Moving Through Fear

I was about ten years old when I decided that I wanted to lead a fairly difficult life. I was sitting in my school’s library at the time, listening to my librarian read to my class some story about a little girl who wanted to be a writer more than anything in the world, and it dawned on me then that that was something that a person could be. That at one point in their lives, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King were once sitting where I was sitting, listening to their librarian tell stories to their classes, and that someone somewhere would have to take their place someday. Why couldn’t that person be me? Why couldn’t I be the next great writer?

Twelves years has passed since then, and I think that it’s needless to say that a lot has changed. It’s a hell of a lot easier to say that you’d be willing to live on a diet of cold beans straight out of the can if it got you to a writing career eventually when you aren’t actually faced with it, when you’re ten years and still dependant on your parents to tell you if you can even leave the house. But twelve years of standing by the belief that I am going to be a writer, whether I like it or not, has strengthened my resolve quite a bit, and brought me to a place where I know that I absolutely cannot give up on it, come what may. Which is an amazing gift to have, because the twelve years that has passed since then have not gone by without an immense amount of fear and moments where I completely lacked any motivation.

I always knew that I wanted to be a writer. That was my goal, the thing to which I set my mind, that I was going to do. And there have been many points in the last twelve years where I found myself wondering why?

I found myself wondering why when people began pestering me about my progress – or, in many cases, lack thereof. “Have you submitted anything to be published yet?” “Have you set up a website for yourself yet?” “Have you talked to this person? How about that person?” “Do you really know what you’re doing?” No. I had no fucking clue what I was doing. I wasn’t born into a family of professional writers, I didn’t know anyone who had ever done this before, and more than that, when I was being asked these questions, I was either a) a teenager, or b) immensely, cripplingly depressed, either state of mind translating to the simple fact that I wasn’t emotionally ready. And not being emotionally ready and being constantly bombarded with questions of why haven’t you done this yet made me wonder if I really could do this. There was just so much, too much for me to do. It overwhelmed me. It made me wonder why bother, because I wasn’t doing anything, I would never do anything, and my dreams of being a writer would never amount to anything because I was such an utter and complete failure.

But I kept on writing, and in my own way, I kept on making my personal progress. Not because I was brave or because I was intentionally overcoming any fears or anything like that, but because when I was ten years old, I decided that I was going to be a writer, and so what else was I if not that?

And again, I found myself wondering why when my high school teachers questioned my choice constantly.

“So what do you want to be when you graduate?”

“Well, I’ve always wanted to be a writer.”

“That’s not very practical. You realize that, right? Writers don’t make a lot of money. Maybe you should consider something else, something like journalism, maybe?”

I had this conversation again and again, all throughout my high school career, and there were times where I could easily ignore it. Sometimes I’d tell my teachers that they were right and that I’d consider other career options, but I never really meant it – I only said it to make them stop pestering me. The truth was that I was going to be a writer. I was going to be broke and working another job for what would most likely turn out to be the rest of my life, but I was going to be a writer nonetheless. There were moments where I’d have confidence in that. And then there were moments, especially as my depression worsened and my motivation waned, where I seriously considered maybe giving writing up, maybe focusing my energy on something that would make me a bit more money in the long run. After all, that would make the most sense, right? We live in a society run by money, where nothing is available if you do not have it, not even food, so why would I choose not to do everything in my power to get it? That would be the logical thing, right? Why was I subjecting myself to such hardship when the option not to was available?

But still, I kept on writing. I kept writing because when I was ten, I decided that I was going to be a writer, and that thought was enough to keep me going. I pushed through, I forced myself to make progress, and little by little, I started to take steps forward. Though my fear tried to hold me back, to keep me stationary, I had one thought to keep in mind, one belief that I held so dear that I would not let anything keep me back from it. Not my depression. Not my lack of motivation. Not even my fear.

I was going to be a writer.

