Thursday, June 4, 2009

Questions of Life

In my last post, I asked the question, Who am I? But perhaps an even more pertinent question is, What do I want?

This question came to me a few days ago when I was in hour eighteen or nineteen of painting the living room/dining room, and I knew I didn't want to be where I was? At the time, I felt the temporary inconvenience and discomfort--especially in the unrelenting heat lately--of being in a place I didn't want to be, doing a task I didn't want to do. But it was then that the bigger philosophical question of what I want most in my life came to me. And you know what? I don't have an answer.

I suspect I'm not the only one who feels this way. How many of us really and truly know what we want most passionately in our lives? I'd guess not many. Just like me, I think most people bounce around from one event in their lives to another, thinking they have lots of time to discover what they want, or they'll fall into that happy discovery by being on earth long enough and bouncing around enough from one thing to another.

And then, one day, the question of what you want most in life occurs to you with such clarity and such immediacy that it scares the living hell out of you. Like when you hit a birthday milestone, for example, just as I will this October when I turn fifty--a long way from being a kid, well into mid-life, and no closer to knowing what I want most.

Here's why having the answer to that question is so important: Because if you don't know what you want most in life, you'll probably never get it. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? As silly as that comments sounds, the fact is that when you don't know what you really want, you can't rally all of your time and energy and life force toward achieving it. Which is likely what it will take to be successful at it.

I really admire people who know what they want and go after it with a single-mindedness and passion that all but guarantees they'll get it. Or people who were born with a talent that is so obvious and so magnificent that there can be no question they must pursue it, and that they will be successful beyond their wildest dreams doing it.

I still remember one young lady I went to school with in grade seven. Her name was Kelly Gerloch (I'm not sure of the spelling), and her talent was fashion design and drawing. Seemingly without any effort whatsoever, Kelly, drew fashion pictures of beautiful women wearing designs she had imagined. On several occasions, I watched her draw, and the self-assuredness of the movement of her pencil across the page stunned me. How, in grade seven, at the age of, what, fourteen years, did this young lady possess a talent so defined and so extraordinary that there could only be one direction her life could go in? I've long since lost contact with Kelly, but I sincerely hope she is a highly successful fashion designer somewhere. I certainly think she had the talent and ability to succeed in the field.

Anyway, I've given thought to what I most want in life over the years, but I've never come up with anything that fills me with a passion that lasts over time, and that motivates me to pursue it no matter what. Perhaps not even writing, although I've wanted to be a successful writer since I was a little boy, when I asked our babysitter, Cheryl, to help me write a short story with a Western theme.

Maybe I need to change what I just said. I've had one constant in my life since I was a child, and that is writing. Many years have come and gone, and I've done many things in my life, but I've always returned to writing, in one way or another. I probably have almost two hundred writing books that I started to accumulate when I was in my early teens, and, while I've let go of a lot of things in my life, I've never parted with one of my cherished writing books.

But, of course, writing books do not a writer make. To be a writer, one must sit one's ass down and write, consistently, over time, whether one wants to or not, writing every type of writing imaginable. Hence the reason why I've tried my hand at short stories, personal essays, travel articles, a memoir, and now this blog.

So I know (perhaps) that what I want most in life is to be a writer. And perhaps I fulfill that goal to some degree just by writing this blog.

But is that enough? Shouldn't someone who wants to be a writer write non-stop, anything and everything, submitting constantly for publication, knowing in his heart and in his mind and in his soul, with an astounding single-mindedness, that not only is he good enough to be a published writer but that it's inevitable that he'll be published? That's just his destiny.

This is what holds me back. I don't have that single-mindedness. I don't have that confidence. I don't have that drive. And that scares the hell out of me because I'll be fifty this year, and I don't have forever to get my ass in gear and write as though there were no tomorrow. Because there may be no tomorrow for me, and I've wasted my entire life riding the fence and lacking what it really took to do something with whatever talent I was given.

I wish I was the writer equivalent of Kelly Gerloch. I wish I knew in my heart that writing is what I'm meant to do. I wish I believed in myself more. I wish I knew for a fact that I really have something worthwhile to say to other people. I wish my ability to write was obvious and unmistakable and incapable of being ignored.

And because my ability doesn't have these characteristics, I continue to doubt myself. I continue to question whether I should even bother to pursue writing. But if I don't pursue writing, what will I pursue? What other undiscovered talent or ability might I possess that would allow me to make the biggest contribution to society, that would allow me to make a difference?

All I know is that I have a hunger to create, and the only way I know how to create is through writing. How much more convincing do I need to know for a fact that I must write, that it is my destiny to write, and that there is no more time for me to waste not writing?

Once I get that, will I know for a fact what I should write? Because, for me, that would be the next big question: What do I want? To write. hat should I write? I don't know. I just don't know.

And it's that indecision that paralyzes me and prevents me from being all that I can be.

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