This is something I wrote in 2011/2012 while commuting to work as an estimator in the construction industry. I still distinctly remember this conversation I witnessed. I’m including it because it summarizes a lot of my experience in the past ten years on this writing journey. I don’t still hold the same sentiments now from six-seven years ago, but it’s the raw account of how writing fit – or rather didn’t fit – in my life at the time.
I sat across from a teenager and a middle-aged woman on the bus on the commute home. The teenage was pretty and socially awkward, but she was confident in her awkwardness. She crossed and uncrossed her feet in muddied gym shoes. She had been observing the middle-aged woman who furiously scribbled in red notebooks. The teenager piped up and grilled the woman about what she was writing. The woman told the girl about the historical fiction novel she scribbled down whenever she could.
“It’s like this story has been brewing in me for years,” the woman gushed, her eyes and face shining with hope and excitement. “Everything I’ve written in the past, and all the doodles I’ve drawn in board meetings, they all relate to this story. It’s like I knew I’d be writing this story, and my mind was gathering all the information for me.”
The woman and the teen prattled on over mutual desires, meanwhile, my heart constricted with longing and jealousy. This woman used to be me. My life used to glow when a story formed itself on pages.
My thoughts ran wild, remembering the potential of my bygone years. These thoughts became increasingly unsettling. The confusion grew from the realization – a frequent epiphany of the past few years – that what I was doing with my life was wildly divergent from what I was supposed to do with my life.
I squirmed in my seat. It was an imperceptible move, but one tactic I used to remind myself that this was my life out of necessity. I tried to quell the rising pit in my stomach. This feeling, I know, would never go away. The symptoms of discontentment had only succeeded in increasing exponentially in the last few years.
But, the problem of my life was, deep down, I knew that I had been born with a reason. I had been born with something that needed to be said. I just hadn’t discovered yet what it was I was supposed to say.
So, on that bus ride, I remained silent and eavesdropped.
I dropped my head to the light-hearted book I had read before. The words blurred. More than anything I feared this constant feeling of inadequacy and unfulfilled dreams. I worried, for the hundredth time, that this is how I would always feel. My life would continue on its current path, my husband and I would have children, and I would be absorbed in a life of duty, always secretly harboring the feeling that I ultimately failed at my calling.
People never seemed to understand this about me. I still did well with what I was doing with my life, but the problem was knowing that I wasn’t succeeding where I should be. Many friends and family pushed me to use my potential. Guilt mixed with longing and confusion make a very bitter dish to eat on a daily basis.
I focused on the words of my book and finished the chapter in time for my stop.
I conveyed this sentiment to my husband later that night (who is always supportive), and he hugged me, offered advice and kissed me goodnight. I knew that ultimately, this was a solo battle. No one could find my voice except me, and I really hated it.
The next morning was my day off from work. It usually was a day filled with sleeping in, chores, feeble attempts at blog writing, and ultimately wasted time. As I finished my blog post for the day, I eyed my dusty journal and notebook sitting on my desk. My mind fled back to the previous day’s commute.
If she can do it; I can.
But, my hands remained positioned on the keyboard. Ultimately, I feared those blank pages. I no longer possessed the ability to freely write and aimlessly wander through characters and events until a storyline formed itself out of the chaos. Nowadays I would sit in front of a page and write one “powerful” sentence. I could form a few pages out of the thought and then it always crashed down around me. I couldn’t go any farther, nor did I want to. I never liked them. I’d start on a new page and be condemned by the same phenomenon. For this reason, I hated blank pages, and journals and notebooks remained half-filled.
Today I stared at the notebook. Maybe today would be different. the thought sparked a little flare in my soul. When I finished my blog post for the day and published it, I focused past the monitor at the notebook.
“Maybe” is a powerful word. It holds the greatest potential for hope or for disappointment.
I glanced around my messy home and ran through my to-do list in my head. I could wait. It would be there when I got back. My list of tasks beckoned me to stay home and fulfill responsibilities. […] I wavered but continued to stare at the notebook. It held so much potential.
Maybe, just maybe, today would be different.