Lately, this blog has been consuming me in the best of ways and in the worst of ways.
I still remember starting it off last summer. One day during work I sat at my desk during a lunch break when my colleagues had left the building and I took a piece of paper and drew out exactly what I wanted the pages to look like. That night I stayed up until 11:00 p.m. sitting on a couch cushion that lay on the living room floor of the house I was subletting that summer. I created page after page of the simple design I had put down on the paper during lunch, simple because I had no experience creating websites before, and simple because the website wasn’t the main attraction, the writing was. There was this voice in the back of my head most of that night, telling me that there was definitely a more efficient way to do things and that I was only losing sleep because I was uneducated on the right way of doing things. Back then I was brute about pushing this voice out of my head, I had been losing sleep since ‘02 to get things done the way I wanted them to.
After that, it was a lot of scribbling ideas on notecards at my desk, racing home from work, going out on a run that would stimulate my creative juices, and then coming home and writing at the kitchen table about whatever I wanted, whatever was going on in my life, and whatever I was interested in at the time. It’s the same thing I’m doing now, but it felt so much more pure back then like I was just genuinely so excited to be writing again. Especially during a summer when I could go the entire day just working in Excel. I still love writing today just as much as I did a year ago, but I started making rules for myself. I tend to make a lot of rules for myself, even when I don’t necessarily need to make them. First I started with the rule of publishing one article per week, which wasn’t enough. I upped it to two, then by the time I left for Madrid I made a rule for myself that I needed to publish every other day. If I wanted a career in travel journalism, I had to show that I could actually do it.
In hindsight, and in the moment, the rule of posting every other day seems entirely outlandish. I say that while still mapping out my posts on Google Calendar and chewing myself out for not posting multiple times a week this past semester, even though I was taking an entire course load with extracurriculars. In Madrid posting every other day wasn’t too hard though because I was living so much life that there was always something to talk about. When I returned, it was much harder. I wanted to post every day so that I could prove to everyone, anyone, that I was dedicated enough to have a career in travel journalism, personal journalism, fashion journalism, or any kind of writing career someone might offer me. It’s funny that I write this in the past tense as if I am more esteemed than my past, adolescent, silly self. Like that ideology that I must overachieve in every aspect of my life just to get a glance from someone with authority is a character trait I have left behind. In truth, it is not. I was not able to keep up the every other day posting during my spring semester back in the States as I hoped (which truly pains me to write) and I have felt sensationally guilty about this fact every single day that goes by without a published piece.
I have been back at my parent’s house after the end of finals for three weeks now. Three weeks that my ever-so-stressed parents were hoping that I would use as a time to relax and lay on the couch in an attempt to get rid of the major burnout I was experiencing from school before starting my next intensive summer plans in New York City. Instead, I have woken up each morning, brushed my teeth, grabbed an orange, and sat down at my parent’s dining room table. I scribble frantically into three different notebooks and type away at my dad’s old computer, as mine is currently getting fixed in the shop, as the sun makes its way across the sky. It’s like working a full-time job, except I’m not getting paid.
Now that classes are over and all I have to think about is time itself, I have been living in two states. Writing, or thinking about writing. This is very common to how I spent the majority of my childhood. With every free moment I had from school and sports, I would spend my days pouring through 99-cent notebooks my mother would buy in bulk for me at Walmart and writing 100-page novels on the old Lenovo laptop my parents eventually gave me that couldn’t connect to the Internet but had Microsoft Word. The other day when I was loitering around my parents’ closet I found an old 4×6 my photographer father took of me. I was sitting at the dining room table, back hunched at a very precarious angle over a bulky laptop, typing so intently I hadn’t even seen the photographer lurking. It’s a funny thing because I once said in a job interview that my goal for life in general was to make my five-year-old self proud. I know she would be overjoyed that I am still writing, but probably not too thrilled that I still find myself at my parent’s dining room table every morning, hunched in a precarious position, instead of doing a world tour for my bestselling novel. We always think that 20 is so old when we’re children, and then you get to be 20 and realize that you still feel like a child and wonder when, or if, you’ll ever feel like a real adult who can make decisions about their lives without their parent’s advice.
I wrote a lot about my own life back then too. Every week I would publish a newspaper using Adobe InDesign and my dad’s printer called “The Huntley Times” and distribute it to my parents, brother, and dog, Muffin. It’s something I’ve always loved doing, pulling from my own life to see where people connect and differ. Recently I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about an esteemed high school math teacher that was giving advice to all of those afraid of OpenAI and ChatGPT. “Think about what makes humans human, and lean into that as hard as possible,” Po-Shen Loh announced at one of his lectures. OpenAI can teach you how to use Stata for your econometrics final but it can’t teach you how to be human or deal with the very real events happening to you in your life. It doesn’t know what it really feels like to interact with boys on dating apps, go to therapy, move abroad, miss your friends, be depressed, and it really doesn’t know what it’s like to bleed through your underwear and pants in accounting class! So those are the things I can lean into, the things that not everyone can experience, the things that a machine can’t be programmed to explain in a one-sentence summary.
