Misty and I have recently been listening to a bunch of alternative ’90s music on Pandora. We’re living without stereo or cable/satellite TV, so everything must be Roku-ed, Chromecasted or caught from the air. It’s not a bad life.
The music of my late-teens early twenties puts me in a reflective mood. I’m only 33, but the songs harken back to a time that — looking back now — I was severely depressed but nonetheless offered at least another twenty years of opportunities. In hindsight, we can all see avenues not taken. The cliché metaphor of path’s in a wood diverging and the one not taken — except lives continue to converge and diverge. They are so bound up in choices made and unmade that it can ultimately be hard to see where they start. At which divergence did I choose the path I imagine? Does this imaginary scenario stem from this or that or another imaginary premise? Which choices depend on which previous choices? Somehow, I doubt I’m the only one to which this occurs when listening to music from certain periods of life.
These are reflective questions. The ultimate question is the one confronting us as I write and you read: How do we feel about our lives now?
It was a dark life, then. The good that came of it was my obsessive, vicious, scathing, mostly true, sometimes cryptic but constant writing and a few lifelong friends. Most of the writing is likely lost. I started my first blog in 1997 or ’98 (before we actually called them “blogs” — they were “webjournals” or “diaries”). I operated at the level of expert 17- or 18-year old naiveté. This was, of course, before the ubiquity of human resources’ offices trolling social media, blogs and Google for information about potential hires. In college, and later in politics, I learned self-censorship. I learned poking fun at elephants in the room really pissed them off. And I “learned” to write.
An old professor at St. Ed’s used my blog at inadequate.net as an example in her classes.
New Orleans John once said, while we sat around some alcoholic beverages at Lovejoy’s in Austin, “You’re already a writer. You don’t need school for that.” That’s a paraphrase, of course. He was probably even more generous with his praise. Just before making a snide comment about the college-educated pseudo-intellectuals populating Austin. Knowing that most of my writing was true, he also regularly claimed, “Writers are nothing but liars. You can’t believe a word out of ’em.”
I blogged through college. But I started finding that my writing — my voice — was lost. Not lost. Just not used. I could write anything. I could adapt my style to any assignment — press release, white paper, academic essay, what-have-you. Then Facebook came, and a wife. With Facebook, I could shoot out a few words voicing my opinion without having to seriously defend it except in the comments. (We won’t even get into Twitter.)
Being in relationships has always decreased my writing output. Mainly because I try to focus as much as possible on my spouse. But also because I can discuss with her anything I might otherwise write here. I have captured an audience, if you will. Now I’m not desperately seeking the personal connection of my OCD-driven depressive years. My blogs persisted in various permutations, but irregularly and rather dryly. This was because I believed I had to be an expert to talk about anything of any substance — unlike around the turn of the century when I felt free to express myself about damn near anything, even if I was wrong and have now completely revised my thinking on the subject.
The painter Brian(na) Keeper once told me there’s no reason I shouldn’t write as a naïve. (She probably followed-up with something along the lines of, “Because you are.”)
So I am. If anything has kept me unhappy, it’s likely the loss and atrophying of my writing and skills. And that’s ultimately no one’s fault but my own. There’s nothing keeping me from making mistakes grammatical, logical or completely understandable on this blog.
Rachel, an old online friend and reader from back in my early blogging days with whom I’ve lost contact, once told a friend, Ash, who was announcing her giving up writing in frustration, “You can’t stop writing. You’ll leak.” I leaked. But I need to open the faucet a bit more. I can write whatever I want!
Ash, by the way, recently had a story published.