Monday, April 21, 2003

eschew reportage

Sometimes, I have to be reminded that what I have here is a journal, not a daily activity report.

Screw concerns about vulnerability. A coy blog is not worth writing, and definitely not worth reading.

keeping it together

I just came back from my blog wanderings in voyeur mode and found myself engrossed with the last one because I so identified with it. Now I don’t know if it is a meme or what, but several journals I read all shared the same theme: railing against time and circumstance – in a few cases, dreading the harbinger of old(er) age.

What struck me most was one author’s candid ire and desperation. He felt he wanted to be something before he turned 30, and shook his head at the inevitable comparisons he drew with his contemporaries. Now this is no slothful or untalented man; obviously he’s had his share of successes, but what he felt he failed to do was to make a dent – whatever that dent is.

He then asks just what is he supposed to do? How come no one taught him about that part of life? Where are the guidebooks, the marked maps, the secret codes?

Questions I know young people can barely construct, embraced by the tenderness of a sheltered life with their parents, uncovering the rules of love and heartache, determining their identity and preferences.

instant identification

I asked myself the very same questions a few years back, and every year around my birthday I find myself wallowing in the same mire of self-absorption. I remember the first time the equivalent of a mid-life crisis struck me with full force. I took a good long analytical look at myself and stripped myself of my illusions.

What did I have?

nothing to hold

Nothing to speak of in material terms. Money came and went in the throes of moments that did not look too far into the future. I never purchased anything like stocks or insurance, did not invest in other people’s businesses – I did not consider myself knowledgable enough to do any of that. I had given up my car and did not own my own place to live. My bank account echoed the rhythm of the tides, month in and month out.

nothing to be proud of

I had more in terms of achievements, but all of that, I felt, was pale comfort. I could not eat my awards for things written in times of focused passion. The beauty of my short stories published here and there was no hedge against the need to pay the rent, the grocery bill, the utilities. Besides, I had mistakenly stopped writing when everything seemed too simple. I erred in thinking that there were no challenges and left the arena, disdaining the accolades and sycophants who wished me well.

something to fight for

The only thing that kept me going was my love for my wife. I refused to see her in any kind of need or distress, such that I took jobs that I realized much later were beneath my level, just to have cash. The reason my work was simple was because I was too intelligent for it. The same reason I was ultimately rendered inutile by sheer ennui. I could those things in my sleep, and often did, a somnambulist ekeing out a living.

So at that time, we lived as we wanted and lacked for nothing inasmuch as our needs were under control (a condo unit, books, comics, games, eating out). But at night I would be wracked by stunningly fundamental questions.

Where was the guidebook?

Isn’t anyone going to tell me how to do things?

Am I truly to be left to own devices for the rest of my life?

jumping with my eyes open

I never had a glorious epiphany, the kind that happens to murderers on their way to Damascus. Instead, I slowly accepted the results of my analysis. That there were no answers, no teachers, no guidebooks, no maps. That my job led to nowhere more promising than a dead-end. That the only person who could begin to create solutions for my personal circumstances was myself.

So I decided to jump away from the relative comfort of false stability. I quit my job (and immediately missed the regular paychecks) and went to market. The only thing I had for sale was myself – my writer core plus all the odds and ends I acquired through the years. I’ve always believed in my ability to do something I put my mind to. To my shocked delight, so did others. They called my odds and ends “skill sets” and told me that my market value was easily 5 times my previous salary.

fast forward

Today I have my own business (and still shake my head at the notion of myself as a businessman – what writer-type person becomes a businessman?) doing something that challenges my mind on a regular basis. I do not consider myself a success by a long shot, but my circumstances are significantly improved from several years ago. I know how easily wheels turn but this time have provided alternatives.

I’ve begun writing again, publishing once in a while, collaborating with people whose minds and talents push me to either hold up my own or withdraw in shame. And I'd sooner die than not try.

But once in a while, I still ask the same questions that haunt me. I think that I shall never stop asking them for as long as I can draw breath, despite the fact that the answers never change.

Where do I make a dent? How do I make a dent?

Do I have to make a dent?

a little bit of something is better
than a whole lot of nothing

In the end, it is the asking that matters. Going on despite the lack of closure, knowing that everything, sadly, must end in tears. It means striving today for a little extra comfort tomorrow. It means making sure that my little girl grows up in the best possible environment within our means. It means working towards a degree of creative achievement on my own terms, not for awards or my friends' applause, but for my inner spirit that rests only when it has given up all its words.

It means accepting the fact that dent or no dent, life must be lived.

So is there a lesson in all this soulsearching?

I don't know.

You should know better than to ask a man who has no answers, but only tentative solutions for everyday existence.


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