Wrote this and sent it out to a select few on April 25, 2016. I think some of my old e-mails are now ready to be shared. I have a backlog of stuff on queue and most of them will be posted on Thursdays.
A profound internal shift hit me around this time last year. It was an emotional itch; a very pervasive feeling of dissatisfaction that gnawed at me in the middle of a perfectly okay life.
When I was younger, my dad and I had this inside joke. He’d sit on his computer chair after a long day at work and sigh. “What a life, this life,” he’d say out loud, a big dark rain cloud of a man. My pre-teen response was always the same: “Then get a new life!” I’d shout from whatever corner of the room I was in. He’d laugh and look at me like I was the brightest kid on earth. He brings it up quite often during family dinners that I’m inclined to believe it’s a favorite memory of his.
I understand my dad a bit better now. There really is an exasperation that comes with being alive, especially once you’ve become entrenched in adulthood. I also understand his constant amusement at my reply. He found that part clever because, deep down, it is what he truly wanted. To be anywhere else but here.
I know all this now because I’m the exact same way.
That’s what the itch is: the secret dream of a brand new life. It was around this time last year that I felt my world get smaller and my soul get sadder. It got so bad that I started looking for signs to leave everywhere. And, eventually, when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I quit everything. I resigned from all my jobs (I was teaching at two different schools). I declined all freelance projects. And because it felt as if everyone was always expecting me to create something profound, I stopped writing as well.
That, I think, was the hardest part.
I just finished season 4 and 5 of Girls and it was weird to actually find myself identifying with the dysfunctional showrunner, Hannah. At some point she just loses the will and heart to be a writer. It’s like all the best words just go and die inside of her. The pressure becomes too great so she just … stops.
That was me a year ago and, somehow, that’s still a bit of me today.
I’ll be the first to say that writing isn’t my life. Being a writer is a part of my identity but it doesn’t make up the entirety of it. That doesn’t make the joy of losing it — the fluidity and excitement of writing (Shonda Rhimes calls it ‘the hum’) — any less terrible. I told my friends, Crae and Maggie, that I stopped writing because I got so caught up in the living. I’m still figuring out how true that statement actually is.
The way I see it, life can still be fully enjoyed even when it is ordinary, mundane and absolutely pedestrian. But writing — my relationship with it, rather — is tinged with a constant and desperate desire to be nothing short of wonderful. I never wanted to be an ordinary writer. But somewhere along the way that’s where I ended up. And after that, I just stopped trying. Elizabeth Gilbert says in her TED talk that we in the creative field often become undone by our own gifts.
I couldn’t agree more.
A month ago I started feeling it again. The itch, that very obvious sense of discontent, is back. It’s not as aggressive as before but it is definitely there, lurking in the shadows of my very fickle heart. I’m looking for newness again. I’m looking for clarity. Perhaps the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree because, like my dad, I kind of want to be anywhere else but here.
The thing that makes now so different from last year is that I have a better idea of what resilience means. Resilient people are not quick to fold. They’re not delusional; they can withstand the hard stuff of life because they’re not afraid to be broken, to be changed, to be thrown into chaos. They’re confident in their capacity to survive. And after haphazardly quitting everything last year, I realized that that was a very important quality I needed to build.
So life is ordinary. So sometimes I’m bored. So sometimes I find myself lost in a sea of existential questions. So sometimes I’m scared and overwhelmed and just about ready to make my escape.
The fact of the matter is: I am still here. I am choosing to engage in every single nuance that makes up this particular story. Its peculiarities, its odd twists, its unbearable slowness, its general plainness. I am here, I am writing, and this is how I know I am going to make it.