My real life journey from Michigan to Washington with the goal to return to Pennsylvania is really no different than that of the Hero’s Journey/Quest. I have traveled a great distance with more to go in order to gain wisdom, insight, and to restore myself. The reward is more personal – a better, stronger, and more compassionate, more successful me. However, to gain those things, one more needs to be shattered and broken once more and to see what one has to lose. More than one lesson in life is necessary, and I’m starting to believe that we go through life thinking we know everything we need to know, never budging, never changing.
The thing is we need to keep learning. One of the lessons that’s come to me since being here in Washington is forgiveness. For a long time, I chewed over situations and conversations in my head, reliving them, doing things differently or continuing them when they needed to just be let go and to die. I knew then I needed to let go and thus tried, but I wasn’t as successful about it as I wanted to be. The problem was I had allowed others to rule over me, to shatter me, and to break me of my wild, fighting spirit. I allowed them to try and mold me into the things I am not and into doing things that were against my nature and my upbringing. (For those of you who aren’t aware, I was raised in a Christian household. One of my uncles was a preacher, but I’ve long since converted to Paganism/Wicca.) In by allowing others to rule me as I did, I allowed them to be disrespectful of me, and thus, in turn, disrespected myself. I rebelled against myself, which led to a lot of internal conflict. Holding a grudge is so easy. Learning to forgive is not, it’s quite hard, it’s realizing that no one is perfect, least of all you. Forgiving myself for the lack of respect and dignity I owed myself is only one part of the lesson for forgiveness. Forgiving others is what remains, and I affirm to myself every single day at least once a day that not only am I capable of forgiveness, but that I will forgive myself and others. World peace begins from within, not without.
The second, painful, but yet necessary lesson is about validation and letting go of hero worship.
You see, for the longest time, or for at least as long as I’ve known this person and joined her on her transition from writing fanfiction to original fiction, I thought she would become a published author before me. Truly, I was in awe of her and her ability to weave an intriguing story. I still am because she’s good so I thought she’d become the published author before me, even after her failures at finding an agent and a change in plans. I followed her journey because I believed. I didn’t want her to give up because I believed.
Last night, I discovered this ran a little deeper than I thought. I wanted, craved her validation about my writing abilities. I was good. I knew that I was, but I fell into the very trap I’ve warned beginning authors about: I compared my stories to hers, and, well, I wasn’t quite so confident. Original material for me has always left me on shaky ground. I worry about it being entertaining, engaging, and interesting enough. To have her say to me she wants to read my stories, to read them and say “That’s an awesome piece, great job!” or “Congratulations on publishing! I knew you could do it” would have been truly divine for me. After all, I hero worshipped her for doing what authors traditionally did at a time when I still hung back and daydreamed of my success. Even after I self-published Portal to Gaming, I craved her validation about my abilities.
Now . . . well, please note the past tense. Private exchanges with my fellow writer have been disappointing at best. Until last night, I didn’t even truly comprehend why these exchanges disappointed me.
A recent conversation with my best friend brought all of this out and into the light. She’d purchased a copy of Russell Brand’s “Revolution” and quoted a particular segment to me, words most people don’t want to hear.
From his book:
“Aren’t we all, in one way or another, trying to find a solution to the problem of reality? If I get this job, this girl, this guy, these shoes. If I pass this exam, eat this pizza, drink this booze, go on this holiday. Learn karate, learn yoga. If West Ham stay up, if my dick stays up, if I get more likes on Facebook, more fancy cookbooks, a better kitchen, cure this itchin’, if she stops bitching.
Isn’t there always some kind of condition to contentment? Isn’t it always placed in the future, wrapped up in some object, either physical or ideological? I know for me it is, and as an addict that always leads me to excess and then to trouble.
Do you feel like that? Are you looking for something? It’s not just me, is it? Do you sometimes feel afraid, self-conscious, lonely, not good enough? I mean, you’re reading this, so you must want to change something.”
I do not need this person’s validations about my abilities as a writer. I put my work directly out there for the public to purchase and to enjoy, just like I always have when it comes to my stories, and I can be proud of myself for that. It’s taken me 2384 miles and a month and a half in a homeless shelter to realize that. It may seem silly to some, but this is only one part of the journey. There’s more to come.
So . . . I’m shedding my hero worship of this person, and I’m no longer looking to her for validation about my story-telling skills. She’s a sweet person, I’m sure. I truly do wish her the best on all of her endeavors. I just need to let go and move on, move forward with my life and my writing career. I thank her for this lesson, painful and heartbreaking as it is.
And this is more of a reflection of me than anything else. I’m no different from the rest of the world. I want to feel like I belong somewhere, in someone’s arms, and to hear that, yes, I’m an excellent writer; yes, I’m worthy of love, respect, and affection; and, yes, that I am a success for having taken some of the biggest chances and risks of my life.
However, no amount of words from others will convince me if I don’t believe in myself. That’s also part of the hero’s journey, overcoming these moments of doubt and darkness. The way is, as the old time writers would say, fraught with them, and it does bother me that I fell into the same trap I spoke out against. It’s just proof that I am only human, after all.
Now some might see this as me passive-aggressively calling this fellow writer out for not being supportive. I say think what you will. I no longer want nor need this person’s validation about me as a person or me as a writer. Being homeless is putting a lot of things into perspective for me. Despite the tears and aggravations and hard lessons I’ve experienced, this has been more positive than what anyone could truly imagine.
So to everyone who reads this: Congratulations. 🙂 Congratulations to you for every small step you’ve taken in a positive direction. Congratulations to you for every chance you’ve taken, every tear you’ve shed, every bubble of laughter that’s come from you, even when things have looked dark and bleak and not panned out the way you wanted. You have learned some valuable lessons no one can ever take away from you. Be proud of yourself and believe in yourself for everything you’ve accomplished. If all I’ve done is to make your day a little brighter, then I have accomplished something truly amazing indeed.