Thursday, December 3, 2009

There's only one thing worse than being talked about...

And that is not being talked about.
I might never know whether being a psychology major was the beginning of my search for meaning in everything around me or if it simply exacerbated my condition. Either way, I think the ill effects are in remission.
Some things came easy to me when I was growing up: spelling and running 10K races and biting my fingernails until they turned red and stingy underneath. Other things didn't come too readily - like knowing how to tell people to piss off. I hated disagreement; I feared confrontation. At school and on the playground and in my own backyard I began to keep to myself the words and ideas and thoughts and feelings that could possibly turn someone against me.
By the age of ten I had learned to survive by hiding myself away.
Only in moments of complete self-assurance could I open up. Then I would spill all over and give people real reason to tell me to stick it.
At age forty I think I am finally excising the last remnants of these devils from my soul. Easy to say, perhaps, when 90 percent of my social life is played out on a computer. (Such is the existence of an expat in a small town of socially-inhibited people but that's a story for another day.)
Twenty-six years ago I was working at the George Washington University Hospital as a doorman. The job was part of a sort of experiment they were running - an attempt I suppose at making an inherently unnerving place a little more comforting and user-friendly. To me it was a corridor to a free grad school degree. One sweaty summer day there on 23rd Street between Washington Circle and I Street this guy struck up a conversation with me, overtly enchanted by my role there at the hospital. 'You should write a book about your work here,' he said with a big white toothy smile. 'Call it The Entrance.' Six years later I started writing that book.
For hours at home, or on my computer at work at the Boulder Municipal Courthouse before I finally bought my first PC, I typed and thought and typed and thought and deleted and typed some more. I started staying home on Friday nights because I wanted to write this book - which became for me a sort of cathartic autobiography. I spent two years I think, slowly cranking out this introverted Jerry Maguire manifesto. And the week before I moved to Japan I took my pile of paper to Kinko's to have it bound so I could send it to my mother - which I might never had done if I hadn't blurted out to her during a rare phone conversation many months prior that I had actually decided to try to write a book.
Though at times I entertained the possibility of turning this into something, I didn't write this convoluted explanation of my psyche in an attempt to have it published. The idea of being a writer per se hadn't ever even entered my head. I wrote for myself, to clear my head and clarify my ideas and maybe see what kind of person I was able to admit to myself I really was. I wasn't even sure I wanted anyone else to see it. But in that impetuous, unthinking moment I told my mom I was trying to accomplish something - and from that moment on I felt I had something to live up to. And though I didn't realize it at the time, this would prove a driving force behind my dreams.
Since slogging out that long-winded piece that I did in fact title The Entrance, I found that I love to write as much as anything I've ever done. Writing is creating; writing is exercise for both the head and the soul; writing, for me, is a source and a product of self-expression. It is enjoyment on a different plane than riding my bike or traveling overseas or swilling beers and tripping over my Japanese, but it is fulfilling nonetheless.
Now to make it my livelihood.
I was hesitant at the outset to tell people I was trying to write a novel. Then I tossed around the disclaimer that I was not trying to get published, I just wanted to see if I could write a book - though I more or less already had. The real question was: Can I write a good book? If I couldn't I felt better having the I-wasn't-really-trying bit in my back pocket. And failure would become a much less harrowing proposition.
Today I tossed out on facebook for all to see that I am starting my own publishing company. Reactions, I expect, whether I hear them or not, will run the gamut. And now, I know, that is good. Now my family and friends and six potential degrees of separation all know I am striving for something. Something called a dream.
Still, just like that first book, I'm not doing it for anyone but me.
But everyone will know it if I give up.
Somehow, that drives me.

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