Goals in writing

I’ve had this goal since I was seven. Who can say that? I’ve wanted the same thing since I was in the second grade. And some days it feels like I’m barely any closer than I was back then. Of course, that’s not true. I’ve started and scrapped countless novels that just didn’t work or had some flaw or I got bored of. And every time I scrap a novel, I feel like I’m back in second grade again, the only book I finished being one I wrote about the boys in my class. It was three pages long and in the end they all turned into vampires. It seems that ever since then, I haven’t been able to finish anything but a poem. And half the time those don’t even feel finished.

But it’s fine, I tell myself. I’m only 22. There’s still time to write a full-length novel. I should cut myself some slack, writing a book is hard work. It takes years for most people to finish a book, and not to mention I’m still in school. And there was a point where I was going to give up writing altogether. Which now seems insane to me. When I’m writing is mostly the only time I ever feel like I’m truly accomplishing something, like I’m genuinely happy. And I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

Assumptions

Sometimes when I’m pouring my coffee, I like to imagine I’m a server at a small diner in the middle of nowhere. I’m getting that table of four their coffee first thing in the morning. They’ve clearly been up all night. Their rugged attire and laid-back attitudes had me assuming they’re musicians. No one around here had ever seen them before.

I brought them their coffee and asked if they were ready to order. The one wearing a leather jacket and smelled strongly of cigarettes turned to me with a flirtatious smile, I made another assumption that he was their lead singer.

“We’re ready.” He said kindly. I couldn’t make out his accent, but he definitely wasn’t from around here. It sounded southern. But this was upstate Maine, three hours from the nearest city.

I took their orders and their accents became more prominent. It was southern, no doubt. Maybe Kentucky or maybe Texas. I asked where they were from.

“I thought you’d never ask.” The charismatic lead singer said with a grin much too big. I didn’t trust him. He reminded me of my ex who would go on vacations with his friends and come back with more notches on his bedpost. I know it was unfair of me to assume this of him, but when you’ve been burnt like I have, it’s hard not to.

It was early. We had just opened. The rush hadn’t yet begun. Around here, the rush doesn’t start until 8. The table of four were the only ones in here besides a few older folks at the bar.

I watched the table of musicians talk among themselves. The radio being right next to me, I couldn’t make out what they were saying. All I could hear was melodies and an off-tune voice. I realized I never knew if they were musicians. I just assumed. I always assume. It’s how I stay safe.


This is just a little fictional piece I thought of this morning while making coffee, based on my bad habit of assuming things of people before I get to know them.

gone bitter

I had gone bitter, I realized, lying on my floor at 7 pm. Lights off, music playing, thoughts ruminating like a bad storm. I tend to relate my feelings to the weather, and the weather affects my mood. We have that kind of relationship. And today it was windy, cold, and dark. I felt it deep inside my chest.

I spent a long time forcing myself to fall in love with boys who weren’t worth it while hating myself. Under the impression that having someone else love me equated to me loving myself. If he could do it, I wouldn’t have to. Maybe if someone else loved me, I could understand what there was to love about myself. But that’s not how it works.

And I spent so much time in half-assed relationships with people who only wanted to hurt me, and I don’t blame them. I should. And I did for a while. But I realized they hated themselves just as much as I hated myself, and I understood why they stayed for so long.

And I sit here, laying on the floor in my darkened room, and I realize I’ve gone bitter. I’ve always kind of been bitter, but I got just bad enough sleep this week to acknowledge my bitterness. And the music, its own agenda about breakups, have me thinking back on my exes and all the damage they did.

And I don’t blame anyone for my bitterness. I don’t even blame myself. I know it’s just today. It’s just the weather and it’s just my lack of sleep. But there’s moments when I’m not so sure.

The little, mundane parts of life

I fall in love often. It happens suddenly and I’m all in. And it’s not just with people. I fall in love with the way my coffee tastes, I fall in love with the way the air smells in the springtime, I fall in love with the first snowfall of winter. I fell in love once with the way a boy smelled and from then on when I smelled that same smell, I thought of him. And I thought of love. I didn’t even love him, at least not at the time, but that’s a story for another day. I fell in love with the feeling of love. Of admiration. Of romanticizing little mundane parts of my day. I think that’s partly how I got over my depression. I fell in love with constants in my life, like the way the sunrise woke me up every morning, or how the rain sounded inside a car while music played softly, or even my own quirks. That was when I learned to love myself, when I learned to love my quirks. The things that made me, me.

