When I was younger (but not that young, not young enough to admit this out loud and not feel totally embarrassed) I was terrified in the dark. I wasn’t afraid of the dark, I was afraid of my own imagination, because without fail it would begin to churn. I had a number of ways to deal with whatever thoughts would plague me on any given night—reciting every character in the Archie comics that I could think of without repeating or singing the Care Bears countdown were my go-to—but the most effective was to logic my way out of any problem. The first such time I can recall was worrying about vampires. I think this started when I accidentally watched part of Interview with a Vampire and was subsequently scarred for life. Oddly, my abject fear manifested itself in a kind of obsession. For a long time, the only horror movies I could bring myself to endure were vampire-themed, and even now they might be the only ones I truly enjoy. Of course, before coming to terms with the bloodsuckers I had to convince myself they weren’t that scary. So I told myself, “Sure there might be a vampire in the hallway or under your bed, biding its time, but what’s the worst thing that could happen? It either A) kills you, and your life’s over so oh well or it B) turns you into an immortal being. Think of all the books you could read.”
It’s a dark way of looking on the bright side (not something I’ve ever been that great at to begin with) and I’ve decided to re-embrace it for 2014. Last year’s resolution was to be a better friend. I’d like to think I managed that—in part just having the mantra helped me get through a few tough spots. This year I’m going to think of the books. That might mean taking some time away from the internet to refocus on reading or setting aside a time every day that I do. Or maybe it means writing more book reviews. What it mainly means, for me though, is to finally make some progress on a book idea I’ve been harbouring throughout 2013. It’s exciting, I’m excited. What about you? What’s 2014 going to be the year of in your life?
There’s no control. No walking into a store and buying it. Just the wishing and waiting, like there’s a room made for it, painted yellow to calm you. There’s just the hope and the lung crushing moment when they say you’re not quite good enough. Close, so close, but in the end just shy of success. Which always seems to be the case, doesn’t it? When it comes right down to the nitty gritty of it. When all your cards are on the table and your eyes are so hungry for it. No, no, not today, move along, try again, stay positive. Because that’s the secret—manifesting what you want with desire. Well fuck you Rhonda Byrne, because saying it out loud just makes it worse and no amount of Post-It Notes inked through with Sharpie manifestos are going to make it happen, so just get used to it. Get used to the status quo. Dream smaller. Shelve your ambition like canned goods for the apocalypse. Like change in a silver pig, or a rainy day.
Like all those times a gnawing voice whispered “Don’t get your hopes up.” Because in the end it was right.
Here’s to all the second choices, to the runner-ups, sloppy seconds and settlers. To the people who always let the fear win, and to those who don’t bother getting out of bed. Fist in the air, end of The Breakfast Club, I feel you.
We get bound up in each other. It’s inevitable. That’s what makes life interesting—the push and pull of people, especially the ones that you yearn for in one way or another, although not always the way that they want. We make promises in our youth that lack the follow through of day-to-day living. We love people but sometimes with limits, carefully placed for our own protection. That’s what Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings made me ruminate on. Especially because the central relationships are friendships, of course, but also a little bit of envy, some obsession and love. That strange lingering love that pools itself in your most creative friends. They quench you—that aching need that lives behind your breastbone and never quite goes away. The parts of you that the people you love most might not even understand.
I like what Wolitzer says about honesty, about the secrets you carry with you forever, and the intimacy you sacrifice just by keeping them. It’s a book about a group of friends, sure, but it’s also about knowing and how there isn’t really such a thing, not completely, and how arrogant we are when we think we do. It’s about love but also about what real love lacks and how that’s OK, better even, because it’s not about finding everything but about choice—prioritizing. Which sounds clinical but isn’t. Not really, it’s about being real with yourself about what actually makes you happy.
I don’t talk much about art anymore. I don’t discuss writing, not in the way I used to, all tangled up with big ideas and theories. Plans. It’s not because I can’t, but more because I don’t need to. I’m sated with everyday happiness, the kind that comes from being with someone who has love that shores you up. The kind that passes through generations and lasts. I feel like Julz, really, deciding that I don’t need to be so creative, don’t need to define myself by it or feel like I have to be miserable to feed it. But we’re both still chasing something, a feeling we used to have, a worry for the future.
But maybe that’s just what life is.