I have been alive for thirty-one years and fourteen days, and it's taken thirty-one years and fourteen days to tell myself, "You are a Writer."
First of all, I think back on my history. Writers should have gone to college for english... or writing. Or whatever degree qualifies you to write. They should keep blogs heavy with content, "continue reading" buttons to the ends of the earth, right? Writers wear glasses. They read a lot. They are friends with other writers. They can quote important works with ease and confidence, their tastes are varied, their influences eclectic. Writers are published. Writers are recognized. Writers are celebrated.
I am thirty-one years and fourteen days old and none of those things apply to me. I went to college for graphic design, and I started to hate it before I even graduated. I am not even qualified to get a job I spent money for which to qualify. My blog is a mess of emotional dribble and unstructured poetry, novice writing with no technical merit, too many commas I wish someone had taught me about run-on, sentences, too. I never needed glasses. My vision is fucking perfect, even though I under-delivered in an eye exam to manipulate my way into a pair of Warby Parkers. They make me nauseous but I wear them when I'm feeling restless about myself. I never read because I hate hearing what other people think until I'm desperate for a reprieve from my own opinions and I tear voraciously through a book and lay my soul at its altar. I deify the author of said book, imagining them in their glasses at a messy desk - one of those green library lamps half buried in scribbled notes of genius - all of their applicable degrees framed on a wall. Proof! Proof they are qualified! Proof their qualification denies my own.
The only place I've ever been published is Xanga, and they shut down their servers. It was free. Frou Frou’s "Let Go" played when you opened my page. It was totally legit, but it doesn't exist anymore. Oh, and here. This isn't free - I pay $96 annually to self publish my emotional dribble - I can't tell if that makes it better or worse.
Where was I? Oh. I am a writer.
It isn't because I learned how or have received accolades for really, anything. It's because from the moment I opened my eyes to this wide, beautiful world, I saw it. I felt it vibrate. I laid in the grass and tried to leave my physical body behind as I explored the depth and breadth of it with my mind and my spirit. I have searched it, cultivated it and put wheels over expanses more vast than my imagination. I knew I was an existentialist at 13 when I wept reading Kierkegaard, knowing I didn't understand a word but also agreed completely. I knew I was a poet in high school, when I locked myself in my closet and scribbled nonsense of the heart into a black-paged journal with pastel Gelly Roll pens. Only a poet would do something so painfully embarrassing and forget to be embarrassed. I knew I would write a novel in college when an idea would render me sleepless, a Blogspot page open and ten thousand words, all questions, would pour forth without caution.
I know I am a writer because seeing, feeling and writing what I see and how I feel matters to me - and nothing else does. I tried to have lots of other jobs and apply myself in every acceptable way. I'm a hard worker and I don't like failing, so every venture has proven to be fine. A fine effort. They are all friend-zone boyfriends. Lovers I don't want to kiss. Passing time without passion.
Value has always been a loaded concept for me. I remember as a child I had a friend who lived in a different neighborhood. We were out of biking distance. If we wanted to play, a parent would have to transport us in a car and those requests weren't always approved. Every time I wanted to see her, I'd beg my mother to take me to her house. I'd wash all the dishes and fold all of my laundry and grab the keys and her shoes and lay them both down at her feet. "Take me to my friend." Reciprocation has never been a privilege of mine. If the only way to play was for my friend to come to my house, she'd check with her mom while the phone rested on the coffee table for a minute, maybe two. Her voice would chime back in, unmoved, to tell me that "it was late and it just didn't seem worth it."
It just didn't seem worth it.
It's taken me thirty one years and fourteen days to even begin to tell myself this girl (the next girl, ten boys growing up, three or four in adulthood) were lying. Action is so rarely driven by potential value of our effort - it's almost always driven by our desire to do something (even things that waste time or come at a cost). The answer was never, "You aren't worth it." It was always "I don't want to."
I've treated writing like that girl treated me. I have given myself one hundred reasons why whatever I wrote into The Conversation would be redundant and derivative, probably with shit grammar. I've discredited my qualifications and cast myself outside the community I'd love to occupy. I have continued to link ACTION to VALUE, when I've always known, deep down, this is a mistake.
I can write, and be a writer, because I want to. I have the desire. I see and feel and I want to tell people what I see and feel. It matters because it matters to me. And I am the only person I can change.