2018 is my year to change, my Thunder Year, my time to finally express my creativity and write for real. Part of that is this site, which I update much too infrequently. The majority of that is writing a novel.
The website – well no one visits it as far as I know, so it doesn’t bother me horribly that I don’t have a new post every day.
The novel – wow. What a cliche, right? Isn’t everyone writing a novel? I know, I get it. But this is something that has been a part of me since I was a little kid. Something that is a part of my being, this desire to be creative through my writing. So much in my life up until now has conspired to pull me away from what I truly want to do in life. Finally, I feel like a change has come over me. I truly feel like I am going to do what I’ve always wanted to do, and everything is in place for me to succeed. Trust me, I’m very excited!
So why do I feel sick to my stomach when I’m about to submit a short story to a national publication?
It’s always interesting to look back at life choices and decisions, both big and small, that map out the course of your life. I’m going to be 43 years old this year and sometimes I wonder how I’m where I am, how I made it this long in life, and how after everything I’m happier now than I ever was before.
A lot of times my mind reverts back to how life would be if I hadn’t been raised in an ultra strict “religion”. In school, I wasn’t supposed to hang out with the other kids because they weren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses like me. I still did find a few friends, thankfully my parents looked the other way on that one as long as I was behaving. The friends I found were more of the computer geek persuasion, they were non threatening and I think that’s all my sheltered brain could handle. Don’t get me wrong, most of them were really good people and I enjoyed their company. But I wonder who I would have hung out with had I been a little more free thinking. I always felt drawn to the mysterious, weird, artsy, musical, alternative, different, or some amalgam of all of that.
I grew up in Waltham, MA and went to high school in Newton, MA. Newton North definitely had a few alternative type kids (whatever the hell that means), and I wonder how my life would have turned out if I had befriended them instead. Some cooler music and some more interesting fun would have been in store, I suppose. Who knows.
I heard The Dresden Dolls in the 2000’s while I was still in the religion. For some reason I keep coming back to them when I remember the mental gymnastics I was going through at the time in order to avoid sinking into crippling depression instead of the general unhappiness and uneasiness I enjoyed. Dresden Dolls’ music was fascinating to me, I really felt drawn to it yet I was very scared of it.
I’m not sure where I heard this, or got the idea in my head, but I thought the band had some sort of occult ties and was part of that growing list of music I couldn’t listen to as a good little religious boy. I feel like someone said something to me about them in a negative light, but I can’t remember for sure. Maybe it was the phrase “dark cabaret”, because we all know dark = Satan, right? Anyway, I didn’t listen to them and in fact told myself and others I didn’t like the band. “Something about them doesn’t sit right”, and all that.
Something about them, though. Something about them really drew me in, as did Amanda Palmer (one half of the duo along with Brian Viglione). Once I left the religion, I didn’t go crazy with drugs and orgies and all that other fun stuff some people do. But I did start doing other things I used to have restrictions on. I started examining those things I used to think were bad, and figure out if I really didn’t like it or if I had conditioned myself to avoid these things because of the religion. I started reading books I’d avoided, watching movies I wouldn’t have seen before, and listening to bands I had previously condemned. Like The Dresden Dolls.
I realized that Amanda Palmer had grown up a few miles away from me and was just a year younger than me. How insane, I thought. I started imagining a life where I met her while I was in high school. I’d still be awkward and nerdy, but in this alternate reality I would be open about the things I was drawn to. I would be friends with the art & drama & musical kids, and go hang out with amazingly weird and interesting people, walk around Harvard Square and enjoy the strange. I would meet Amanda and we would be great friends, we would talk about life and love and sadness and music. I would be a more confident person, have more self respect, have friends that didn’t decide to never speak to me again because I chose to leave my parent’s religion. I would have gone to college (because in my real life you’re a bad person if you want to get secondary education) and have a degree but at the very least had that life experience. Eventually, I’d even get to hang out with Neil Gaiman – another person I avoided in my original reality because he wrote about gods and demons and fantastic things that would probably have turned me to the dark side. I would have started writing as a young man, I would have…I would have…I would have…
It can be a fun activity to think of your alternate realities, but it can also sink you into an endless loop of looking back at the past and feeling sorry for yourself instead of living life now.
If I had lived that alternate reality, I would probably be a very different person. I am sure I wouldn’t have met my amazing wife. My wife inspires and encourages me to take everything I went through, all the good and bad and shameful and wonderful things, and use them to make my dreams come true. I want to use all the happiness and pain and be creative, to leave something in the world that says I made some sort of contribution and made someone happy.
My past is my past, and I can’t change it. I can use it, though. And I can make sure my next 40-something years builds and improves upon my last 40-something. I’m sure we would have been great friends, Amanda…but I’ll stick with the life I have.
I heard someone say that people who like Fleetwood Mac don’t appreciate good music. Are they considered a guilty pleasure? I never realized that. Then again, I’ve always had a fondness for “yacht rock” so I guess I’m biased, not that Fleetwood Mac is necessarily yacht rock type music.
Anyway, I’m listening to Stevie Nicks’ “Bella Donna” this morning as I do some research for something I’m working on. I was listening to Kind of Woman and realizing just how much I adore her. Not that this is her best song or anything, but it made me remember that I love listening to her songs whether they were solo released or as part of FM.
Something definitely drew me to the way she presents herself to the world, that essence of the spiritual or mystical. I find it a little ironic that I was drawn to that even as a young person, back when I was in a strict religion that forbade me from reading or listening to anything that may be “pagan”.
Now, when I listen to her music and think about it, I don’t just enjoy the music for the music’s sake. I always feel like somehow it represents having an open mind, to realize that we don’t fully understand everything about the universe and the possibilities of what is out there, of the true magic in the world.
Too much for a lazy Sunday, maybe. I should go back to research and enjoy the music.
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