“This time I’m going to do it. I promise.”
It was five years ago when I said this to my dad. He was sitting in the living room, staring at me with the eyes of a man who was struggling with deja vu. It was a tired, defeated look. This was the fourth attempt I made at achieving a college education, and the fourth time I made this promise. In hindsight, he was probably trying to muster all his strength to mask the frustration, but to his credit, only his eyes remained exposed.
Fortunately for me, I am writing to you today as a college graduate. Though modest to the point of self-deprecation, I can unabashedly say I’m proud of this accomplishment. There was a moment, probably not long before Promise #4 was made, where I felt I’d reached the point of no return. But sometimes in life, the timeline you’re on isn’t in sync with your expectations.
For five years, I only existed in three remote locations: work, school, and home. I went to bed 37 miles away from where I edited letters. During my early morning and late night commutes, on a desolate road under a black sky, I’d always feel this phantom existence to the world, like a stagehand to a play. But it was on these drives I would remind myself of the goal that was set. Even though behind the wheel my eyes were closing and my body was aching, I just kept saying to myself, “This is temporary.”
I’m two months removed from that scattered existence. My plan upon graduating was to apply to as many jobs as possible, while simultaneously developing a writing portfolio to accentuate my resume. This whole time, I thought my congested schedule was what hindered my writing. But as I sit here, desperately reaching at fleeting thoughts, I realize that I’m just simply lost. Though my life prior to graduation was taxing on me physically and mentally, it was still a life of constancy. The reigns were wrapped firmly in my hands, and even though it was a tumultuous ride, I was still in control and I knew where it was going. But now I’m floating on a wave of uncertainty, both in life and as a writer.
I’ve approached my laptop a dozen times over the past couple months, yearning to write something. Anything. I have three book review drafts, each with a title, image, and around 50 words. I have approximately eight pages of a story written (and re-written multiple times) about the negative impact of technology. I have a few hand-written entries in my journal, each without a trace of cohesion. So I’ve found myself with an unprecedented will to write, but temporarily incapable of cogitation. Only the great Alanis Morissette can fully appreciate this absurdity.
I’d like to say that there’s no underlying reason for this “writer’s block”. I’ve made it a point to think positive on a consistent basis, so any negative that enters my life normally isn’t a result of my own thinking. But I also believe being true to one’s self is the single hardest thing to achieve. We manipulate, distort, and rephrase things in order to get the desired result. I didn’t lose my ability to write. This block is a manifestation of my current place in life. Fortunately for us, when we may try to hide the truth from ourselves, more often than not, it’ll appear to us somewhere else.
Last month I was told by a publishing firm I interviewed for that they were going to hire someone else for the job I was sure I was going to get. It was a gut punch that took a couple weeks to make contact. It wasn’t fun, but it was real. In the days it took to regain my breath (and some reassurance from some good people), the writer’s block got dislodged. It isn’t gone, but there’s some clarity now. Throughout my whole life, I’ve rarely gotten things right the first time. I’m that stubborn old guy in the bunker whacking at the sand a hundred times instead of just taking a drop ball. But eventually, I will make contact. So now, I’m going to take another whack at this writing thing. This time I’m going to do it. I promise.