But not everyone has a belief that they hold that strong. Many people find themselves confronted with fear, and they have a very difficult time moving around it. Sometimes they can’t move around it. Sometimes they remain stationary for long periods of time, unable to overcome their fear, because they have nothing telling them that they should. But the thing is, people cannot live their lives that way. As human beings, we need to grow and learn and develop, and in order to do that, we need to accept change that is scary. We need to move forward.

And I get it – it is difficult to accept change sometimes, especially if we are not emotionally prepared. Sometimes, we do need to make our progress slowly, to take our lives at our own pace. But we still need to keep moving. Because if we stay where we are, then nothing ever changes. If we stay where we are, we can never grow. I can be a writer even if I only take tiny steps toward it every day, but I cannot be a writer if I never try.

Future Planning: Why I Want to Be a Graduate Student

In my four years at university, I heard the same story told over and over again.

“I didn’t intend to go to graduate school,” they always said. “I was just going to get my bachelors, and then I was going to go out into the world and work, so that’s what I did. I graduated and I got a job, and I absolutely hated it. I hated the nine to five lifestyle. I hated how tedious it all was, how monotonous and unending. I felt like a machine, like a lifeless robot doing the same task over and over and over again, day after day. So I decided not to do that anymore. I decided that I was going to go back to school and continue my studies, and I was going to do something more with my life. I was going to think. I was going to be challenged.”

The first time that I heard this story, I was in first year, and all I could think was, yeah, you were most certainly being challenged. You were working your ass off for six to eight years, and that is a goddamn long time to be in school. The last time that I heard this story, I was in fourth year, and the length of time didn’t sound so bad to me anymore – I just wasn’t entirely sure if their truth was my own. After all, I had challenge and thought in my life already – I had my writing. That would never change. So long as I lived, regardless of what I was doing, whether I was waiting tables or scrubbing toilets, I would always be able to go home and work on something that I knew was worthwhile. So the way I saw it, I didn’t have anything to worry about. Their story wasn’t going to be mine.

I haven’t heard this story since then, but I find myself thinking about it a lot now. I’ve been out of school for a grand total of a month now, and a lot has changed since then. I got myself one of those tedious and monotonous nine to five jobs that I was so strongly warned against. I thought I wouldn’t mind it so much, thought that the meaninglessness of my day job would pale in comparison to the meaningfulness of my writing. Turns out, I was completely wrong. Turns out, I’m living that very same story that I was told time and time again in university.

I miss university. I miss being surrounded by people who share my passion. I miss having in-depth discussions about literature with others. I miss being challenged with digging up obscure research, even though the thought would literally have brought me to tears from the stress just over a month ago. And maybe I’m just being sentimental. Maybe I only miss university so much right now because I know that I’m not going back come September. But regardless, I miss university enough to have decided that, after this long, boring year off that I have ahead of me, I will be enrolling in graduate school.

I don’t want to settle for small, in any aspect of my life. I don’t want to not care about what I’m doing. I want my whole life to burn bright and hot and hard, every single aspect of it. And although I have heard that story time and time again while I was an undergraduate student, I think I finally understand what it means.

What Four Years At Post-Secondary Bought Me

Today, I went for a nice, long walk in the sun. There was a slight wind, but otherwise it was perfectly pleasant out. The world was bright, the grass was green, and along the way I passed by a sign that promised a “bright future” for those who attend post-secondary. I didn’t think I was angry at the time. I didn’t even realize that anything was really wrong with me until the sight of this sign made my lip turn up, and the next thing I knew I was silently screaming at those mocking words, “fuck you!

I tell you this only because I think it perfectly sums up how I’ve been feeling lately.

Because here’s the thing: I’ve been to post-secondary. I worked long and hard for four fucking years. I sacrificed my mental health, anguished through tears and headaches, and all of this was supposed to buy me happiness. It was supposed to make me smart and successful, but all it did was give me a passion for books and context in a world obsessed with showing me pictures of their snot-nosed brats who I honestly couldn’t care less about. It bought me a meaningless job doing nothing, just wasting my life away in exchange for money. Money that I need, because in this world, there is no life without money. In this world, money is the most important thing. In this world, money is more important than people and happiness. I learned that much in my four years in post-secondary.

