You, Understood

The danger of writing rather intimate biographical pieces is that you (read: the author of this piece) don’t exist in a vacuum and have a moral obligation to respect the privacy of those people who have left a mark on your life. It is a tricky field to navigate, but one you must.

So if you (read: the people I will soon be writing about) are afraid, do not worry. It is not my place, or even desire, to drop names. In the end, the intent of these reflections is to take a closer look at myself. Even as I ponder your purpose in my life, the end goal is to talk about me. So you will simply remain ‘you,’ a faceless mask to all but those who already know these stories.

And I’m sorry if you (read: the person reading this) find this tendency to be disorienting or exasperating. But imagine it like this; these are the private letters I should have written, the words I would have spoken if I had only earlier found my voice. I wish to put you in the position of these unnamed individuals, let you become them if only for a few hundred words at a time.

But before I dive in, I must apologize to you (read: the people in my life who have left such an impact that redacting your name can not shroud who you are). You are the blood that flows through me. Without you I’m nothing. The point of this project is to talk about me. But talking about me is just another way of talking about you.

Or maybe, rather, the point is to talk about us.

The Bouncer

You worship at the feet of artists who died younger than you are now. Ian Curtis committed suicide twelve years before you were born, yet you sit in awe imagining a world where he could have hung on just a few more years. What art would he have produced with Unknown Pleasures and Closer already under his belt? Whatever would have happened, you’re certain he would have made better use of his 24th and 25th years.

Time has lingered as a specter from the beginning. You have always posited yourself as one destined to die young; no one is ever more surprised by your continued presence than you are. But as you leave that first quarter century behind and move into your 26th year, you are so keenly aware that that year sits on the other side. Soon, you will grow as old as Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin, and then outlive them.

But you won’t outlive them. Not in the way that matters, not with what you have now. Even if the numbers line up, the bouncer will refuse your entry into that particular club. “Rehab,” “Purple Haze,” Nevermind were already established at this stage in their lives. And it’s not that they somehow knew they had to get to work because their time on this Earth was limited, no; that ambition was simply there.

What do you have to show for these last twenty five years? A few screenplays that, sure, you put in the effort to not just write but rewrite entirely several times over, but never quite completing a work you are satisfied with. You figure these stories can be improved with time, living documents that aren’t finalized until they are finally being produced, no longer under your control.

But how much time do you have to spend on this misguided sense of perfectionism? You dream of getting into programs out west, just to see what can happen, but you talk yourself down as soon as applications open. “I’m not ready yet.”

You stupid bitch. When will you ever be ready? Is anyone ever truly ready to put their work out there? That inexplicable beast known as death isn’t going to wait for you to be ready, so why are you? What are you even afraid of? Rejection? Of course you’re afraid of rejection. But what matters more? Avoiding your fears? Or pursuing your dreams?

Ian Curtis, that desolate ghost hanging in the back of your head, was only twenty three. Twenty three, yet the handful of works he gifted us dig into your soul like few others. He wrangled that anxious, despairing beast into refined artistic statements until it consumed him.

Consumed? No, that’s not true at all. That depression might have pushed him to his end, but until that last day, he fought through it and brought so much into this world.

But you? You barely try. The last several months have left you an absolute wreck, and I bet you haven’t written more than a couple dozen pages.

Can’t you see that these stories are you? That this is the voice you have chased from the beginning? That every day you don’t write adds fuel to your burning self-hatred?

And this is where the optimist in you chimes in. “You’ve had a rough year. You’re doing the best you can.” Well, fuck that voice and fuck you. You know this is not enough.

And the fact you know you have to do more is a good thing. You can course correct – because you’re not Ian Curtis. More than likely, you have plenty of time left. You are not enough – but you can be. You know art can be a game of luck, but it is a game that costs nothing to enter. How do you ultimately win a game with no entry fee? Simple. You persist.

You must persist, Topher.