Life’s a Journey, Don’t Pull the Emergency Chord
Years ago I lived above a public house in London. It was a big building, right next to a mental hospital and the clientele were rough. Proper rough. Like, criminal rough. Gang rough. Stab you as soon as look at you rough. Which is weird, because it was next to Hampstead Heath, which is a good area, I think, although the Heath itself has a history as a den of inequity. The room I shared with my girlfriend at the time was dank, dingy, and damp. The shared shower and kitchen were well past demolition status. During our tenure there my girlfriend shaved her head, possibly out of a deep-seated resentment toward our situation. Why am I telling you this? I’m not sure, but I think it’s because I often reflect on where I have been – above that pub and elsewhere, always two moves away from penury – and how impossible it seemed to me then that I would ever be where I am now.
Now, I am married to a beautiful woman, I have a beautiful child, I own a house that my wife makes beautiful. We have a dog. I have a respectable, if not exactly permanent job at a local college. When I wandered the Heath, devoid of purpose, skin and bones and nothing in my pocket, already in my thirties, I would never have dreamed of all that I have now. Yet I feel I must’ve dreamed.
I know that I dreamed of writing, but didn’t know where or how to start. What kinds of things I should write, and how I should go about writing them, and what I should do with them once they were written. I read Hunter. S. Thompson and copied his style and wished I had lived a life like his, instead of my own drab one. I never gave up, that’s for sure. I pushed forward, for a short period with the help of anti-depressants, true, and there was a man in Amsterdam, who wore a white coat and was missing a finger, who told me about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Still, it was me that kept putting one foot in front of the other.
I didn’t know then about the power of affirmations, meditation, visualization. But I must’ve utilized those things in some way. I always felt, deep down, that something would turn up, if I looked far and hard enough. I had to go to Korea to find my Canadian wife, and to Canada to start our family. I had to go to Teachers’ College to find out I was good at being a teacher, but that I wanted to be a writer, still. And now I visualize myself as a published author, successful, acclaimed even. Travelling far and wide for research and maybe a little teaching, as my writing will concentrate on anxious matters, and there are many people in the world who need to learn how to cope with those. I realize also, now, that my life wasn’t drab, and that written down it may even have sounded romantic to me had I read it about someone else. A starving artist. Except I wasn’t an artist. I didn’t dedicate myself to sitting down and writing. I didn’t believe in myself enough for that. I had to do other things before I could believe that I too could be successful, that I too could do whatever it was that I actually wanted to do. That I deserved, that I’m deserving. I had to prove myself too…er…myself.
You deserve more, but what’s happening right now is meant to be. This is your journey, and it’s all about the journey. Even if you’re travelling coach and the window is dirty and the man next to you has body odour issues, try to see past the smell and the dirt to the green fields and the trees and the sunshine that are whizzing by. And enjoy. You have to be there right now, next to the smelly man, because you’re going somewhere, and when you’re ready, you’ll get off the train and…well, I think that’s enough of that metaphor.
Now, I write every day, and when my ADHD kicks in and I start doing a million other things instead, all I need to do is force myself to sit down and write the first sentence that comes into my head, and the rest of the million disconnected thoughts disappear, or reformulate themselves to make some sort of sense on the screen. Just like the phrase ”Just get on the mat” for yoga. Just get on the mat, just sit down and write, or draw, or design, or build, or code, or or whatever it is you really want to do. Because the gap from here to there may be a big one, but if you’re brave you can make the leap, and sometimes you can gird your loins and make the long clamber up the side of the ditch, crawl along the valley floor, and tramp slowly up the side of the mountain. Just don’t stop until you reach the peak. You deserve it.