I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Oh, I had the usual string of dream jobs on hold: astronaut, paleontologist, famous author, etc. I just never actualized them in my mind as solid possibilities. I was mimicking the people around me, as all children do. Until about the age of 17 it didn’t occur to me that I might live through my senior year of high school. It’s not that I was suicidal—that came later—it was merely that the idea of being an independent human being, separate of the structures I’d built for myself, didn’t appeal to me. So I dismissed the thought. Time would stop.
Of course, time didn’t stop. In the last ten years I’ve gone from ignoring the idea of the future to dwelling on it too intently. I can’t sleep some nights. (I didn’t sleep last night, which is why you’re getting this instead of more fiction.) There’s a tag in this journal for ‘the dreaded future’ for a very good reason. The future terrifies me. It terrifies me because everything is going to change and I am going to have to be the one to make some of those changes and I am ultimately responsible for where I end up. That crushing responsibility, above all else, is what I believe in now.
I took a lot of philosophy and religion classes in college. It was the only way to productively work through my fear of free will and how it related (poorly) to my Calvinist theological upbringing. If things are predestined and predetermined, why spend so much time dragging myself through life? I still haven’t found a reliable answer to that one. My solution was to eschew theology altogether, which is a tailspin of a feeling if you were raised with all of the comforting, violent, gilded words of a specific religion.
At that point it was the existentialists that caught me. In them I found the desperate explanation of life that I’d been looking for. It’s all on me. Regardless of whether there are gods in the sky or the earth or the perfume ads they stuff into women’s magazines, I’m still responsible for myself. I have to create a meaning. I have to create myself every day. Every day. Sartre is my boyfriend and Camus is my mistress and even though it means that sometimes I don’t sleep at night, I’m most comfortable when living through the illusion that I’m in control.
And it is an illusion. The world is large and dense and sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter how much of a path I manage to forge through the brambles, the Universe can come through and just as easily drown me out through no fault of my own. As a child I was taught that it happened to the people Noah didn’t have room for. It can happen to me. So even though I’ve built myself a world of lonely, commanding words, I have to leave room for eventualities. I’m not hedging my bets as much as it sounds like I might be, but in a lot of ways I still am and always will be a little girl, pretending to know what I want to be when I grow up.
There’s a tattoo I’ve been planning for several years now. And those of you who know me will raise your eyebrows and go ‘a tattoo? you want
, which is true, but this one is special. This one I’m reserving for a moment when I take one of those large, startling leaps. Right now I go back and forth between deciding whether I want to get it when I move across country or when I graduate grad school. Both are things I’m feeling compelled to do. (Don’t you find that sometimes, as you’re making your way through life, certain decisions feel like they travel in well worn grooves in your soul? They come to you and you wonder in what life you’d ever choose the other option?) I haven’t settled on a design, but I know exactly what it will say. Some marble blocks have statues within them, embedded in their future.
It’s a quote from the Alan Moore comic Watchmen
. (Yeah, not only am I an insufferable pretentious douchebag, but I’m also an insufferable pretentious comic book geek. You all probably noticed that by now, though. I just really like Batman, okay?)
I wish I could share the panel the line comes from with you, but I don’t have my copy on me and my quick Google search hasn’t turned it up.
(Thanks to edincoat
it's now at the bottom of the post!) Long story short, one of the characters realizes time as being simultaneous, so he doesn’t feel he’s moving through it linearly so much as bumping up against events as they happen at all points. And I don’t have a giant blue penis, but sometimes, in spite of everything I believe about making me me, that’s how I feel. I’m a blank slate. I’m an ornate statue. I’m a weather worn, pock marked rock. I've blinked out.
I am already who I’ve made myself, and sometimes that futility will just keep you up nights. This post was written for Topic 25: Uncarved Block at therealljidol. I know there's been a lot of meta lately about fiction vs. non-fiction and how some people feel like they don't really get to know those of us who write fiction. I'd be interested in knowing if you feel like this tells you more about me than my fiction did. As always, I welcome all comments and questions.