With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
Growing up, I was creative without ambition. The wheels were constantly turning. I loved examining my life, but I never stopped to think about how to market this love. How to self-perpetuate this love. And so after several letters to the editor, several essays sent unsolicited to magazines and a short stint post-college writing up town hall meetings for my local newspaper at $25 a story… I gave up.
When I chose a job over something less describable, the only thing that survived was the imagination, the wheels turning, and the critical eye. I played around with internet forums in the mid 90’s. Chat rooms. I had a lot to say and fearlessly put my love and questions out there. It didn’t last long.
The thing I longed to do was write that novel. Eugenides, Chabon, Wallace, Franzen, Lahiri, Ellis, Self, Eggers, Perrotta, Tartt, Homes… these were the boys and girls I knew and followed. Many had only one book out when I discovered them. And now, several are internationally lauded writers.
Add Davis to that list. Or don’t. I’m a few years younger than this crew but I wanted to be a writer. And eventually it was going to happen. I had a couple of ideas that were electric. When I told people about my stories they’d hold their water until I finished speaking. I wasn’t a confident person or a potent storyteller but I knew when they delayed bodily gratification there was something there.
It was around this time that depression hit. Hard. Now it didn’t come out of the blue. It was a culmination of unfortunate events which reminded me of past unfortunate events triggering more regret, fear and self-loathing than the usual amount. This overload brought on depressive episodes. And then panic attacks, or something mirroring panic attacks, a discomfort so great it could push me into muteness. Not, I don’t feel like talking, but, opening the mouth, trying to speak and failing to utter a sound.
During this period, I still occasionally attended functions, worked full-time and had acquaintances, but people remarked I seemed unhappy or anxious. I medicated myself with alcohol often in public but to me it was just to feel less lonely. Drinking was the activity over several hours. More past unfortunate drinking events acted as triggers for future unfortunate drinking events.
I wrote sporadically. No, I was always writing, but it was never going anywhere and with each passing week, month, year, my confidence diminished. I would get encouragement from family and friends in little stories I wrote but this inability to gratify myself remained.
I couldn’t get into a positive or healthy head space. I wanted to write but I also wanted to be independent, have a job I loved and more than anything in the world find a girl who could love me. My desire to feel less lonely collided with the vagaries of the Internet. Less productive writing ensued.
Years passed. I got better, I got a little worse, I got better, and I got a little worse… teetering the seesaw. What vague drive I had to achieve my writing dreams was vapor. With therapy and self-reflection during my graduate studies I realized a lot of my barriers were boy-made. Fortified over 20 years I kept myself from things because of “what might happen”.
What might happen. When I say it out loud it is positively head-shaking. I never wanted to live my life that way but unfortunately never realized it had always been up to me to make that decision. I had to believe, really believe, that there was nothing to gain in living that way. Of course it makes sense. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Courage is the mastery of fear not the absence of fear. Churchill and Twain knew it but until it sunk in for me, it was just words. After all, I had a little boy chained up in a cell, deep in the pit of my soul. Neglected for too long.
As I mature, let’s call it that, I take stock of all my events and push forward in presentness as much as possible. When I think about missed opportunities I can immediately point to my current life and feel thankful not regretful. I am fortunate to have woken up with my bride this morning, feeling safe and loved.
This is the stream of consciousness with only my name tagged. It rolls out of me in less than an hour, comfortable as a smile. I’m opening up more and more, feeling a new surge. Yes, my conscience says, you’ve been doing it a little here and there. Sure. But not the way you want, and not the way it deserves. There is still more truth to share, truth stranger than fiction. The Back Room chronicles the ongoing struggle to take back what I abandoned years ago.