4.1 This Might Get Messy
I'm mad as hell! I'm so goddamn tired! Let me explain. Things are changing. I’ve decided to just write like I’m sending you a letter. Whoever you are out there in the ether of the Internet. You see I’ve never been so tired, tired of the way things are going at this point. Aren’t you tired sometimes? I realize that me and many people, including myself, would like to just say, “Stop whining and get on with things.” The thing is, it’s not so easy sometimes.
And as I so explicitly stated above, I'm mad as hell and so goddamn tired. The problem with these two dispositions - being so tired and mad as hell - is that they sort of cancel each other out, resulting in not much feeling at all.
For a long time, I’ve hidden behind stories and inside the minds of the characters. I thought this was the best scenario, that who I really am and what I have to say should be expressed through fiction. That way, if anyone asks, if anyone finds fault with what I’m saying, I could place responsibility on a fictional character. I’ve realized this is both cowardly and dishonest.
The last two months, I took a creative writing class focused on memoir. This class was undertaken in an effort to help develop some kind of authentic voice. This made me uncomfortable from the outset because I convinced myself long ago that my life simply wasn’t interesting enough to document. Why would anyone want to read about me? I couldn’t think of anyone. As the weeks went on in the class, I felt that I was producing some of the worst writing I’ve done since I tried to compose poetry in my twenties. The pieces I read out in class were so stoically earnest, so Antarctic cold, so utterly humorless.
The whole thing fell apart for me when I wrote a piece about going into depressions. I felt that I made an enormous mistake, not with the content of the piece, but in the execution. Writing about depression should help take you out of it, not push you further into the fog. The subject was important to me, and something I have fought with and continue to fight with, yet, I couldn’t articulate what was happening internally in any tangible form. Embarrassed, I did what I do best – I shut down, tuned out, turned my emotions off like a dial on a radio.
I’ve quit many things in my life. I feel no shame in quitting. It’s highly underrated and I think more people should try it. I feel shame in admitting that I can go down for days into a depression. Sure, I can function and people generally don’t notice, I just don’t feel the need to generate pity by dragging my life into the lives of others.
Justifying my enormous failure in the writing class, I spiraled down into thinking that perhaps I should finally give up writing. Enter being mad as hell and tired, which if you made a mathematical calculation, it would look something like this:
(mad as hell) + being so tired = apathy towards one's life
Very dramatic, but another common behavior trait of mine is making everything into a high stakes situation. Unfortunately, I tend to lose these games, setting myself up for failure from the outset. This had nothing to do with the teacher and nothing to do with my fellow classmates, all of whom seemed to have quite remarkable turns of revelation about their lives and their work. This is how it goes with me. I don’t think, “Not a good class today, we’ll get’em next time.” If there’s one thing I am good at, it’s beating myself up. I should bite someone’s ear off, get a tattoo on my face and be in The Hangover III. I really have no idea how to get out of my own way. Can someone please tell me how to get out of my own way?
The scary thought that all this led to was that if I couldn’t write about myself in an honest way, then what did I actually have to say? The answer: nothing. Stewed in this for a few days, which is both stupid and unhealthy. Maybe the whole thing was a bad idea. Maybe I should focus on other things. As I said earlier, I have no shame in quitting. The thing is, writing has actually been the single part of my life that has remained consistent. I’ve been through a few jobs, a few careers, schools, relationships, friendships, all kinds of ships. The one thing through it all has been writing.
So, how could I quit? Even if I’m wrong? I just don’t want to screw around anymore. I don’t want to think about who you readers are because I’ve got lost in there somewhere. And what do I have to say if I’m not the one saying it? If I want your trust, if I want you to go along with me in this, I need to trust myself.
I logged on to my site and it disappeared. On the front page all that remained were the words: Hacked by Hacker. I was pretty pissed off about this initially, and then I thought that perhaps this was a good thing. Sometimes it is hard for us to change until our hand is forced. Sure, I still had all the stories and files and could easily, although time consuming, put everything back up. But what did all this work really mean to me? I was almost happy it was gone, the hacker provided a reason to start all this from a clean slate. The timing was perfect.
The problem I see with my work and its failure to really connect comes from my precious attitude towards it. And by being precious, I mean, playing it safe. Writing isn’t precious and writing shouldn't be safe. A piece I wrote for my class was about a work experience from a few years ago. After it was finished, I thought, “Who cares?” I was writing about people that didn’t matter. So, write about something that does matter. Some people can write about their tragic past with a clarity that astounds me. I can’t do that, plus, what tragedy? What do I write about? My stories are generally nice and polite and precious and safe. Boring.
And that’s the point of all this. I think that anyone wanting to express themselves through writing or other means is curious about the world and interested in becoming a better person. I’m not curious about plunging into my past, which I understand as a form of denial, but how can I write about it in a sincere way if I’m not interested? I’m just going to write about what matters to me. If it’s about something serious or about the old guy that farts when on the treadmill at the gym, whatever it is, I’m giving myself license to just talk here. You listen or you don’t.
When I get into uncomfortable situations, my immediate thought is, I want to disappear. That it would be best for all involved that I become invisible and let’s all pretend this didn’t happen. How does one become visible? By trying to fit in, my writing has become entrapped by trying to please. When I come to something important and it makes me uncomfortable, I move away from it and miss the mark. And there in lies the connection for me, the thought that like lightning brought the whole thing together. Above, I just said, "My writing has become entrapped by trying to please." I could easily say this about my life in general. My mad as hell anger and being so tired stems from how I perceive others perceive me. This is no way to live because in the end, after we remove all the layers of who we think we are, when we get to the core of ourselves, when we stop pretending, stop fooling ourselves, we're faced with the reality of the situation. Man, does it suck when you get a glimpse of that core and are not impressed.
Excuse me for this long diatribe that reeks of self-indulgence and is presented in a way that makes me, and potentially you, uncomfortable. I am tired of the shame, I am tired of the need to please, the need of wanting everyone to like me. The truth is, I’m just going to sit here, I’m going to write whatever I’m going to write, say whatever I’m going to say, and I’m going to do it in a way that I think is the right way. It might get messy, it might not be pleasant all the time, but screw it, life is too short for mediocrity. Buckle your goddamn seat belts.
Take it or leave it.
Postscript: Fine. After much deliberation, I've decided to keep up the last three years of entries. Things have changed but it might be a fun time to see how.