And being a writer throughout all this, I would write about falling in love and it was never about another person. It was falling in love with learning to love. It was falling in love with these little, mundane parts of my life that I knew would never leave. It was falling in love with being genuinely happy for the first time since I was twelve.

Sure, I’d fallen in love with people before. But it never felt as pure as falling in love with the way sitting under a tree and reading feels in the middle of summer.  It never felt as hopeful as the first warm day of spring. And maybe I’m just saying this now because of what all my exes put me through, but doesn’t that just prove my point?

That my true happiness doesn’t come from another person, it comes from within me. And for so many years, I put all my self-worth into what my boyfriend thought of me and if we were happy and if I was in a relationship at all. And it was miserable. Life is about finding purpose, it’s about finding happiness through all that it throws at us, and I never felt that in a relationship. I always felt like I was drowning, or that I was fighting with some thing that would never see my way and it was miserable.

So, I took a step back and I thought about what makes me happy. Forests make me happy and the ocean and the way the early morning sun looks illuminating the grass in backyards. And I fell in love with all these little things, these constants that would never hurt me. And I realized I was terrified of being hurt and I thought to myself, “That’s a part of life and I know I’ll have to deal with it, but why? Why can’t I just be happy? Why do we have to feel pain, too?” but I knew the answer, I always knew the answer. It was because I had been hurt so many times that I could understand what it was like to truly be happy. It was because I had felt such brutal heartbreak that I could learn to love these little, mundane parts of life.

And then I fell in love with that fact, too.

The Stars at Twilight

The gentle breeze, the streetlights illuminating my walk home at twilight, the eternal silence throughout the streets. I am grounded. I can think for what feels like the first time in years. I spent so much time feeling like I was drowning. Drowning in work, drowning in expectations, drowning in my relationships. And now, walking home at 2 am, I feel hopeful.

And it’s hard to feel hopeful when everyone around you is so different from you. When you hate where you live, it makes getting out and doing anything nearly impossible. And I try not to dwell on it, I’ll hopefully be able to get out of here once I get serious about my writing and finish this book or get a real job, but it gets hard. I sit at home most days wasting time and daydreaming. Writing feels like climbing a mountain sometimes. I sit by my computer with an empty Word document open with no clue where to go with it. Much to hard on myself and not enough coffee sends me spiraling.

But at 2 am, these problems feel a world away. All that matters now is getting home. I guess one upside to living here is I never feel nervous on these night walks. I can walk home and just worry about what’s in my head. And then I start to wonder which I’d prefer: safe streets or safe thoughts.

But the stars were always my favorite part of these night walks. The stars kept me hopeful. People say thinking of how small we are in the universe makes them feel insignificant. It makes me feel empowered. Because if the world really is that small and insignificant, why worry? I’ve spent so much time anxious about these little problems that don’t matter, and if there are aliens out there somewhere, they probably have more important things to worry about.

And I worry so much. I spend so much of my time worrying, looking at the stars is therapeutic. And on clear nights, when every star is visible, I can breathe again. Breathing felt impossible for a while. For a good portion of last year, life felt like treading water in the middle of the Atlantic with no clue when I’ll be rescued. And just because I live by the ocean doesn’t mean I know how to swim. When you’re out there all alone for so long, it gets hard to see when things will start to look up again. But then it’s summer and you’re walking home at twilight after a laughter-filled night with close friends and you don’t feel like you’re treading water, and you don’t feel like you’re climbing a mountain. You feel like you’re floating.

Seasons

And I don’t think anyone could make me feel as free as when I’m walking down the suburb streets I know so well, mid-summer, the wind at my back, headphones in playing my favorite song.

I don’t think anyone could make me feel the relief of the sudden chill in the air after months of overheating, finally wearing my favorite jacket, going for a walk and seeing mushrooms after it rained.

I don’t think anyone could make me feel as safe as looking out my window in the morning after the first snowfall of winter, the warmth from my blankets contrasting with the cold of the windowsill.

I don’t think anyone could make me feel as hopeful as the first day in spring when it starts to warm up, after months of bundled up, freezing temperatures and I can sit outside and work on this or that.

And I don’t mind. Because the seasons could never remember my favorite color or the way I like my coffee. The seasons couldn’t hold my hand or give me their jacket when I get cold. I fell in love with the seasons, and they come and go and I fall in love with each change, but they could never make me feel as wanted as a text saying, “this made me think of you.”