This past Palm Sunday was the best I had ever since the horrors at the beginning of the year. As many of you know, February and March of 2015 have been by far the cruelest months of my life. I lost two promising job opportunities that sounded too good to be true at first and later screwed me over, following the lost of my favorite beloved pet to kidney failure the day after Valentine’s Day. As of now, I’m no longer allowed to request another deferment on my student loans, and about a week after learning that news, and about the same time the sweetest man I’ve ever dated ended our romantic relationship and returned to our friendship, a friend of mine announced that she’s going to be a mother after four happy years of marriage to a guy I used to date.
Her husband is still on good terms with me, same with my last boyfriend, who in Doctor Who terms would be my version of Danny Pink (see sidenote). The baby shower is in August; the baby is due right around my dad’s birthday, and thank God the baby’s a boy, or I would never hear the end of Queen Elsa of Disney’s Frozen with all of the girly baby clothes if it was a girl.
Sidenote: I’m at long last watching season eight, and though I hate to say this so early, but I’m already crazy about the new Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi. And I don’t mind my fellow Whovians spoiling the end of the season, but I still wish Clara Oswald ended up with Danny and became Mrs. Clara Pink, rather than Danny’s unfortunate “Mistress” end. –Yes, the Master is now a woman! WOOT!
But here’s the kicker: this friend of mine who will soon make me a very proud Auntie Awesome, she married her husband at 26 years old, the age I am now. At thirty, she’s pregnant with her first child due shortly after I turn 27 this year.
The day I learned she was going to be a mom, exactly one week after losing another boyfriend, I cried and couldn’t turn it off. I couldn’t smile; I didn’t feel like laughing or even eating. Tears kept coming when I realized my world was over and life had a meaning, but a dark, depressing, and pointless one at that. The news of both Leonard Nimoy and Terry Pratchett losing their respective health battles did not help either, maybe worse than the loss of The Funniest Man in the Universe.
Fast forward this video below to the last question where the interviewer asks: If Heaven exists, what would be the first thing you’d want to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates and meet Saint Peter? (Answer: “There’s front row seating… Two Jews walk into a bar…”)
Those two months destroyed me, so by now I’m all talked out. That’s why I didn’t publish anything all month in March: I really needed some time to recharge my brain and get back to feeling positive again. It was still very difficult at the first week of April, especially since I spent that week being sick with sinusitis. First the flu on Christmas, now an Easter sinus infection.
It’s now Camp NaNoWriMo again, my mother gave me a brand new Double Power Android tablet in royal blue as a late Christmas present (long story of broken adapters, late mail-internet order mishaps, and store credit- but to keep it short, mom gave me the new one the day we lost D’Artagnon and it’s beautiful… I call her Oswin), and I’m excited for Age of Ultron in May and meeting John Barrowman, THE Captain Jack Harkness from both DW and Torchwood, at Shore Leave in August… Baltimore Whovians unite! (But not in the crazy fangirl idiot way, Barrowman is married and too old for me. Besides, I’ve always thought of Harkness as the Nick Fury of the Doctor series- he’s just awesome.)
Must mean I’ll have to snag the Torchwood series from the public library and binge watch the five seasons before the con, even with the outstanding two dollar fine on my library card.
Anyway, I’ve hit my lowest point this holiday weekend that I’ve realized I need more help than I imagined. I explained a little in this video here, but it’s still a little vague, mainly because that Saturday was a very difficult time, and my folks kept interrupting me, mainly to get me out of that room to talk to them:
Thursday, I had another rigorous panic attack that woke me up twice and couldn’t go back to sleep from being dehydrated with serious sinus congestion. About a cup and a half of hot herbal tea later, I remembered a few things from some stuff I’ve seen lately and a lecture from the Baltimore Writers’ Conference in November last year:
“It is crucial to take care of your well-being as a writer. Those writers who have more than enough talent, they know how to take care of themselves, find allies, and find publishing companies… We always want to feel better, but it’s hard to notice when what we do takes away the good feelings, and we start to notice weird things that disintegrate those good feelings… You want to create joy in your own writing.” –Bonnie Friedman, from my notes on her lecture “Writing Past Dark”
It was also Bonnie Friedman who said, “There’s a certain anxiety that makes us feel we writers are fraudulent.” Now that is something I know to be true.
