Do you ever have a dream that you held on so tightly, that you repeat so often to anyone who will listen, even though you are not sure if it is what you want anymore?
These few days, I have been in anguish after blurting out to a potential employer my dream of working in publishing. I regret that recklessness, in part because this was for a position entirely removed from publishing. The possibility that I might have screwed up my chances at an amazing work opportunity is killing me. Worse still, I don’t know if I was being entirely honest during that word vomit. I am ashamed to admit that my love for writing has been lukewarm at best, something I blurt out only because I am expected to have a passion, because a passion leads to a purpose, no?
For the longest time, I have been very firm about my aspirations to be a writer. I longed to write about women who have made their mark in the world, women who have lived and loved and now have a lifetime of stories to share. To give myself some credit, I am not half bad as a writer. My words have a certain cadence about them. They are at times poetic, and always raw, if not the most sophisticated.
I started writing when I was 10. I started beneath the covers of my sheets, writing embarrassing Harry Potter fanfiction (yes, I was a dork). Then, in school, some of my essays received praise from my teachers, and that’s when the idea of becoming a writer seeded in my head. I did not always know what sort of a writer I would be. A scriptwriter? A columnist? A novelist? It mattered little. All I know was that the possibility was endless! As a chubby little kid with a funny fringe and mouth full of braces, I was ecstatic to know I had this smidgen of a talent. Writing lifted my fragile ego.
Yet, recently, it seems to take an awful lot of cajoling for the proses to flow from my fingertips. I don’t always get that endorphin rush you are supposed to get when pursuing your passions, the way athletes feel when they pound the track, or painters do when their brushes connect to canvas. My mind is like a faulty typewriter where the letters come out gibberish sometimes.
Writing does bring me clarity occasionally, especially when my thoughts are shrouded in an irrational fog of anxiety. The knots in my chest are more stubbornly tangled, but a temporary relief is better than none. And am I not here, resorting to words to vent my frustrations?
I have always been struck by the idea that our phobias tend to veil a deeper fear. Underlying the phobia of heights is a fear of falling; underlying the phobia of deep water is a fear of drowning. My apprehension towards writing conceals a fear of not having anything worthy to say. If I cannot offer poignancy, if I cannot offer entertainment, can I still claim myself to be a writer?
Maybe my turmoil is a consequence of growing up in the age of perpetual public scrutiny. Where other obsess over their photographs on social media, I curate my words in exchange for validation. Admittedly, I don’t think I will ever be able to stop writing entirely, even if it’s only for myself on this private space. There is a perverse pleasure in accomplishing what has not been easy, just like pushing myself off the couch to go for a jog.
As Mr. Keating, played by the legendary Robin Williams in the Dead Poet’s Society, asserts, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
If this is true, if words can change the world, then writing should not be easy anyway. After all, world revolution is no walk in the park.