Monday, May 10, 2021

An Endless Series of False Starts

I’m not going to be writing here anymore, for the most part. You maybe already figured that out, but I wanted to make at least one thing in my life official.

It would make more sense if I just said that I lost my love for writing and that I’m now focusing my creative energies on a host of other outlets, but that would be a lie. I did burn out as a writer, having spent the better part of my twenties writing for pleasure, writing for self-expression and writing for work. It bothers me less that I never ended up taking it far and that I never ended up writing anything that really mattered. What pains me even today is that I didn’t properly care for this gift I was given — that gift being a love of writing, not being a good writer — and it died like a mouse in my pocket, which is a bad metaphor, I realize, but like I said, I was never a good writer.

It’s been more than two years since I’ve posted anything here and more than four since I wrote here with any regularity. I kept thinking that if I just took a long enough break from blogging, the passion I had for writing would eventually come back to me. And it did, in a sense, but as a result of the amount of time that has passed since Back of the Cereal Box was part of my life, I realize that any writing I do in the future will have to live somewhere else. I don’t know the person who kept this blog. I’ve grown up and I’ve grown apart from him, and while I can imagine trying to find my voice again, I doubt I can do it on a website that connects me to a version of me that existed five, ten, fifteen years ago, who wanted different things from life and whom I can’t look at now without thinking that I failed him in some way.

I’m not sad about this. I’m mostly okay with where my life is now, and I am engaged in a variety of creative pursuits that have found audiences far bigger than what I ever achieved with this blog. But I’m also doing that in a world that’s different than the one I expected to live at this point in my life, for reasons that should be obvious — unless you’ve been you living on Mars, in a cave, with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears — but also for reasons that aren’t obvious, because of a thing I have hardly told anyone about, which changed how I think about life and which I consider to be equal parts horrible and beautiful. This latter thing I have tried to write about many times, but I always end up deleting it, because I’ve never been able to find a way to put it into words that makes me sound anything other than crazy.

Maybe words will always fail me in this respect, but just understand that this thing is a sea monster in the ocean on an old map, and it changed how I spend my life, for good and for bad in a way that somehow doesn’t total out to neutral. This will not be the last post, technically speaking, but this is the one where I wanted to leave a small part of myself for the last time, because I often used this blog to figure out who I was, and even in writing this post, which I’ve been composing in my head for the last few years, I may have figured a thing out one final time.

Often, the introspection I was able to do on this blog was done through pop culture, where I looked deep into movies or TV or music and saw myself, Magic Eye-style, and I will be leaving you with a pop cultural thing this one final time. But whereas I usually name-checked the references and connected the dots in a bid to seem clever and hip and culturally literate, I’m going to post this last bit free of any context, because I think it will actually mean more if you take it away from the source material. If you’re curious, you can google it. If you really know me, you could probably even guess where it’s from. But also maybe don’t search for an easy answer, at least for a little while. Just think about it and decide for yourself what it means to you and what you imagine it could mean to me.
What I’ve learned from this place and about these people terrifies me, I’ll frankly admit that. How much of what I know, what I’ve been culturally attuned to believe, feels like the set of a play on a strange stage I’ve wandered onto without knowing why I’m here. I don’t know the lines, I don’t know what part I’m playing, I don’t even know what the play’s about or what it’s called. I'm just here onstage, stuck in a dream, lights shining in my eyes. Is anyone out there watching?

The play stumbles ahead, feels like artifice, mistakes, frippery, an endless series of false starts, bad assumptions, all the while shadowed with the constant horror that something unforeseen could drop down on me from above or lurch in from the wings at any moment, that the floor could open beneath me and instantly erase even this small, pitiful existence, put out the lights for good.

Chief, this has changed me. You predicted that, and I should have known you’d be right, but you can’t know what you don’t know until you do. It’s because you’ve already been through it, I think. Does this feeling end? Can you tell me you come out the other side to some kind of understanding, or do I have to take that as another article of faith? There’s only one redeeming feeling I can cling to, provided I ever get that far — and I’m not saying I’m there yet, by any stretch — but when it’s all stripped away and you realize you’re the only one who can put the pieces of yourself together, by yourself, alone — no easy answers from a book, song, or movie or the reassuring words of someone older and “wiser” — I’m noticing it has a tendency to focus and sharpen the mind, and strengthen the will to live constantly with all my senses wide-open to the here and now. One clear idea emerges from that crucible, forged and hard as rolling steel: We mustn’t give up. Ever.

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