Into the Ocean of Almost

Whenever I return to my diary after having not written for about a month, (a now typical increment of time, mind you, age can make personal gossip a little boring) I begin the entry by apologizing profusely. This act is inherently counter-productive, not to mention downright silly, as I’m basically just apologizing to myself. No one else reads my diary! Imagine that. (Though I do have a hazy memory of handing a diary over to a boyfriend so he could read how much I liked him, and yes, I did cook the pages ahead of time so that he could read something beautiful and profound, which is not at all how I write when I write for myself. Was it you I let read my diary? Well I’m sorry, that seems really awkward for you, but take solace in knowing that I’m none too comfortable with it either.) I suppose in years from now, when my diaries all live in special collections at my alma mater, a young reader will quietly forgive me as they read a new entry, one that begins “I’m so sorry, it’s just been a really crazy month!” And then that future student will continue writing their thesis paper about Katie Markovich, the great apologizer, who really only takes to her diary to voice anxiety about not getting enough photo likes on Facebook.

Oh, right, the point: I’m so sorry, it’s just been a really crazy two weeks! Did you notice I didn’t write a post last week? Judging by the single-digit number of daily clicks I see in my analytics, I’ll take that as a maybe!

I’ve recently had a strange run of Almosts. Almost getting pieces published, almost getting noticed by readers at festivals, almost getting hired at impossible-to-get jobs. And I don’t feel bad about not completing the full rotation, for not sticking the landing. I’ve been quietly submitting and working and writing for lots of years, at times putting in entire full-time shifts at home after a full-time shift at a day job. This doesn’t make me unique, by the way. Lots of people do this. Lots of people want to leave a piece of themselves behind, to show that they did more than simply Got Through It. I guess this is both an admission and an acknowledgement to you that I am no stranger to rejection, and to also remind you that this is what I signed up for. I will also admit that it’s hard to know how much time I put into my work when I am met daily by social media posts boasting #riseandgrind, talking about the hustle, how one must set goals if they intend to get anywhere in life, how it’s easy to succeed if you just put the work in. You don’t need to tell me this, I think. This is just the best I can do right now. Sometimes I rise and I grind and I hustle and I goal and I action verb and I #hashtag. Other days I just get through it. There should be no shame in that. Though I understand the empowerment and visibility in touting your own successes (something you must do; self-advocacy is important), I also long for the day where we will all quietly do our work–hell, maybe some of us will even half-ass that work–and that will be totally ok. Millennials will change the world, this is true. Millennials are also going to burn out super fast. What is my point? My point is that I’ve chosen a nontraditional professional path, one that cannot be conquered by merely checking off boxes and taking the right classes and completing the right amount of hours and experiences. It is one that is solely dependent on literally some person liking something you’ve created from inside your heart and your brain. No checkboxes, no right or wrong, no correct path. So as insane as it sounds, as frustrating or sugar-coated as it might be to some, a week of Almosts for a writer is a big. fucking. deal.

I was blindly fearless when I was 22. Maybe we all were, but I was really, especially, naively fearless. I suspect it was equal parts precious and terrifying from an outsider’s point of view. But there I was, fresh out of college and fully convinced I could do anything. I even gave a speech to incoming college first years at an orientation event in which I basically said, “It’s easy! Just be brave.” I was accepted to the first publication I ever submitted to. Imagine: For a brief moment, I was batting 1000. I was like, “It’s easy, just be a really great writer,” and then I tossed my hair over my shoulder and went back to being unemployed and living with my parents. But then it got harder. I got better, but the time and place and luck elements wore thin. Which is normal! At first I didn’t think it was, but now I deeply understand and know that it is. When my first piece was published, I got an amazingly kind email from a kind of famous MSNBC news commentator and journalist (and not to mention super cute pro-Obama pundit, heeeyyy) who just wanted to reach out and let me know he had read my piece and loved it. But then he said something to the effect of (and I am not quoting verbatim), “Lots of people wait years and years to get anything published anywhere. You’re really lucky to have done this on the first try.” And again, because I was 22 and flipping my hair, I probably thought, “Well, sure I’m lucky, but I’m also good.” But he was totally right: Luck. I see that now. Thank you handsome political correspondent, where ever you are. (I Googled it; he’s in New York.)

The other night at dinner, Tony and I talked at length about what each of us seeks and aims to create in our own writing. I said truth, Tony said beauty. After some more dissection, we realized we were probably talking about the same thing but calling it by different names. At one point we landed on ecstasy, on release, on truth and beauty being a part of both of those concepts. The most thrilling part [for me] about living in California is the beauty, the release one experiences when driving towards ocean or mountains. I cry every time we drive north out of LA. It’s too beautiful to understand, so I cry. And I think about how I want to let go of everything that’s inside me, put it all out there, because there’s so much sky and water and rock into which it can go. It can handle all of me, every truth I have to tell. This is why people come here, I think. This is it. The bigness of this world makes the Almosts manageable, sought after, treasured. It’s hard not to feel endless possibilities when you see an endless horizon. But know that my day-to-day is often spent looking into my living room, out on the courtyard bike racks if the blinds are open, wringing inspiration out of what is sometimes a dry bone of a day, not grinding at all but just getting through it, thinking about what else I can do to make myself better at what I do, to convince others that I am the best at what I do. And I chose this. I almost didn’t, but then I did, and I’m not sorry.

 

Note: These same basic sentiments will also be handwritten into my diary, but there will be more shouting and curse words and sentences that don’t make sense and weird tangents about a person I haven’t seen in 10 years but I’m really into everything they post on Instagram and I just wanted to record that truth somewhere.