I don’t remember starting my first novel, but I do remember finishing. I was alone in my dorm room. Over four months I’d written 65,000 words, which at the time felt like a lot. The high of completion was unlike any sense of accomplishment I have ever experienced. I wanted to keep writing books for the rest of my life.
Sometimes I wish I remembered how to be impressed with myself for my writing. I’ve never felt like that again. I doubt I ever will. Writing was different when it didn’t have to matter for anything, when I didn’t have to be any good, when my future didn’t have to hang on it.
I’ve forgotten how to be impressed with myself, but I’ve learned how to work harder. The harder I work, the more I’m unable to feel anything but exhausted and relieved when I finish. For me, the hard work kills the euphoria of accomplishment. It’s gone. It’s never coming back.
I joined my church when I was seventeen, and that year I was on fire. I learned so much so quickly. My whole world changed, but more importantly, something inside me changed that I couldn’t describe or explain. And I liked who I was. Decisions felt easy. Spiritual connection was effortless.
But the rush of growth wore off, and then I was back to learning a piece at a time–having to work to feel comfort and peace. Going through the motions as often as feeling their meaning. For me, the day-to-day living killed the ease of connection. Nothing was as easy as it had been. That was gone. And it’s never coming back.
I remember talking to a friend who was also a convert to my church. He talked about wanting to get back to the way he felt in that first year, back when he was on fire. He had all sorts of plans to get back there, but they all made me feel sad.
Trying to go back didn’t seem like a healthy choice to me. The discovery of a path is euphoric, but the traveling is slow and arduous. It’s filled with a quiet peace rather than wave after wave of joy–and that quiet peace is easily drowned in the struggles and the hardship and the pain. When I take time to listen, though, I feel a strength in the ordinary, in the every day. I see the firm structures I have built for myself and I don’t want to go back to those early days, which, though euphoric, were also unstable.
I doubt I will ever recover the rush of the early days.
But trying to return to those early days isn’t going to help.
They were a necessary step, but not a destination.
Feeling euphoric about my life and my work is not the goal.
The stretching, the growing, the hard, hard work–none if it is very fun.
I don’t feel like I can expect myself to enjoy it most of the time. Because really–I don’t.
But the value of what my life is becoming matters more to me than all the euphoric beginnings in the world.
And to take the alternative–leaving the path before it’s finished–would be to throw it all away.
No, I certainly can’t do that. So back to work it is.