It can be incredibly hard constantly writing about your own life though, because you start to look at every little thing you do as content and every decision you have to make as possible content– even when nobody is reading or watching. This has seemed to make me even more conscious about my life and the things going on around me, which isn’t always the best thing for me. It’s not much easier to write about someone else’s life either though, even when they’re someone you’ve just made up in your head because I don’t often make up a character that has nothing to do with me or the things I’m interested in. We write what we know, but sometimes I just want to “kill [my] darlings” and start fresh.
I have recently found what I believe to be a solution to this though, although it’s been four months and nothing quite has come of it. Ever since February, I’ve been having an extraordinary amount of very vivid dreams because of a medication that I’m on which tends to keep me from having REM sleep. The dreams are so vivid that sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I can’t tell if they are memories of the previous day or dreams. Most notable was the time I thought Dwayne Johnson was in my living room, something that Blakely has never let me live down. Needless to say, I’m weaning myself off that medicine now. The dreams are generally all over the place and only very rarely have semblance to my life which is great for someone who wants to think of stories, ideas, and characters that are not riddled with traces of my DNA. I have this idea that I’ve been convinced of ever since these dreams started: that because they are so long and vivid, I’ll eventually have a dream that I’ll be able to turn into the next Great American Novel. So I leave paper beside my bed so that I can scribble the dreams down throughout the night. Quite often I wake up in the middle of the night with a dream that I believe is a great idea and I grab the notepad and scratch down a quick sentence about the dream to trigger my memory of it when I wake up. So far there have been no cases of late-night genius, just chicken scratch of things like, “Anna Wintour made me take an Uber home”, “I forgot to turn in the second set of journals in photography”, “Scary kid with big teeth chased me around campus”, or “I bitch slapped a man who catcalled my mom”. I’m still holding out hope. The idea is that eventually I’ll sell a book to a big company and I will dial back writing about myself to a normal amount because I will be working on this book. Working with a company on a book is something of great importance, so I would let myself taper out the posts from every other day to once a week. I know I was a full-time student last semester when I fell behind on posting, but a bachelor’s degree and finance internships are not big and important things like a book deal.
I’m already used to keeping this notebook near my bedside. When I’m trying to fall asleep is one of the only times my brain is able to wander untethered by other activities and noise. Late into the night, I will be half asleep before thinking of a new blog idea or a different angle on something I’ve been meaning to write. I’ll pull myself back into consciousness and sit up on my elbows to write down a few notes because I know if I wait until the morning, I won’t remember the idea or the exact way I worded that sentence in my head eight hours earlier. Therefore I spend the majority of my nights drifting in and out of light sleep and jotting thoughts down until I’m finally pulled completely under to experience dreams that have yet to give me an idea for that next Great American Novel. My life is exhausting.
Even now as I write this I am supposed to be doing something else. It is daytime now, but I’m supposed to be making a cake. The batter sits in a red mixing bowl on the counter in my kitchen awaiting the eggs and mixing of the batter while I sit outside on the outdoor couch writing because the angle of this blog has finally come to me. I thought the trip outside would be brief and only last a few moments as I wrote down a sentence, but then it just all came pouring out of me like when I try to drain the water out of my pasta without using a strainer and it all falls into the sink at once. I’ve been outside for 30 minutes now. The alarm on the oven has alerted the household that it is preheated and my mother stopped by the kitchen on her way to the laundry room and asked if I was okay, because she saw the unfinished cake batter just sitting there while I sit out here. I am a writer by nature, but oftentimes it feels as though it plagues me.
Similar to how I am always reading other people’s writings. I flip through pages of books ferociously and adopt parts of their voice for a brief time before switching routes to the next author. I’ve always been extremely susceptible to outside influence on the way I speak and write. I had this friend in middle school who was from London and everyone in her family had an English accent. When I would come home from spending time at her house, Caden would mockingly point out how I subtly omitted pronouncing certain “t” sounds, insinuating that I was imitating my friend’s accent because I found it cooler than my own. While I did find her accent fascinating, the truth is that I have always unconsciously adjusted my speech to match those around me, regardless of whether I found their accents appealing or not. As I immerse myself in the world of online, self-published political and societal essays, I can’t help but deeply admire the works of others. They effortlessly capture captivating metaphors and craft angelic similes, while my own attempts seem to come off as comical, such as comparing thoughts to scenes like freshly cooked pasta falling into a dirty sink. I am an economics major, enjoy reading books about politics, and find immense pleasure in crafting informative pieces about finance and our ever-evolving economy. I hold strong opinions on a wide range of topics, but there continues to be a lingering worry that my work might not be taken seriously amidst a sea of posts about going to clubs or emotional anecdotes experienced during flights.
When I was a child, my greatest desire was to be a writer. That dream got put on the back burner for a while but now the flame of passion has been rekindled, burning brighter than ever. Writing seemed so much easier when I was a carefree child or when I was a teenager who got to write while eating dinner after a full day of work at a consulting internship, earning a decent wage. Back then, I could simply sit back and write without feeling the need to impress editors and without wondering how writing could ever be a viable full-time career that pays my bills and afford me the freedom to travel prolifically as I dream of. I am 20 years old and a senior in college but I still feel like a child, yet the world doesn’t seem to realize that.
Anyways, I have to go finish baking my cake.
Leave a Reply