History and Deviation

It’s past midnight, I’ve had far too much Chinese food, far too many cigarettes, and am nearly comatose after watching The Jacket. I’m still in a mood to celebrate despite the event being a few days gone now, and I’ll eventually get to why, but bear with me. Also, when this blog turns into a complete ramble, please acknowledge that a walnut prawn lodged somewhere in my brain is likely the trouble.

So: before celebrating, there was some darkness to wander through. In getting ready to move away from California, something that’s become a necessity given my recent abandonment of The Day Job™, I’ve found myself digging through a large quantity of old junk at my ex-wife’s house. She’s been graciously storing a lot of the assorted detritus from my former life because of the logistical frustration I’ve had in moving from a three bedroom condo to a studio apartment. During this process of examination and judgment, I’ve been forced to look at things I did little more than ignore for years even though I dragged them around from place to place (why did I do that?), and amongst these items I have found a considerable chunk of my past.

My life has been always been composed of an odd assortment of things, but the rediscovery of my own bygone life has only added layers. The vacuous pockets of space that make up my existence, all tied to each other by the strange, grasping filaments of Fate, have filled and emptied themselves over the last few months with more histories of my time on this blue planet than I care to relate. I’m not sure I can say I learned any lessons, but there’s certainly something about the review process that’s been instructive.

I imagine none of this is abnormal for anyone exploring the selfsame regions of their life, but when reading all my old journals, letters, and poems, I felt as though I couldn’t even recognize the person I once was. In so many ways it was like reading the history of a total stranger, and this likely due in large part to how much of my life I’ve forgotten. I wouldn’t think that living through one decade would cause me to forget the decade prior like some sort of hapless amnesiac, but there you have it. Thus all of these old bits of thought and correspondence culminated in a compelling read, and even though I knew how the history was going to end–obviously at the middle of me as I exist in the present–the manuscript was, thanks to my forgetfulness, full of suspense, life-altering catastrophe, and violent emotion. It was like an action movie. Except with really bad special effects. And nobody could act.

But there was one thing that was a bit scary. Even though this person seemed to me like a complete stranger, his Mikey-ness was undeniable. No matter how foreign that former life appears, a study of it forces the reluctant accession of how little I’ve really changed. I still have trouble focusing, still have trouble sticking to tasks, still feel a desperate need for romance that very often breaks my heart open, still care about animals and hate how much people abuse their power over them, and still feel as though writing a poem that resonates with someone is the most noble thing I can ever hope to contribute to the world. Does this make me hopeless? Probably. But it’s who I am. Though I’ve grown by leaps and bounds since I graduated from high school and felt those wimpy, lifeless little kinds of happiness and destruction that every teenager believes to be the beginning or end of existence, though I’ve experienced the adult equivalents that demonstrate rather more forcefully what true pain and joy are, the nucleus of my identity has remained untouched. Through the loss of my father, the ups and downs of love, the grateful last breath of bad 80’s sitcoms that finally died sometime in 1998, and Firefly being canceled, it has weathered every storm and simple summer. And that’s a good thing, because the best and worst is yet to come.

The main thing I took away from it all was this: I have been writing and loving writing for a long time. This week I read poetry from as far back as I could remember, papers and ideas and half-written stories too. While it reminded me of just how bad my writing has sometimes been (if you see a bonfire in front of my house soon, don’t worry), it also reinforced the idea that yes, this is what I want to be doing, and I want to keep doing it far more than I want to give up and go back to the workday. The Day Job™ never helped or inspired me, and I’m not convinced it did much to help anyone else either. A cog in a machine is a fine thing to be when the machine is doing something worthwhile that you believe in. When you realize it’s eating money and turning it into the cultural equivalent of rancid hamburger and banana salad, it’s time to make sure you keep your distance.

And so writing is what I’ve been doing, a lot of which I do over at deviantART.com. It was through the lovely people there that my second affirmation came along, the one that caused me to overdose on Chinese food.

Every day the people who head up the different departments at DA feature one individual work per major category as what they call “Daily Deviations”. More or less, this just means somebody thought your work was special enough to be recognized and some other people agreed with them. They toss it up onto the main page and a bunch of folks see your piece, you hopefully get some nice comments and a boost in confidence, and everybody’s all smiles. After 7 years of being a part of deviantART, I received my first Daily. You can read the poem here. nycterent‘s description of it humbled me, and a number of other people came to me with some very kind words as well.

It isn’t publication or money, but it’s a pat on the back by some good people; and honestly, after all the very old, very bad writing I’ve been sorting through while taking history lessons on myself, I think there are times when that’s truly the most valuable thing in the world.

[This post originally appeared at theflyingmonkeyapparatus.com.]

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