I did all the right things in high school. Did most of the right things in college. Then I just...got lost. For about a decade. Fine, twelve years. Yes, entire humans have been born and grown and developed personalities and philosophies and complex orthodontia in the time that I was lost. Lost. I was lost. That's hard to admit.
I knew I wanted to write. I did write, but in a haphazard, aimlessly ricocheting, how-can-I-pay-the-bills-this-month sort of way. I didn't feel confident enough to write what I wanted to write, the things I admired and loved to read. Confidence - or the ability to churn out final products without confidence - is essential. I had neither.
From the outside, it looks like not a lot has happened to me. No marriages, no children, few relationships, few accomplishments of the Duly Impressive Sort.
My journey has been very internal. The day you learn that you can be blisteringly unhappy on the back of a boat in the Caribbean after eating shrimp and drinking white wine is the day you stop striving. There's something grimly comforting in realizing that you can be deeply unsatisfied when you have everything you ever wanted and deeply content even if you're single, unemployed, and over 30.
I mean, what? That just doesn't make any sense.
But it taught me that the inside of my brain informs my entire world - so it doesn't matter what that external world looks like or what I do. What matters is what I think about what I do. Because you take the inside of your brain everywhere you go. It wouldn't matter if I was writing a novel in my apartment in Paris or sitting in Poughkeepsie watching Real Housewives if the evil pixies in my brain are making trouble. Telling me I'm not good enough or not smart enough or not successful enough or just not enough.
Not enough? No. No, you sweet, misguided pixies. We are all enough. I am, you are, your weird cousin is. But everyone has to find that sweet spot for themselves. In their own way, whether it's doing all the things or doing none of the things. And then we have to find it again. And again. And again, until we realize that it's never found, it's a simply a process of finding and forgetting and finding again.
All I really want from my life is to be at peace with myself. Maybe to be a place of peace for others.
Peace, the blessed silence that comes when you're not concerned about what you're doing or what anyone else is doing or what place those actions have on the bell curve of right and wrong, impressive or not-so-very. It's when right and wrong don't exist any more because you're always acting from a place of love.
Acting from a place of love requires a centered mind and heart, vigilance and patience. It's something I've managed, if I'm being generous, maybe .003 percent of the time. But finding peace will matter more to my life and to those who know me than if I ever write anything else again, much less something brilliant or successful or - with enough questionable goat sacrifices - both.
Maybe I wasn't lost over that decade so much as I was freewheeling through my brain and my psyche and, dare I say it, my soul to find that confidence. That center of me from whence all the good stuff springs.
Coach Taylor (and Eleanor Roosevelt) says, "Success is not a goal, it's a by-product." I want my writing to be the by-product, not the goal.
Because that peaceful place produces good work. Because being at peace with the inside of my head means I'm wholly focused on laying down whatever words I have in that moment. Sometimes the good is pretty darn good, sometimes it's average, sometimes it's an unholy mess. But writing from a place of peace and love is how I can do the work I feel I'm meant to do.
And we all have work we're meant to do.
I will always be writing, whether I'm working as a secretary somewhere or getting advance copies of my book delivered to a bungalow in Costa Rica. Because I'm a writer. That's what I do.
But it was never about writing. Writing is the messenger, not the message. The message is what I found for myself while lost for a decade. The message is that the more peace I can hold for myself and for others, the better I can write. And the better I can make my small corner of the world. The message is going to be honed as I spend my next decades being found, being lost again, finding, losing, and finally realizing that it's all the same.