Driving home at five o’clock in the morning, my clothes in a plastic bag on the passenger’s seat, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I could spend my entire life on this “slender, riotous island”.
Who knows how long this feeling will last, how long until the wanderlust starts churning in my veins and I have to dig my fingers into the soil to tear up the roots that started spreading out last night. Next year? Next month? Tomorrow? But right now it feels like summer, real summer, not just the heat and the lengthening of days, but the way summer used to mean something when we were kids; freedom, possibility, the way everything just seemed to happen like ice cream and music. No one ever wants to leave summer.
A little over a week ago I turned 28, which isn’t all that old geologically speaking, but feels pretty damn ancient when you haven’t accomplished anything with your life. Or, rather, I haven’t accomplished anything that society would consider to be a pat on the back worthy success.
It’s not laudable to have written a book unless you’ve been published and lots of clever people say you’re worth reading, or, many, many more moderately intelligent to “how the fuck do they dress themselves” stupid people pay to read what you have written. For a long time I’ve been caught up in trying to make myself into society’s version of a successful writer. In the back of my head, at every job, every day, it’s always been ‘this is just until I can live off my writing’. Because that’s the goal, right?
But lately I’ve been thinking that I’ve been going about this wrong- big surprise, me going about something the wrong way. How can I expect to write anyone’s favorite book (which is the real dream) if all the time I’m writing I’m hoping that these are the words that will save me from this mediocre life I’ve made for myself? That’s kind of a lot of pressure to put on a paragraph. I need to find a job that doesn’t make me want to do harm to myself and others, a job that can be a career, that I can be in for the long haul. Because I don’t need to write the next Harry Potter or Da Vinci Code, or, god help me, fill in the blank Nora Roberts novel (that woman has earned so much money for writing so much crap), I just need to write what’s inside me and if I’m very, very lucky someone somewhere in someplace in time will love something I’ve created the way I have loved so many books. If you’re expecting your words to save you from financial ruin they can’t save you in the ways that they’re supposed to.
I think all my life I’ve been waiting to be rescued. But I don’t live in a tower, or a dragon guarded castle, there are no wicked stepsisters in sight and I have yet to eat a poisoned apple. I don’t need to be rescued so it is really about time that I stopped wanting to be. I’m 28, for god’s sake; all the princes are looking for Taylor Swift.
And I’m cool with that. I’m not really the prince type. I like them a bit dorkier, with a bit more geek and a whole heap of nerd. Which is beside the point, because this isn’t about my Eliot poem of a love life.
This is about slowly figuring things out, even if you never really figure things out. About realizing that even when you don’t really know who you are, you still know how to be yourself. And about one perfect night that was perfect not because of any post-card perfection, Hollywood montage of moments filled with beautiful people making all the right moves, but was perfect because of the disappointments and defeats, annoyances and awkwardness. Because the things that make nights memorable hardly ever have to do with what you wanted at the time but when, sometime around 4 A.M., you realize that what you got is so much better. And because jumping into a pool with your clothes on is always the right decision.