something I hope to lessen over the next year. I’d like to get real with myself about what I want—what I truly enjoy—not what other people think I should want or enjoy. I’m still too caught up in the glory of superficial things—events and relationships and cool titles—but I’m not convinced yet that the glory pays off. I’m smart enough to know it probably doesn’t, but just dumb enough to keep putting my stake in it all. I beat myself up for this, then try to remind myself that in the scheme of adulthood I’m a good-for-nothing zygote, bound to make a million more missteps before I settle into a slightly-less-flawed routine.
I also know that my Dad wrestled with the same things—in fact, he told me he did. I care about all of those things, he said, with a look that said “even though I know it’s stupid.” He cared about titles, money and “looks good on paper” success—and he was very successful as a result—but I’m not convinced that any of that made him very happy. I think it stressed him out and made him grouchy. He was at his best when he was far away from the grind, the glorified hustle…but that didn’t stop him from coming back.
I am always equated with him in that way (among, well, many others) and the result is a sense of pressure. You must succeed, as he did, even if it’s on your own, less traditional terms. But underneath that lies a question—one with increasing volume: perhaps success is something else entirely, and it’s up to you, (me), to assert that. Perhaps there is also glory in letting go of what simply looks good and what other people think you should want. Certainly there are a few Lifetime movies, at least, that could back this up.
But right now these are all just bloated question marks, taking up a little too much real estate in my brain. Despite my phenomenal impatience, I’m going to leave them unanswered for now. What I am sure of is my need to write, and I will carve out space for it at whatever cost. I will write when I have nothing to write about, because, like going for a run, it seems to soften the sharp edges of any bullshit, rendering them palatable, or at least hilarious—and there’s never any shortage of bullshit to weed through around here. Here being my brain, and my brain being a very colorful, sometimes frightening place.