Nobody except Lois Lane and Spiderman kiss in the rain, no matter how hard Taylor Swift peddles her romantic fantastical bullshit (even if it is catchy and makes me want to live as a white man in 1920’s Louisiana) (a lá Louis CK). Life is not about fantasy. It is realism. It is ugly and terrifying and saddening to its core. But it is also beautiful.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that perhaps writers are more sensitive to the overwhelming sadness of people’s stories. However, they are also more apt at finding the beauty in irony and unfinished business and unfairness. Because no protagonist ever gets a fair deal, and we are all our own protagonists, all the center of our own society of thoughts. It is the protagonist’s passion for life and for dealing with their specific box of bullshit that inspires the writer to write beauty in pain, and to see the beauty of it in the first place. It is also, I believe, what helps people find inspiration for their own lives. It is Atlas’s burden, shrugged off.
But whether or not it is writers who see this, the thing to remember is that magic exists, and is as real as all the shit that magic has to fix. Maybe it doesn’t have to be called magic, which sounds too fairy-like, but it is something magical. It is good karma or faith or God or family or love. Perseverance and grace under pressure and courage is tantamount to any miracle.
I was reminded by someone today (not overtly) about my old LiveJournal. Going back to read the daily thoughts of my 13-to-16-year-old-self makes me want to punch myself in the face. I was so whiny. I still am whiny. I should probably just punch myself in the face now.
But I am my own protagonist. And as much as I can and try to empathize with other people’s problems, I live in my own head and live life for my own needs. Those needs sometimes include helping others, but not always. I will put on my own oxygen mask first before I put on yours. And I don’t think that makes me an egotist. I think it makes me a human full of natural instinct.
What I’ve been doing, I think, for the past 3 years at my college is not instinctual to me, and thanks to that I’ve alienated deep parts of myself that are now aching and in pain. That is my current suffering, and it extends to multiple areas of my life that are, to me, equally heartbreaking. My main suffering is that I have stopped writing poetry and I have stopped giving myself time to write. Even though I’ve gotten published. Even though I believe the pieces and articles I have written are still great accomplishments and might, in the end, help me achieve my personal balance, and improve my writing skills. I have ignored and pushed down the hungers of my soul and my sanity in lieu of practicality.
No more. I’m sure if I looked into my archives (or you feel the desire to), you would see that I write something along these lines every year. I don’t know. Maybe I haven’t. But I feel like my creativity is drowning, and I’ve been holding it under water in the hopes that something will be reborn that will change me or my natural inclinations to something that is more “useful”. I have always touted the flag of creativity and following your own path. But I am and have been a hypocrite for a while now. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, but I was and I am and I will continue to be until I follow my hands to a pen or a keyboard and “just bleed”.
I don’t know what influenced me to simultaneously feel like I was making a right choice for myself by enrolling in a writing program and then, on the side, giving up personal writing. When I was at my first university, I studied history while writing poetry on the side and taking creative writing electives. Even my physics courses there added something to my writing. It expanded my metaphorical base. It led my mind down paths I didn’t know existed. It allowed me to understand the world in different—if frustratingly so—ways.
When I came to my second university, I became so focused on jobs jobs jobs. I became so concerned getting ahead and getting practical experience and getting a foothold into a world and a job market that is nothing if not literally unkind to artists. And yes, I will not deny that this is still something that plagues me with worry. It is a brand of our generation. I was born into it, I think, as were many of you. It is the way we are taught to think about achievement.
But I am fucking tired of it. I was tired of it in high school, but my impression of the real world after university terrified me stiff. So, I gave in. A little. To assuage myself. Then, a little more. I picked up a boring ass job, like so many writers do to “pay the bills”, except that in my very privileged situation, I barely had any. I did it more for freedom, which is not to be vilified either, I think, but it ended up chewing on my dreams like tobacco packets and spitting them to the side of the road.
If I can do it, I will not let go of my dreams. I will try to be graceful under the great societal pressure of “this is what you need to do if you don’t want to be a worthless piece of shit”. I will be courageous by continuing my education, whether that means through travel or through literal academia. I do not have to hop into a grave and start digging. I do not have to bow down to the great god of “getting ahead”. I do not have to give up my poetry. I am my own protagonist. And every writer knows that once a character is fully fleshed, they have their own lives. They create their own futures. Sometimes, the author has very little say in where they go or what they do. They take over.
I am my own protagonist, and I am redirecting my story out of conventionality. It will be worth it because I will have been courageous, and that will have been an achievement even if I fail at everything else. It will be something to be proud of; the trying.
It is easy to stay in a comfortable place for the rest of your life. It is simple. And I am not thwarting all of the advantages that my parents worked hard to give me by ignoring the “good life” or the safe job.
The choice to redirect my story is my privilege, given to me by my family. And I am not going to ignore my family’s hard work by spitting on the incredible freedom I have to follow my heart.
I am going to take advantage of it by finding courage to follow my true story to wherever it will lead me.