Not too long after the breakup was supposed to have been finalized, I walked past our old meeting place and my body weakened. The scene was so lovely and familiar: the cherry-oak finish of the furniture we’d gathered around; the cream-colored trim surrounding the second-story window that overlooked a neighborhood time was quickly forgetting. We’d been in love, so that window—any window, really—had always been a portal to faraway skies laced with magic when we were together.
Trembling, I peeked through the doorway at the scene of my memories, and I considered trying to sit down just to see if I could get back any of the familiar sparks and tingles. But I walked away instead. It was still too painful to consider what might have been.
When you’re not supposed to want your love any more—when you’ve already decided that the two of you aren’t right for each other—then I guess you don’t want to be sitting in the middle of the memories, either.
Many people who love writing discover that romance in their youth, and I was no different. By high school I was stringing together admittedly melodramatic poetry, and by college I was studying journalism and banging out the first notes for a first novel. Back then I certainly saw the world through the rose-colored glasses of love, because all I saw was innocent possibility for me and my writing. There were no limits to where my soulmate and I would go together. My first book would certainly be a bestseller, and it would probably be adapted for the big screen. Who would play my protagonist? Who would direct?
Upon exiting college at the turn of the millennium, I dove headfirst into my novel. Instead of pursuing a steady career with my journalism degree, I embraced a more bohemian writer’s life, one that I felt would nurture my truly creative writing instincts. For money, I worked part-time at the front desk of an eclectic hotel that often had me banging on doors to collect past-due fees. It was at that diverse hospitality haunt that I met an Argentinian girl who was working in housekeeping. I impressed that girl with my Spanish, and we started dating.
Soon enough, the Argentinian girl from the hotel and I were engaged. I suddenly needed real money and real health insurance, so I applied for and received a technical-college job that offered good portions of both. At first I moved through the days at my non-writing job breezily enough, because in the back of my head I was still a writer suffering through a day job. I continued work on my novel, and the character list expanded as the subplots fanned out nicely. Things were going well, but then heartache intervened.
When I couldn’t immediately find an agent for my book, I was devastated. It felt like total rejection. It seemed as if all of my dreams and hard work had been for nothing. Looking back, I now realize that I was a million times more heartbroken than I should have been, because I wasn’t yet learned in the ways of thick skin and perseverance (that, it turns out, is an ongoing schooling). I should have kept sending out agent queries and been ready to further tweak my book if necessary, but I had expected writing success to come easily, and when it hadn’t, I felt I had been kidding myself about the whole affair.
I felt absolutely scorned by writing, disgusted by my foolish dreams. I tucked my fiction manuscript into a box and tried to forget about it.
My day job got busier and more stressful. My wife got sick with endocrine issues, and my marriage got more emotionally consuming as hospital visits and surgeries drained energy that might have once been devoted to my other love—writing—the one that seemed to be drifting away from me as the sun set on my twenties.
Throughout my thirties, I channeled snippets of my journalism degree by writing occasional sports and political articles online, but without any truly creative or concentrated writing going on, I could tell that my dreams and I were probably parting in a more permanent way.
My beautiful craft, my ethereal love: writing. Would we ever find a way to reconnect, or were we really finished for good?
It’s hard to imagine anything less romantic than sitting at an office job day after day. The environment is often ultra-literal and bottom line. It’s human-resource edicts and IT trainings. Thankfully, part of my job at the college was working with ESL and disabled students, so my soul took what it could from a human interaction standpoint, but none of it was very creative. None of it was writing.
I spent day after long day counting the minutes while looking over a pale horizon of cubicles, and the world became increasingly dispassionate. People around me chattered about timesheets and pensions: everyone seemed to be biding their time until some magical future date. Everyone seemed to be okay with dismissing the present.
Somewhere around my mid-thirties, I looked around at my life and said, “My youth has been lost, and this is all that’s left.”
I still thought about writing, but a devilish inner voice said, “You’re not a writer. You’re an office worker. Admit that. You and writing broke up a long time ago, remember? You left her for dead. You buried her in that manuscript box at the bottom of your bookshelf. Or was it inside of your desk drawer?”
Oh, my bookshelf. My cherry-oak desk. My manuscript boxes. These things were the flesh and organs of my lost love, and they also made up the skeleton of that old meeting place where I used to gather with my sweetest. Over the years, no matter if I existed in a house or in an apartment—no matter the city—one room was always set aside as a home office, a room I used to cherish as my writing room.
My home office used to be so romantic, but as a broken man who had broken up with writing, my home office just terrified me.
Still, I wondered: If I forced myself to sit back down at that desk for just an hour—an hour, no matter how much I shiver and no matter how many fanged memories of my lost love surface—would I still be able to rekindle something?
I eventually did force myself to sit back down at my desk in my writing room. Getting that magical connection to writing back wasn’t easy or immediate, but eventually I stopped shaking and started regaining pieces of that old familiar feeling.
I forced myself to write for a few hours on weeknights and a couple more on weekends. I started piecing together some short stories, and with time I was able to get lost in the romance of creating prose again.
As the flings with writing became more frequent, I started making plans to quit my day job so that writing and I could get back together in a more permanent and meaningful way, which we have.
Today, at age thirty-eight, writing and I have moved back in together, and we live modestly (along with my wife from Argentina) in a two-bedroom place where the washer is in a closet and where my cherry-oak desk again looks past windows into faraway skies laced with magic.
My current life is one that survives without lush paychecks and retirement contributions, but it is one where passion is again a substantial part of my days. In addition to penning blog posts like this, I’m working on two manuscripts (one of short fiction and one that offers daily spiritual inspirations to stressed workers), and I think that I’m starting to finally understand what it means to have a true relationship with writing.
I’ve realized that a relationship with writing (or with whatever your passion is) is just like any other relationship: It’s a commitment and it takes work. It has to be more than just skin-deep if you want the flames to keep burning. It has to be about more than just glitzy dreams of success, and it has to learn to survive when there is little money around.
You might get angry at writing (or at whatever your passion is)—at times you might even feel that she’s betrayed you—but if you want things to last, you will have to continue sitting together even when it’s a little uncomfortable. Any temporary discomfort should pass, and you will probably get everything out of the partnership that you put into it and then some.
I hope that this post finds all of you well and spending some quality time with your true passions this year, and I would like to take this opportunity to say Happy Valentine’s Day to my wife, Claudia, who was willing to jump into the unknown with me so that I could get back together with my dreams.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all!