Reading time: 5-6 minutes
Recommended accompaniment(s): A large glass of full-bodied red wine, ideally from Southern Italy, served at room temperature
Some people want to be a doctor when they grow up. Others want to be a teacher. Others an entrepreneur; an astronaut; famous (whatever that nowadays means). So many dreams harbour in the minds of naïve and ambitious children and teenagers, and even as adults the idea of ‘when I’m grown up’ is a state not yet accomplished. My current biggest wish is to have a bedroom door (the perils of a studio apartment); when I was younger my aspiration was to be happy. Truly happy. And it still is. Hence the name I have chosen for this blog.
I remember a class we had on this during high school. We must have been about fourteen years old, and – no doubt as part of our one-hour-per-academic-year session on things that actually matter in life, as opposed to the ‘everyday applications’ of trigonometry or the internal musings of Caecilius while in horto – were asked to write on a scrap of paper what we wanted to become when we were older. I wrote down ‘Properly happy’, with a very intentional, nay crucial, opening adverb.
“Are you not happy?” asked one of my friends, genuinely confused, who caught sight of my sheet after scrawling down ‘actress’ herself.
“Are you?” I countered, just as confused with the concept of whole-hearted contentedness.
“Yeah,” she shrugged, as she joined the queue milling out into the corridor and onto our double period of I.T. with an ethically, and child protectionarily, questionable male teacher.
To me that said it all. I mean, a shrug and a non-committal affirmative are not exactly signs of absolute agreement, are they? She felt exactly the same as I did. She just wasn’t as aware of it.
I then had to decide whether I was wanting too much from life, or if other people were not wanting enough. I chose, and continue to believe, the latter, and hope that I am onto something. Of course I don’t believe in a life smelling of roses and consisting of unadulterated bliss, but I do believe, and am optimistic about, a life centred around people and love and happiness and experience and honesty and creativity and connection and passion and joy and gezelligheid (non-Netherlands-residing readers are invited to look this term up, and be prepared to be jealous of my new country’s favourite concept).
The next immediate hurdle is figuring out how this life can be achieved alongside the unavoidable requirement to earn money / keep financially afloat. For those whose life’s passion is to be a brain surgeon or lawyer, I really do envy you. For those who are carrying out these jobs sans satisfaction, I honestly don’t know how you do it. The idea of a nine-to-five job – no matter the field or level of challenge or mundanity involved – to me is so excruciatingly depressing (literally, I’ve been there) that I have simply had to look for an alternative. Which is where the writing has come in.
Starting a blog – this blog – while travelling in 2017, aged 25, was where my love of writing developed. Though I never dreamed of being a writer when I was younger; I stopped studying English at the point where it was a choice; and I have never been an avid bookworm. I don’t have any of the characteristics or merits of a successful writer, yet this is the perhaps preposterous aim. (I’m counting on the fact that innate talent and determination win all, and, of course, that I have at least a sliver of both of these things.)
My journey as a writer so far can be viewed in two very different ways. With optimistic eyes, it is going swimmingly. Through a short series of rather random circumstances a London-based publisher read my blog, liked my writing, and commissioned me to write for them a book. (I mean, does it get any more fairytale that that?) It is to be published first in Chinese and then in English, perhaps this year, and hopefully translated into a number of other languages thereafter. Spurred on by this experience, and, again, following a random (or fateful) meeting, I am 50,000 words in to my second book, which I hope to be taken on by a literary agent, sold to a publisher in a bidding war, and turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. This is not even an exaggeration; this is truly what I hope it becomes.
Under a pessimistic, or perhaps realistic, lens, things can sometimes seem somewhat futile. I was paid a pittance to research and write an entire book that is yet to be published and may never materialise. I haven’t received a decent pay check in over two years, and rely financially on others to stay afloat. I spend much of my time alone, typing away on my laptop, crafting a manuscript that may never be read by more than a handful of people. But I continue to do this, and believe that I should, because the glimmer of hope that I might become successful feeds me much more than the thought of a steady and secure and strangling employee situation. After all, if I don’t give it a go then it is definitely not going to work.
But that doesn’t mean to say that it’s easy. Writing, as a career (if you can call it that before you have been aptly monetarily rewarded), for me, is like being in a constant battle, in so many ways. It takes time, of course, to create a masterpiece, or something at least vaguely masterful, during which time you are constantly aware that you might be simply wasting time. I feel I need to be ‘in the zone’ to write well, but have not yet figured out whether creating that zone – both mentally and environmentally – aids my writing, or whether consciously writing something of value or elegance transports me into that all-encompassing sweet spot. I want to have integrity and commitment to my goal and beliefs, but I also want to have the disposable income to be able to go clothes shopping on a whim. I am unsure of when tiredness and illness bleed into procrastination and self-absorption. I feel brave and worthy and confident in my abilities, yet constantly worry about judgement from others for my choices and lifestyle and tendency for a mid-week lie in. And I am uncertain, or undecided, as to whether that mid-week lie in improves my focus, when I do start writing, or is a brilliant, self-sabotaging, scheme I dreamt up through utter laziness. And those are just the thoughts I’ve had while enjoying my porridge-based breakfast.But to achieve that life of love and happiness and experience and honesty and creativity and connection and passion and joy, I know I have to persevere. Because those pulls of uncertainty and doubt and niggling nags are not through an unwillingness to continue, but through an unknowingness of where this might lead. Of whether I will succeed. Of whether this turmoil will pay off. And I’m willing to take that risk as the alternative is, quite frankly, not an option. For me, anyway. Wish me good luck. (And for heaven’s sake – if it comes out – buy my bloody book, please.)
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