I have so many more notes from her lecture I wish I could write in this post, but it would take me an entire new post, maybe two or three of them, to get them all down. What I’d really love to do is get enough money to buy one of her books, either Writing Past Dark or Surrendering Oz, and do a whole blog series on her thoughts on what holds so many writers from ever getting published.
Still, she made things absolutely clear: the reason why there are more men in the publishing and writing field and getting paid for it more than women is because men have more confidence and optimism to send out more than one query letter until one agent says yes. In more ways than one, women send out their stuff and the second they get a rejection letter, nothing. Women just give up after one or a few rejections while the men keep slamming the send button on their email, one query to every rejection letter.
Today, 30 percent of the world is likely to pursue their “dream jobs“, and more than half, I think almost two-thirds of writers in this country and pretty much anywhere else give up and turn to some other field of work. Too many people out there have their common excuses for kicking the writing ambition: “It’s too late to write; I’m too old.” “I’ve always wanted to write a novel or memoir, but I’ve never had the time.” “I have to think about feeding myself and my kids first and writing is not going to get me a roof over my head or food in my fridge.”
So guess what my lame excuse for not writing is? Take a wild guess, since I’m in my mid-twenties and a mere three years away from turning 30.
Other people’s dissuasion, that’s right.
“You’re so young! Take your time, Rachel, don’t rush into some big career just yet. Don’t rush into getting married either. You have so much time on you. You should have fun!”
“People generally don’t become successful published authors until they’re almost old enough to retire. You can wait that long, can’t you?”
“Get a real job so you can pay off your college loans and move out of your parents’ house first. The writing will come later. You can write anytime and anywhere, so give it a rest and go be a secretary or a nurse. You can volunteer and you don’t have to get paid; you need the experience.”
Apparently, this means I’m too young to be published, that I’m not old enough. When I look at writers like Christopher Paolini (the kid who graduated from high school and wrote the story of Eragon, his dragon Saphira and Alagaesia starting at the young age of 15), however, I consider myself past my prime already. After college, I was ready to write for anyone and write anything, but there were variables I couldn’t control.
The biggest one was, “Welcome to the 21st century, honey, if you don’t have the money to buy yourself a smartphone and you have no passport or driver’s education, you’re on your own. Freelance writers make the dough, and not by much, unless you want to have your face on the CBS Evening News and sitting next to Scott Pelley.
“No, wait. You want to be published and be paid full time 40 hours a week? (Hysterical laugh) You’re so funny, it’s ridiculous! Ever thought of doing stand-up or sketch comedy?”
All the while, I sit back and wait for God to reach in and pull out my soul, ripping it to shreds like a paper towel before my eyes.
That’s how I’ve been feeling for the past four years since college graduation. It’s been building up too much and it’s gone on long enough. This is my breaking point—I’m ready to pound the self destruct button ten times more than I’ve already done.
Cue lines from Who Framed Roger Rabbit: “Benny! Is that you?” “No! It’s Eleanor Roosevelt! Come on, Roger! Get me outta here!”
Therefore, to wrap this up in bright gift paper, I really want to say that neither are you too young or too old to be fully successful in just about anything, but I’m not confident enough. Even my best friend is having some trouble as well: she’s also lost a very dear pet and her job coach agencies are telling her to fend for herself as far as job hunting. Thus far, nothing is promising to any of us, except those who we know are getting along fine and are un-single and have kids of their own.
Why do we have to constantly look up to our friends we never see after they get married and become parents, anyway? Why can’t we look up to our friends we always talk to or physically meet who are successful and happy without a wedding ring, and why don’t those kinds of friends exist in our lives right now? Why should married people have all the fun when the singles are running out of places and running out of money to have better lives?
