Have you ever looked back over a span of your life and wished you could have a conversation with your [X] year-old self?
Tonight I did that. I was scouring my shelves for a notebook in which I could jot some ideas to inspire my latest novel and I came across one in which I haven't written for years.
For a while, I went through a phase where I asked for notebooks and journals as gifts. As a result, I have an eclectic collection that is emblazoned from everything from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," to a cute toddler dressed in fairy clothing.
Tonight, I pulled out a random notebook. In it, I found a "journal" entry from 1999. I say "journal" because it's clear, back then, I intended to keep track of my life. Unfortunately, my attempts were from New Years' Eve through New Years' Day of that year. After that, there's a couple of blank pages and then a list of "Why I'm grateful I moved to Los Angeles."
It reminded me that I'm fond of lists. Sometimes it's nice to see things in black and white, even though life is rarely that simple. Today, for example, I was told that the job for which I interviewed could be mine. It's going to be offered to me on Thursday when I meet with my interviewer to discuss the compensation package.
It seems so simple. I've been miserable at my current job and thus, this new one should be a blessing in disguise...right? And yet, as I stated yesterday, things things are never that simple. Just as I found a lifeline out of the office that has caused much of my misery over the past year or more, I was offered a lifeline within that office. My boss finally recognized that I had aspirations and hopes. It only took two years.
So now I stand at a crossroads. Do I dive into an unknown future or do I sit, comfortably, on the present past?
The nice thing is that it may be simpler than I'm making it. The new job may end up being of a salary that is too low for me to contemplate. It may offer the hope of commission-based earnings but the base salary may be too hard for me to contemplate in the bill-owing reality of my world.
Or, it may be hard. It may be a job I feel suited for and the salary may be comparable to mine. In which case, my dilemma from yesterday of the devil I know vs. the devil I don't may be relevant.
It's hard to tell. Yet, tonight, when I came across my list from 1999, I was reminded of the simplicity of life. In 1999, I was 24 years old. I had recently read "Bridget Jones' Diary," and so I wrote without pronouns. I wrote feverishly, spilling the secrets of my singleton status as though the diary were my wine-saturated best friend.
I had written the entry on New Years' Eve, 1999. It turns out, I went to see a movie, specifically, "The Talented Mr. Ripley," with my best friend, Saz. I had a good time. Yet, I was clearly searching for the meaning of my life. I was clearly contemplating a move to L.A., a digression from the Midwest to the West Coast. I was contemplating writing a screenplay. I had written, in my own words, "Probably should write a screenplay or something. No point in saying I'm a writer if I don't write."
That was more than 10 years ago. These days, I've been to L.A. and back. I've gone through my resentment of the Midwest and turned, full circle, into being grateful for the simplicity of the Midwest.
I did write a screenplay. I wrote several. Then I wrote television scripts. Then I wrote novels.
Three major feature film scripts, seven television scripts and nine and a half novels later, here I am, back in the Midwest. I think I can safely say I'm a writer, even if my book sales don't agree as much as I wish they would.
It's interesting. Once you get to a certain age, you stop living life minute by frenzied minute. Life slows down and yet speeds up at the same time. You start noticing the small, simple details of life and yet you realize they start passing you by more quickly than they ever have before.
It's been just over ten years. In that time, I've grown from being a dreamer to being a realist. The dreamer in me still exists. I still hope that sales of The Reluctant Demon will increase, that people will realize it's worth the time, even if it has no deep level of significance. It's fun. I still dream that the right person will stumble upon my book or, even, this blog and realize I'm an imprisoned talent trapped in a mundane life.
And yet, the realist speaks louder. The realist has realized that while the dreams are important and even necessary, the reality of life...is now. I may dream of being respected, famous, quoted and respected but, in reality, I exist. I have a house which makes me concrete. I have puppies, which makes me responsible. I write fiction, which makes me creative. I have a job, which also makes me responsible.
I think back then, in 1999, I was still young enough to believe that it was ok to shoot for the stars. These days, I see the stars and look at them with a fondness. I've been there, in a way. I did manage to get the idea to write a novel. I finished that novel. I enjoyed that novel. Then I wrote eight more.
When I step back, I can see that the mere fact that I finished one novel is an accomplishment. I forget that sometimes. In my life, I've always been consistent. In school, I worked hard and got good grades. It was expected of me. In life, it's been expected that I'll make my own way and not rely on others. That, too, is expected.
Sometimes, it's hard to remember that the things that come easiest to us, come hardest to others. Those that know us come to expect that greatness, even "decentness" is an everyday thing. For me, I look at the novels I've written and I see only a series of stories, of characters, of events that are tied together only because I created them. I forget that the simple act of creating them isn't as easy as it seems to me. Once I wrote one book, the rest seemed to be simple.
Then I look back at the journal entry that I wrote on 12-31-99 and I see that, back then, the mere idea of even one novel wasn't even a seed in my mind.
It's amazing how life changes. Some people plan it. Others take it as it comes. Me, I try to plan it but I'm willing to change course if it feels right. In 1999, it seemed right to move my life across the country, 2000 miles away. It seemed right to want to think about writing something.
These days, in 2010, I'm back in the place I abandoned- the autumnal world of the Midwest. I thought about writing and I did it. I wrote about a character who was a hacker and, because I like to be thorough, my research led me to a career in software.
And, so, here I am. I wonder, if I could talk to my Bridget Jones inspired self, whether I'd tell her anything different. Would I change the course of our lives, just to live for another dream?
It's hard to say. Because, when I look back at that Captain Monkeypants' aspirations, writing was my dream, moving across the country was my dream. I accomplished both.
Life is a series of nested dreams. I think it's up to us to decide if we should look at it as a whole, a horizon of unaccomplished wants or as a series of successes, of small conquests that have helped us keep moving forward.
I think it's safer to look at the small conquests. That way, we allow life to keep us flexible. It allows us to go with the flow rather than resolutely say, "No, I won't have that."
It also allows us to deal with life when it says, "No, you shan't have that," even when we think we should.
All in all, I think I'd talk to my ten-years-ago self and tell her that it's ok to have dreams. It's ok to try to accomplish them. If we fail, so be it. If we succeed, power to us. It's about the trying that counts.
And we did that. We're doing that. That's what makes life...life...right?