Challenge Day 15: Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it…
Hallelujah! Finally, an easy one to answer – which is great, because I’m a little distracted right now. The thing I know I couldn’t live without is writing. I know this, because I have tried to live without it, and doing so was like cutting away one of my own limbs with a rusted spoon. Before I go on with my real answer, let me clarify something first…
I doubt I’m the only writer that does this, but I do have bouts when either I get kind of lazy, or my life gets so busy; so chaotic, so exciting, so whatever; that I take little breaks from writing along the way. For example, you likely won’t see me posting as often when the weather’s good. There’s camping and bonfires, swimming and barbeques, backyard parties and hiking, vacations and all that other stuff that is so damn much fun that I find it difficult to plunk my butt down in front of the computer to write for long periods of time. Sure, I carry notebooks around with me always, but there are times when living in the moment is the only logical thing to do, and so my notebooks don’t fill up nearly as quickly during these periods. What tends to happen here is that – while I never entirely stop writing – after a period of mild estrangement from the craft, I will come back to it with a vengeance and write so much so fast that it’s all a little staggering.
Now that that’s out of the way, there was one time in my life when I actually tried to quit writing… and that – as I said – was like cutting off a piece of my own body. This erroneous self-mutilation occurred when I went back to school. I’d really wanted to enrol in English and journalism courses, but the people most influential to my life at the time were quite adamant when it came to insisting that writing was a hobby; not a career; and since I used to be a very easily swayed person, I accepted this as sage council. Rather than chasing a dream, I enrolled myself in a double feature of Business Management and Office Administration; the two diplomas – I’m told – that are most often sought after by those that have no idea what they actually want to do with their lives.
Now, I imagine that there are people in this world who were born with a creative flare that don’t mind – maybe even like – the incredibly sterile world of business. I, however, am not one of them. By my third day of classes I already knew this about myself. It is a very sad thing to realize you’ve just committed your time (and your cash) to doing something with your life that absolutely sickens you; not a very positive beginning; but because I so badly didn’t want to disappoint people, I dedicated myself to the task at hand. Because I didn’t want the distraction, I put my writing aspirations aside in order to better (and more fairly) concentrate on my mundane course load. Throughout the duration of my classes, I barely even wrote in my journal. Whenever I found myself scribbling down a poem or a story tidbit, I chastised myself into feeling guilty. It was terrible.
When my schooling came to a close, rather then jumping straight into the business world I got hired as the night manager of a video store. Seduced by a never ending supply of free movie rentals, I eventually (slowly and somewhat lazily) began writing again, just a little bit here and there. I liked that job quite a bit actually, but it was also where I was working when I began the two-step-boogaloo with mental instability (in retrospect, I’m pretty sure it started long before that, but it wasn’t until that point that it became completely unavoidable and I was forced to pay attention to what was going on in my own head).
Long story short (I know most of you must be getting a little bored of the subject) I ended up going back to a more neurotic pattern of writing more out of necessity than anything else; I needed to get the bad stuff out and it was splendidly therapeutic. A lot of what I wrote during that period of my life is beyond terrible – in some cases, it’s barely even comprehensible – but the simple act of writing was a big factor in my eventually getting better. Before I went down that dark path, I wasn’t aware of just how important writing was to me; or how twined directly through the strings of my genetic makeup it had become; but afterwards (and continuously since) I began realizing the true potency of the written language.
Words were there for me when I felt no one else was; they formed into blocks – line after line – as visual representations of an internal poison. And (I know this is going to sound strange) as my mental haze began to lift, I recreated myself on the page time and time again, until eventually it seemed like reality was beginning to resemble the art rather than the other way around. I can remember exactly where I was sitting, exactly what I was doing, who was around me and what I was thinking the first time I ever wrote something honest and personal that came out genuinely positive; not a projection of the positive change I wanted to see in myself, but something that came directly out of my heart and seemed to almost glow with hope and optimism. I remember the thrill that gave me and the feeling of empowerment, and though I profess to be a writer, there are not words enough in the entire language to express how magnificent it was.
Now, I’m a realist (sometimes) and I imagine that if I’d never written down a single word for pleasure in my whole life, I’d likely have found some other way to express myself, and I’d likely have regained control of my life one way or another… being the person that I am, however, I can’t help but wondering if I could have avoided that whole nasty mess if I’d never tried to give up writing in the first place. It really doesn’t matter much anymore; I have tried living without writing and now I know that’s an impossibility for me. I would never again turn my back on it; not for all the tea in China.
As an interesting side note, the one and only job I ever held in the business sector began in a call center – which ironically enough, I mentioned in yesterday’s ‘Zombie Land’ post – on the call floor. I was there maybe a month and a half before I was promoted to assistant recruiter in the offices downstairs. While the job itself didn’t entirely suck; there were moments when it was even kind of fun, and no matter how you slice it, it beat the hell out of sitting in a cubicle letting my brain melt all day; I loathed every, single, stinking drop of the office politics. I hated that the environment itself seemed to be designed to discourage any kind of creativity and/or individuality. I was also a little afraid of becoming like the other cookie-cutter robots around there that so liked to pat themselves on the backs for no apparent reason. It was an interesting experience though, and the job did help me to overcome my public speaking issues of the time, but you’ll never catch me working in an office again; especially not one connected to a call center.