In my first year at post-secondary, I hated the grey world of stone and concrete that I was forced to live in in order to get my degree. Now I miss it. I miss the trash and the graffiti and the controlled nature because at least that world was honest. That was a world of people and all their ugly, capitalist ideals – it was naked and true and unashamed. It wasn’t like this sunshiny hellhole with its fake grass and its identical houses and its claim to be closer to nature than that world despite the fact that it really isn’t. It’s still a world of people, it’s just a world of people that want to be better than what they are, so rather than changing anything, really, truly changing anything, they just bury their shame beneath plastic smiles and manicured lawns and immaculate gardens.

And I’m tired of them. I’m tired of doing nothing. I’m tired of being nothing. Four years at post-secondary was supposed to set me up to be better than that, but all it did was raise me to a greater height so that I hit the ground harder when it let me go.

Why I Don’t Drink: Having Fun and Personal Choice

Typically, the fact that I don’t drink doesn’t intercept much on my life. I just go about my day, same as anyone, only difference being that I do it completely sober. Pretty much the only time that I start to feel awkward about not drinking is when there’s something to celebrate, and as I and most of my peers are winding down the school year and preparing to graduate now, I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to going over the same exchange lately.

Person: “Aren’t you getting a drink?”

Me: “No, I’ll just have a water.”

Person: (Looks at me like I suddenly sprouted a new head)

Me: “I don’t drink.”

Person: “Ahhhhhh.”

Sometimes they’ll leave it at that and move on. Sometimes I’ll get the typical “you’re already high on life” comment, and I’ll laugh and agree with that. And then sometimes there will be this lingering awkwardness that follows, and I’ll feel the need to explain myself.

Me: “I just don’t find it fun.”

And that’s true. Every time that I’ve taken a drink in the past, it was only because the people around me were drinking and I felt expected to join in, or that it would be rude to turn it down. After all, alcohol was just supposed to be fun, right? They were just trying to have fun, and I felt like saying no to alcohol was taking this abstract concept called ‘fun’, tearing it down, ripping it up, and stomping on it for all to see. If I didn’t drink, then I was a prude, or stuck-up, or a buzz kill, something along those lines, and nobody wants to be that. So I’d drink this beverage that I never really acquired a taste for (I’m the sort of person who would prefer my alcohol to taste as little of alcohol as possible, please and thank you), and I’d get drunk very quickly because I’m a lightweight, and then I’d very quickly come to regret it. I hated the feeling of being drunk, because I hated having no control over my actions like that, and I hated the feeling of waking up the next morning wondering why the fuck I said that, why the fuck I did that, how do people actually enjoy doing this regularly?

And I know, I know, the solution to that problem is simply to not get so drunk that you have no control. Moderate your drinking, make sure that you’re just reaching a place where you’re goofy and having fun and then take it no further. And all of that would be well and good if I simply had the interest, but I don’t. Like I said, I don’t like alcoholic beverages, and the amount of fun that I get out of being tipsy is not worth the price of the sort of drink that I actually would like.

But more important than any of that, deciding not to drink was a symbol for me. It was a mark that I was going to change my life and become a new person. And, yeah, that sounds dramatic, and I know what you’re thinking: nothing that I’ve said up to this point has at all indicated that I had a drinking problem, so how could that decision have been so life-altering? Well, here’s the thing: no, I didn’t have a drinking problem, but I did have a problem with doing things because other people expected me to. If I was in a group of people and they were all going to have a drink, then I was going to have a drink, not because I wanted to (because, really, I didn’t), but because I felt like they expected me to. And that issue permeated more than just drinking for me; I made my decisions based off of what other people wanted me to do, I was fully prepared to hand over complete control of my life to another person, and there came a point where I simply decided that I didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted control of my life, I wanted to make decisions because that was what I wanted to do. And when I came to that conclusion, I figured that I would start with one small symbol, one tiny, insignificant thing to prove to myself that I was making a change in my life: I would only ever drink when I wanted to drink. And, as it turns out, I don’t want to drink all that often.

And sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I feel the weight of this societal expectation to drink. You see it in movies, in music, in media in general: this association between alcohol and good times. People who drink alcohol have fun, and sometimes I feel like I can’t have as much fun as other people because I’m not getting drunk all the time. Except I know that I’ve tried it before, and in my experience, alcohol never led up to lounging in a hot tub surrounded by attractive people. Typically, it led up to me crying about how I’m single, throwing up all over the place, and then waking up with a hangover. And not to mention, in the case of far too many of my friends, alcohol led up to a dependancy that completely altered the course of their lives and that some of them are still living with.

And of course, I’m not trying to say that anyone who drinks is wrong or stupid or even dependant; I’m not that dismissive of other perspectives. I would never tell someone that they shouldn’t drink, and if I’m out with a group of friends, I am totally happy sipping on my lemon water while commenting on how pretty their cocktails are or giving them pointers on how to properly pour from a pitcher of beer. All that I’m saying is that society gives us this image of alcohol as being a vehicle to good times, but that is only one perspective. There are millions of perspectives, each of them just as valid, and from my perspective, alcohol just isn’t important enough for me to make myself uncomfortable for the sake of other people.

I Need To

I need to write a post. If I write a post, I’ll feel better. I need to write need to write need to write need to-

No. There are other things I need to do. I need to study. But I already have studied. But if I don’t study I’m going to fail. But I’ve already studied and I think I have it under control. But I haven’t even done all the reading. But I’ve done most of the reading and the stuff I haven’t won’t even be on the test, I’m fine. But I need to study need to study need to study.

I need to write a post.

I need to fix my life. My life is a mess. My life is in shambles. I have things to do and I keep fucking up. I need to get a job. I need to keep applying. I need to keep looking and I need to keep trying and I need to find the best job. I need a job that will pay well because I need to be an adult. I need an apartment of my own. I need to move to the city because that’s where things happen. That’s where I’ll meet people. That’s where my career will take off if it ever does. And if I’m going to move to the city I need money and to get money I need a job, a good job, a job that pays. So I need to keep looking. I need to find a-

No. I need to study.

No. I need to write a post.

I need to write a post because I need to get my writing out there. I need people to read it and no one’s been reading it and I can’t let that happen because I need to get my name out there. I need a foundation, a start, so that my writing can get out there and my life won’t be a total waste. I need to write a post. I need to try harder. I need to I need to I need to-

And if I’m going to, I need life experience. I need to get out there and do stuff. I need to talk to people. I need to make friends. I need to date.

What about the girl from the party? She was nice.

She wasn’t right.

Why wasn’t she?

She was exactly like all of my friends, but she wasn’t interested in being friends. She wanted to go on a date, and she’s not like the sort of people I date. She wasn’t right, she wasn’t- what’s the word… ambitious. She wasn’t ambitious and that’s the thing I like. She needs to be ambitious because I’m ambitious. I’m going to study and I’m going to write and I’m going to move to the city and I’m going to write a post.

Are you sure you aren’t being too picky? Are you sure your standards aren’t too high? How many ambitious people will look at you, with your life in shambles, and actually want to be with you?

I can’t lower my standards, not again. Because when I lower my standards, I end up with people I don’t like and then I end up hating myself.

You hate yourself anyway. And if you don’t lower your standards, you won’t date and you won’t make friends and you won’t get experience and you won’t write and you won’t move to the city and your life will be a waste.

I need to write a post. I need to apply to jobs. I need to study. I need to I need to I need to