There’s an age-old belief that the truth shall set you free.
Well, I’ve been sitting here for over an hour, trying to figure out how to start this article, and I’ve got nothing.
If this were the pre-word processor days, I’d be drowning in a sea of crumpled paper. I can’t put together a coherent thought, my cursor is taunting me with its “Any time now…” blinking, and if I stare at this blank screen much longer, I’m likely to ram my head directly through my monitor.
So what choice do I have but to be brutally honest, admit my struggles, and pray that it gets me paroled off of Writer’s Block Row?
Needless to say, the creative process has been pretty tough on me lately. I’ll come up with an idea, I’ll get organized and I’ll begin to write. Things will be going okay, and I’ll feel like I’m making progress, but then BAM…I hit a wall. Everything stops flowing, and the harder I try, the faster I spin my wheels. When I step back and look at what I’ve done, I see nothing but a rambling, disjointed mess. So for sanity purposes, I put the once-promising topic aside and start over with something else.
What I can’t accept, though, is that this maddening, start-and-stop, what-am-I-doing cycle has also become an appropriate metaphor for my life in general.
It’s been 10 years since I graduated college, and in that time, I’ve lived in seven different cities, held 11 different jobs, paid rent to nine different landlords, set foot in 35 states and jumped out of one perfectly good airplane, all in hopes of finding my own little place in this world. But outside of a horizontal career path and a dresser I assembled from IKEA, I’ve got little to show for it.
As a kid, I was always a dreamer. My parents taught me to follow my heart, so that’s exactly what I was determined to do. I spent every waking moment imagining and planning for all of the great adventures that lay ahead.
Unfortunately, those fantasies had to be frozen and saved for later – not unlike baseball great Ted Williams’ head – because there were other responsibilities I was required to tend to. I had to do chores. I had to go to school. I had to do homework. I had to study for tests. In my immature eyes, this stuff was utterly pointless. I didn’t like being told what to do, and I resented having to dedicate myself to tasks for which I had no interest.
If the saying, “Everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten” were true, then why did I have to take Algebra?
Honestly, I didn’t even really care about going to college. Sure, I figured it’d be smart to get a degree, but it wasn’t like I had this insatiable thirst for knowledge that could only be quenched at an institution of higher learning.
I went because it’s what I was expected to do.
Of course, it didn’t take long for me to realize the greatness that is the college lifestyle. All of my friends lived within a five block radius, my Saturday three-step was noon wakeup-football game-party, and a “busy” day meant that I was in class from 11a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Still, I never fully stopped feeling restrained, like I was just mindlessly carrying out somebody else’s wishes. The lectures were boring, the assignments were a pain, and outside of learning that Acapulco was a better spring break destination than Cancun—through field research, of course—I wasn’t really expanding my intellectual horizons.
So as great as my setup was, there was a part of me that longed for the day when I could devote my time to things that were important to me.
As my senior year was winding down, though, and that freedom was almost within reach, it hit me that I was completely unprepared for that autonomy. Outside of which girl to ask out or which beer to drink, I hadn’t ever made a big decision…everything had always been decided for me. I realized that those constraints that I’d resented all those years had actually served as a security blanket, keeping me in my comfort zone, allowing me to play the role of the repressed, Dazed and Confused youth.
But now, for the first time in my life, my path was not predetermined, and I was terrified. The panic came at me in waves.
Did I take the right job? Am I going to be happy? What if I screw up? Why did I graduate in four years?
Not surprisingly, the moment that tassel hit the left side of my graduation cap, my struggles began, and it’s been a constant battle since. Walking the wire without a net, I’ve fought my anxieties and self-doubts, and the state of my union unfortunately reflects that.
It’s easy to play the comparison game, and I indulge as much as anyone. I see my friends who have found success. I see those who are climbing towards their goals. I see people my age on TV who are living out their dreams.
And I see that I don’t measure up.
I try to stay positive by focusing on the things that I have accomplished, on the courage I’ve shown in refusing to settle. But I can never escape the reality that I’m not where I want to be, and I can’t help wondering if I’ll ever get there. I’m past the point of daydreaming, of waiting for “someday”…this is the time when I’m supposed to be writing my story, when I’m supposed to be making everything happen.
What do I want to be when I grow up? Well, I am grown up. These are the days of my life, and sometimes it feels like the sand is slipping too quickly through the hourglass.
Whenever I sit down to write, and the ideas are incoherently swirling through my head, I am inevitably overwhelmed by the thought that there are a million different ways to say what I want to say. How to frame it, how to word it, how to make it flow…the possibilities are endless, and I’m always fearful of not picking the “best” option. For me, it’s the scariest thing about writing.
But it’s also the greatest.
Because as intimidating as that blank page can be, it’s also full of hope. It’s the canvas to create whatever you choose. Like a little boy’s imagination, there are no limits, and there are no restrictions, and the path you take is solely up to you.
Life works the same way. Each day is a clean slate, with no memory of the past. No matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, and no matter how many times you’ve fallen, it’s never too late to turn it all around.
And luckily, for a seeking soul like me, recognizing that simple truth could be all it takes to finally set me free.