I am a writer. And I think a good one. In truth, I work hard on my craft. But there is a monolithic obstacle in the way. My obsessive self deprecating tendency to care what other’s think. And by others, I mean family. My family (my side), perceive a life dedicated to the arts, impractical. My late father’s wisdom is one should make money first and follow dreams second. On the surface, that is sound advice, for you do have to make a living, but I have always seen it another way: I do need much to be happy. I just don’t have the ambition to spend a lifetime in debt, so I look like everyone else around me. However, I too easily fell in with comparing myself to others. Over the years, how I responded to their apprehensions influenced my craft. Mostly injuring my creativity. At thirty-one years old, time appears to be running out.
Am I going to be a father whose children see as an example, someone who never gives up, or one replete with regrets? How can I raise them to be individuals, when I myself have been afraid to be myself? It is amazing, is it not, how children put fire in our hearts?
My record of trying to please everyone is no secret. I have rarely taken a job I truly wanted. But I have been successful. Whether I worked in finance, management, or retail, I did well. I am competitive by nature, and outwork everyone I can. My biggest and therefore most hurtful failure is, recently, sales. In my early twenties, I was a dominant salesman. Everywhere I turned, money followed. Overtime I developed a disillusionment toward this line of work. Sure, I struggled at times, sometimes teetered on poverty. But usually I outperformed everyone I knew financially. And to everyone’s surprise, I hated myself. Everyone around me dreamed about buying BMW’s, and I would calculate how long the same 40,000 would last me if I stopped to write. Soon it proved impossible to be successful at selling anything. Not that the selling is bad; not at all, it is good work. But I would keep a Bible in my desk, King Lear downloaded onto Kindle, and wanted to talk French Revolution at the water cooler; everyone else wanted to talk about which office girl was easy, etcetera. This might be why I have always connected better with women.
“There can be no happiness in achieving someone else’s dream”
— W. Alexander
Ever since I was a child, I had a mind for the arts. My father felt it was a weakness and a rejection of his hard earned values: it was not. In high school and college, I recall fond memories of performances in theatre. Not as some might expect, my semi-successful boxing career; something I did to please my father and other toxic masculine traits. But even in that, I outworked all I could, and got quite good. I always felt who I truly was must be second in order to be accepted. Therefore, I spent my entire twenties, pursuing the life everyone else wanted. If I got the big house, nice car, hot wife, 100k saved, etcetera, I’ll be loved then, right? Turns out, the philosophers were right all along. There can be no happiness in achieving someone else’s dream. “Either way you decide to live, true to yourself or wear a mask, you will be criticized. You might as well be criticized for what you are, than what you are not”- Grandpa.
Despite this revelation, being your true self is to often be condemned a black sheep. A frustrating character in your family’s drama. They don’t get it and despite their honest efforts to understand, I realize they never will. How can they? They are predisposed to think a certain way, according to their own triumphs and failures throughout life (we all are). A person who sees life as black and white, will struggle to see life through more flexible patterns. For me, life is a twisted construct of contradictions, exceptions, and explanations. It often-takes a few strong drinks to sort them out. Think Van Gogh’s, Starry Night. My closest influencers are realism. Even this metaphor, which to the creative is like two+two=four, might confuse other styles of thinking. To them life is a linear set of actions and achievements. I have seen a lot of death, friends get locked up for years, and addiction take over a few persons, I once thought destined to lead this world. So, to me life is a fleeting moment. Focus on things that matter. Of course I want to make everyone happy, but I cannot on their terms and I need to be okay with that.
“Nothing frightens me more than arriving into old age having fulfilled someone else’s dream.”
Often when I write prose or poetry, I write to them. As if my work is in constant need to defend itself. My characters are always in conflict with their influencers (mainly male figures). My characters are always misunderstood and feeling rejected. Not because their influencers are openly hostile, but because of a myriad of micro-aggressions. I grew up in an abusive home, underneath an alcoholic patriarch. From grade school to college I was bullied at school and beaten at home. So I struggle with feelings of unworthiness and other’s disapproval has real consequences for me. This ultimately developed into a tendency to pacify and seek approval for my own survival. In adulthood this manifests itself in seeking approval through accomplishment and assimilation. But I have to find a way through life that puts me first for once. I am worthy of what I want. Even if it looks like a pipe-dream. These pulling forces plunged me into a deep depression nearly a year ago. But I have walked through that valley of the shadow-of -death. Displeasing my family still bothers, hurts, and stifles me. Yet, I manage to keep moving forward.
“I am worthy of what I want”
— W. Alexander
Only a creative can understand being born into a world that doesn’t appreciate their gifts. For ten years I submitted to everyone else’s expectations. I worked my ass off. But with every new trophy came a deeper emptiness. It wasn’t the goal I wanted. I envied those walking around with pink hair, paint under their fingernails, and gages in their ears. They are themselves and fuck everyone else. In secret, I thought they were the bravest of us all. I still do! Naturally, when I hit my depression, a true rock bottom, I coped and decided to live; I would say yes to myself. I wanted to be brave too. At thirty years old, the night before thanksgiving, I got my ears pierced. Over the next couple months I got a couple tattoos (my wife is attracted to tattoos). My writing flourished and I am again a student, majoring in, you got it, creative writing. My father, if living, would not approve, but his ghost cannot control my future. I tried his way with all my heart and soul, and failed through success. God made me a watcher of hearts. My way is not wrong; it is only different.
Is everything better now? No, but life is on my terms and that is something. I have little desire to play life safe. Arriving into my old age, rich and comfortable scares the hell out of me. I would much rather die contributing to this world, than carving a quiet place to die in it. If I can do both, great! But the mark of an artist is the spirit of a contrarian.
P.S. I don’t know if writing this blurb was for me or you reading it. But I hope it helps anyone who shares these frustrations to know they aren’t alone. It is not self-pity to be honest with yourself. It is only self-pity, if after you come to terms with your true self, you keep the mask on and blame your circumstances. It is never too late to shake off this world’s materialism and create. Iron sharpens Iron; friction makes perfection.
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You write for the reader. If you forget that, you have lost your way.