Thurs, Jun 21, 2012
My head was screaming at me in a language of shrill white noise, a tangle of displaced emotion and swirling, half-finished thoughts. When I wasn’t fighting off the urge to go and sob uncontrollably in the corner or just stop and ragdoll in the middle of the floor, as though someone had flipped my emergency ‘off’ switch, I was drowning under the dual crushing weights of self-doubt and self-reproach (In the very moment I originally typed this, I was actually fighting off an insistent urge to just curse, and hurl the computer across the room. This is fucking useless. I suck at writing. I LOSE AT LIFE).
What catastrophe, might you ask, was looming on the horizon? What could compel such a strong, crushing emotional response from this shining example of human strength and stability?
I had just booked my flight to Australia.
That’s right, kiddies. 5 years later, I am still terrified to the very fucking core of my quivering being whenever I shift course to pursue something (or somewhere) new. It’s tempting to pretend I am of harder stock and possess a stalwart demeanour, hopping from goal to goal fearlessly; to paint myself as an experienced vagrant that remains unshaken by such trivialities as doubt or worry. . .but that’d make me a liar.
Never mind that the last fucking thing I did was ride a motorcycle around India with a strange man I’d never met before, save sharing conversation once over the internet, after only obtaining four months of riding experience. . . .now I was moving to Australia. I’ve never been to Australia so it’s new and scary. And I’ve never lived in a big city before.
Well, except for that year you spent tattooing in Cologne, Germany.
But that was different, man.
Yeah, it was in German. You suggesting that made it less stressful?
No, because I was drilling away at a familiar career at least.
Because etching permanent designs into someone’s flesh is a completely stress-free activity.
Yeah, but this time I don’t have a job.
Like when you moved to Ireland?
Well. . .yeah, but this time I don’t have a career.
I thought you were going to fight.
Dude, I’m not going to make any money with that. Also, I might suck at it. It’s been years since I was even training in Muay Thai.
Alright, fair enough. But if you crash and burn with the fighting and somehow, amazingly, aren’t able to find even a waitressing gig to pay your rent, couldn’t you just cut bait and go earn some funds grinding away on a farm somewhere? You enjoyed the farmstay in Norway. Or, hey, go set up an arrangement with some diving centre to do your PADI Master Diving certification and pick up some cash taking tourists out to the Great Barrier Reef? That doesn’t sound like a bad gig.
You’re not listening to me. I am going to crash and burn and fail and EVERYONE WILL KNOW.
Well, if they do that’s probably because you’re writing about it in a public forum.
. . .touche.
I have absolutely no interest in putting on airs. I am not, even for a second, going to pretend that this shit comes easy to me. I am not fearless. Driven, yes. Reckless, probably. But I am also very very scared.
Gambles and hard decisions sound epic when you reiterate them after the fact. That time you quit your job to gamble on a little online business start-up named after some South American river, or all that time you spent in the back room of The Elephant House typing up that nifty little fiction series you’d think about while riding on trains. The start-up was visionary, the time you spent drilling away on a story no one but you knew about was evidence of your iron resolve.
Because they worked.
But here’s the thing that made those acts courageous, or an admirable act of dedication – they didn’t know they’d work. They had no idea how those acts would end, and it could just have easily have been in complete and utter failure. Wasted time and heart.
And those people probably failed before. Had things that knocked them on their ass so entirely they never thought they’d stand again. Their resolve limped, like a wounded animal waiting to be humanely brought down. I don’t know much about Jeff Bezos, but I know J. K. Rowling has a whole commencement address on failing (and it’s fantastic. You can listen to it here).
But what matters is that they continued and tried again anyway. That’s fucking dedication. And you know what? It would have been equally courageous if they had failed (though admittedly less profitable).
It all seems so easy once you’re writing in hindsight. But when you’re starting out with something. . .you’re starting out. You don’t know. Everything is uncertain, and daunting and terrifying.
This blog may not go anywhere. In truth, I don’t even really expect it to. I wanted to write a blog because I felt I had something worth sharing, to anyone that cared to receive it, and I wanted to stay in contact with the people I cared about (because as romantic as the idea of ‘dropping off the grid’ sometimes sounds, in reality it would be a lonely life and I am, at my core, a social creature). I had a nagging little voice in the back of my mind that motivated me, even while another louder one shouted at me that I was one among millions, had nothing worth saying, that no one would read and my fragile little heart would be crushed at the sheer and utter lack of internet validation.
Cause my head’s an asshole. Yours probably is too. From what I understand, based on the multitude of conversations I’ve had with various people in various places over the years on the subject, most of us are alternating between being at war with, or in a grudging truce with, our subconscious (Hmm. Plural? Subconsciouses? Subconsciousie?).
Mine was expressing, rather blatantly (and often profanely), it’s disapproval of this plan. It went a bit like this:
You’re a fucking idiot.
You will never make any more money ever ever again. Once this money is gone you will be reduced to working the front counter of whatever discount chain is popular in Australia until your visa runs out and you’re forced to run debt just to get back to Canada where you can continue your new career as a register-jockey.
I’d say that you’re going to get the shit kicked out of you but you’re not even going to get that because you’re never going to step into the cage. You’re not even going to be allowed into a gym. You’re going to fold under the pressure of the physical activity required and go take refuge somewhere in a share-size bag of chee-tos and a six-pack of Fosters.
You’re not even going to keep up with this blog. You’re going to get bogged down just with the sheer hours required and it’ll be one more one defeat to cap off this failed life experiment.
And you know, that’s what I was most afraid of. Not of failing spectacularly, because at least there’d be a story in that. No, I was (and am) afraid of ending up in a dull, unenjoyably mundane existence, working a job I hate but keep to pay the rent, with the weight of poor decisions hanging over me, nothing on which to hang my hat and keep my confidence up, until I slowly and silently wilt away, to fade into the background or just give up the ghost entirely. Just one more among millions, with no one on the continent to have my back, to tell me what I was doing with my life was of any worth. A drop in the pond. Forgettable.
And it could. It could still happen. Because this isn’t being written after the fact, looking back from some plateau of success or even some small mole-hill of personal accomplishment or contentment. This is being written from within the middle of the story, as it occurs. Right in the very moment, as it gives me a fucking panic attack.
Which is putting myself out there more than I’m accustomed to and comfortable with. If I fuck up, it’s easy to imagine a hill of internet avatars peering down over me, a chorus of ‘I told you so’s. Their disapproving, disappointed or just apathetic expressions. But I had a lot of time to think about why I was starting this blog and what I wanted to do with it. And it’s not to posture. It’s not to put on airs, pretend I’m flawless, convince you all I’ve the perfect life and then charge you $9.99 for my advice on how to replicate it.
No, I wish to write with some honesty and humanity. I want to share what I’ve learned, and learn in return, even when that learning comes in the form of someone snidely informing me that something I’ve put out in a public forum is blatantly wrong or when all I have to share is my crushing self-doubt.
I am worried and terrified and filled with apprehension and I am going to do this anyway. Because while I, like many, am afraid of failure, I’m at least logical enough to realize that not trying is a failure all it’s own, and one that only sours over time, making it a more bitter pill to swallow.
I am doing this. My head can go fuck itself.
*This post brought to mind a quote I read a couple weeks back and can now not find citation for. It was something along the lines of “Things I would never admit in person anyone can go down to the bookstore and openly read”. It was a writer of fiction referring to how much of our inner, private selves we pour into our writing. If anyone knows the proper quote, and to whom it’s attributed, I would greatly appreciate the clarification. My google fu is failing me.