These are all questions I desperately need answering, but no one will tell me because, “You have to figure that out by yourself.” No one knows how much I hate when people tell me that I’d understand when I’m older. I’m an adult now, and I now understand the meaning of life, which is that life, the universe, and everything happens entirely by ACCIDENT, and only on purpose based on our own decisions as human beings.
Ergo, speaking as a legal adult, I’m supposed to understand how everything works now, and get a load of this, I DON’T. I can’t even make sense out of why a glass of tap water held in a cup made of a plain cheap piece of Styrofoam has to cost a quarter or more, even if I’ve already paid for a four dollar, or even a seven dollar sandwich without the fries. Paying for a cup of soda, I can understand, but water, seriously? It’s a human right: almost 70 percent of our bodies are made of water, and if we go without any clean drinking water for days like so many poor starving communities in third world countries do all the time, we’re asking for a one-way trip to the hospital.
Pretty soon, the prices will go up: a 25 cent glass of water will cost a dollar, just like how Subway now charges six dollars for a foot-long sandwich that used to have the famous jingle, “Five Dollar Foot-long”, with thousands of jokes spreading the world over. Can’t say that big sandwich is five dollars anymore, can you? A meal at Panera is now $10, for they charge the “Pick 2” items separately now, and that’ll go up to $20 per meal per person, for it’s only a matter of time. Coffee is a bare minimum of around three bucks at Starbucks, but you’ll soon kiss that sweet price goodbye in a couple of years, just wait. And don’t even get comfortable with those grocery stores if you want to make something at home; eating at home may soon cost as much as a fast food restaurant of your choice, no matter what price.
This worries me every day and I can’t shut it off. Saturday afternoon on April 4th, whilst sick with sinusitis, it finally hit me: nothing is ever going to get better, or just stay in neutral like I thought. I had to be physically shaken by the shirt collar to find it out, scaring the hell out of me, that things are only going to get worse.
But that Thursday morning two days before, I got to writing another story prior to that rude interruption over the weekend. I finished that story at last, because the voice of Mr. Midnight (figuratively speaking, of course, I’m not delusional) told me, “Drink your tea, stay in bed, no circumstances are you getting up until you’re better. You are more important.” But in a sort of indifferent, “non-caring” tone.
Mr. Midnight is a fictitious character I thought up in the middle of my panic attack, frantically searching for the honey vanilla chamomile to cool off the irregular heartbeat knocking on my ribs and shouting abandon ship. Sitting down at last, a few gulps in, I imagined him sitting across from me and getting deep into a conversation over staying calm and self kindness.
He tells me, “Fear is a superpower. Listen. Who’s scared? You think your anxiety’s scared? Turn your back on ‘im. Your back, now. Don’t be afraid, don’t turn around. Keep drinking. This is a dream. Lie on the bed. Listen…” (inspired by lines from the Steven Moffat episode)
Needless to say, the script from “Listen” is a total lightning strike of written genius. I’ve been waiting impatiently for someone to write something about the fear of “something under the bed” and bumps in the night for quite some time, and thank you dearest Mr. Moffat, you outdid yourself! I wish I wrote it, then again, I wouldn’t dare change a thing.
Therefore, as I said, the story is almost finished. To see the full story, I will publish it through this page momentarily. I figured it’s a load of nonsense anyway and no one would bother to print it anywhere I choose, not even a free leaflet, so I might as well write a couple of illusionist stories of my own design here. These stories contain fictitious accounts; be forewarned, they are not memoirs, nor are they true.
That came out wrong. I need to reprint that book disclaimer in every book, with a Copyright 2015 Rachel Beth Ahrens at the top of the page.
Bottom line: Read. Eat. Drink. Write. Sleep. Repeat. And no one please tell me everything’s going to be all right because I know it to be entirely false, passing as expectation and resentment disguised as hope.
Someone tell me only one thing, and be honest: am I a good writer?
(“I… don’t know…”)