Last night I dreamed I was riding my bicycle in a parking garage trying to get through a locked gate to the floor below where I could ride my bike up and down hills. There seemed to be a lot of obstacles getting through this gate. Then I looked behind me and saw another bike rider already in the cycling part of the garage, easily riding through some other gate he’d found, which he seemingly already knew about, and I wondered why I didn’t just try that gate, but I think I knew that, for me, I had to choose this other gate.
The cyclist was a young guy in my 12-step group. He was a troubled teen who got sober a few years ago, and now he’s 20 years old, getting his bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy. A very smart kid who has his shit together at such a young age. Thinking of him now, his story reminds me a bit of my boyfriend’s story: he too had not done well in high school, but then figured it out in college, and chose a meaningful career path of which he’s enjoyed ever since. Never did he set out to make a lot of money or have a powerful position; instead he did what he loved to do, and those things just happened.
My path was different. I did well in high school, but did not do well in college. I didn’t find myself there. I lost myself, mostly through alcohol and drugs. On the surface my life looked fine, but inside I felt like I was dying, and I was. I became increasingly out of touch with my soul and who I really was, and that’s why I didn’t find the right career for me. That’s why I was unhappy.
At the time I would not have told you that. I would’ve told you that I didn’t know what to do, that drinking had nothing to do with it, and that I was just doing what was in front of me, which is true. Drinking was something I was going to do anyway, because everyone drinks, right? And how could I possibly live my life without drinking? As far as a career went, I did what I thought I had to do, based on what the rest of the world thought I should do, and that was my best at that time. I didn’t believe it was possible to follow my dream of becoming a writer, but that I needed a back-up plan, which quickly became my primary plan, and that was just to take whatever job was out there, unrelated to writing, and to write at night after work. But the only writing I did was some drunken self-pitying scrawls about how miserable I was, and that became my reality. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The following quote is a magnet on my fridge that I often ignore because I see it every day:
I can’t beat myself up for my journey. What good would it do? I’m still here, now. While it would’ve been great to have figured it all out at the age of 20, it would not have brought me to where I am today. We grow through pain, and some of us have a high threshold for pain until we’re not, until we realize that the self-inflicted kind of pain is not worth it. Life will give us enough pain.
It occurred to me last night as I was reading Wayne Dyer’s I Can See Clearly Now that I don’t have to be the kind of writer that I think would be the most respectable, prestigious kind I once aspired to, who gets published in all the hoity-toity literary publications. Because that’s not me. I don’t like exclusivity so why would I want to be a part of that elitist bullshit?
It’s difficult for me to write about writing and becoming a writer. I feel vulnerable. I don’t even want to put my name on this blog. But isn’t vulnerability what it’s all about? I didn’t like feeling vulnerable. That’s one reason why I drank. I could not be social without alcohol. That means I could not be me. I was afraid that people wouldn’t like me for who I was. The irony is that people like you only for who you are; no one likes an imitator. I suppose you could say I’m still afraid that people won’t like me for who I am, because I still won’t put my name on this blog. Ah well. It’s progress not perfection, my friends. One day at a time.
Here’s a song by LCD Soundsystem that’s been in my head since last night. I love the lines, “You’re afraid of what you need / If you weren’t, I don’t know what we’d talk about / You’re afraid of what you need / Look around you, you’re surrounded. It don’t get any better.” This video is so perfect: Don’t close the door on yourself. Stop trying to be perfect, and stop trying to be someone else. Just be you.