Screw everything. Or, not everything, but some things. In this recent burnout culture, there are voices, both modern and past, that are the speakerphones of the generation. People like Bo Burnham, with his song “30” from his award-winning Netflix special Inside and Jonathan Larson’s theme of running out of time in Tick…Tick, Boom (also on Netflix).
With lyrics like:
“And now my stupid friends are having stupid children/
My stupid friends are having stupid children” from Burnham’s “30”
I don’t want kids and can’t have them, but my friends are getting married and having miscarriages and children and I feel…somehow, left behind. Denied access to a club that I didn’t want to be a part of anyway.
“…They’re singing “Happy Birthday”/You just want to lay down and cry/Not just another birthday, it’s 30/90/Why can’t you stay 29? /Hell, you still feel like you’re 22/Turn thirty 1990/Bang! You’re dead, / What can you do?” from Larson’s “30/90”
Just take the words right outta my mouth why don’t you? I feel this in my soul!
Both these songs and others on the projects resonate with me deeply, in a way that, if I’m being honest, scares me. Their melodic whispers confirm my deepest most insecure thoughts: I’m getting older. I’m running out of time. I’m not unique and everyone but me knows it. I write for pleasure because I’m not good enough, not hustling enough, not marketing/networking/connecting enough, not writing in a tight enough niche to make my desire a reality. Damn. That’s harsh, right? My inner critic is such a menace.
I hate admitting it but there is some truth in that harshness. The world, at least over here on the West/American side, is obsessed with money so much that it’s considered a highly attainable skill if you can turn your passion, your private outlet, the thing(s) that give your life joy or meaning when the world turns nefarious and dismal, into a stream of income (bonus points if it’s a steady stream of income). Seemingly, the underlying message is this: you can enjoy a thing so long as you can profit from it as well. That disgusts me and causes panic simultaneously. I can’t say that I’ve not been affected by it; I have. I have had several thoughts throughout the years—and especially this year— of ending this blog because I have so few followers or likes and/or comments. I’ve had this blog for 5 years and have less than 200 followers.
I think there are several reasons for that though. I value quality over quantity, I don’t have a set writing niche I adhere to, and I don’t post often. I hate that social media has become a “necessary” evil to how successful or well-read a writer is or can become. Regardless, all I’ve ever wanted was to connect with some reader, or have at least a few dedicated readers, and have them affected—for the better—by my words. (I accidentally made my stepmom cry on Christmas; I called my dad—who put me on speakerphone—and she read my post The Grace of God is Astounding. She cried. It was the best Christmas present ever!)
I don’t know if I’ll find a middle ground between writing for love and writing to hustle; I honestly don’t know if there is one anymore. And comparing myself to others—I know, I know, a terrible thing to do— is only causing my anxiety and panic attacks to spike and my self-worth, as a person and a writer, to plummet nearly 6ft deep. I just feel like… for all the years I’ve been writing (16 years now, and sometimes I still feel like a novice writer!)—for work or pleasure—I have very little to nothing to show for it. No major publication or dedicated readers, just my own thoughts on a tiny corner of cyberspace that will one day soon be forgotten. Despite this, and feeling like I’m screaming alone into the void most often than not, I know God gave me this gift for a reason, I just wish I knew exactly why.