To go the journey alone

I decided this year I wouldn’t write a 2013 wrap-up post. There is only looking ahead.

I’ve spent the last few months trying to figure out what I want as a writer. Although my career has leapt substantially this year and has led me to work opportunities with the likes of CBC and various guidebook writing gigs, I know I haven’t figured it out yet. At some point I realized I’m still looking for that creative connection I used to have years ago. I miss creative writing and I miss the community that came along with it.

The Internet was introduced to me when I was nine years old. I remember my teacher herding my classmates and I into the staffroom where a lonely desktop dominated the corner. The background was Netscape, with little lighthouses wallpapering the screen. I think it was St. Patrick’s Day, because my teacher was pretending to be a leprechaun. Or maybe that’s just what teachers do for kicks. Anyway, little did I know that this big and scary INTERNET would eventually change the course of my life. I was an unhappy teenager, and I just couldn’t find my place. When I won a provincial contest and bought a brand new computer with a dial-up Internet account, I suddenly found myself immersed into the world of The Great Unknown. I can hardly remember my social security number on the best of days, but I can recall my ICQ number like it’s my middle name. Finally, I found that connection to other people, albeit a lame one.

In mid 2013 I met a guy who I hoped would be the Next Big Thing. We decided to travel together, and before he came to see me I scrubbed the house, picked up some groceries, and planned a few special meals. I bought Iceberg beers and arranged for him to participate in the Newfoundland “tradition” of getting Screeched-In, thus kissing a cod and bringing him into my world. I attempted to manipulate my poor cooking skills by frying him up a traditional breakfast of toutons – otherwise known as fried bread dough – and felt pathetic when my roommate had to rescue me. I was trying, I was trying really, really hard, but I knew at the time there was something missing. What made me think that romance might find me at age 27 with a man I barely knew?

In the end, he decided he didn’t want to be with me. We still had to travel together and I slogged through the days in a painful haze. I just couldn’t figure it out. I just couldn’t understand why he’d come all the way to travel with me, and then decide almost instantly he didn’t want to be with me. He said I had rushed into it too fast, that I was too far ahead of him. But I had nothing in mind other than hope. What’s wrong with a little hope? And anyway, how could I not, when someone had come all the way to my little corner of the universe to see me? I didn’t want anything other than a chance. But some things you cannot force yourself to feel, and I’m one of those things.

When I came back to Canada I took several other quick trips. Most of the time I busied myself with distractions – sunsets over the Dead Sea and hot air balloon rides over the grassy flatlands of Kissimmee, coffee with Bedouins and entire days spent at airports. I watched him move on, unfazed, our previous hours of online conversation dwindling to nothing. But then Christmas rolled around, and I went back to my parents’ house in Bay d’Espoir and found nothing much to fill my days with. I slept sparingly, drank too much, and read for hours in the armchair by the Christmas tree, watching snowflakes drift lazy-like beyond the window.

Sometimes I didn’t leave the house for days. When I started writing again, I barred myself in my room. And all the while – all the damned while – I’d be distracted by social media, pretending to work, longing to create art again but being obsessive about not letting my broken brain wander into those dark and hopeless corners. I just couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong, or why I felt I had done something wrong. Was I not skinny enough? Not pretty enough? Not smart enough? Why wasn’t I ever enough? La douleur exquise. It nearly fucking killed me.

One evening I pulled two giant shoeboxes from my closet. They were filled with old journals and diaries, and I took out one dated from 2003. And there among all the happy musings of a growing girl were the same lamentations I mull today: When will anyone ever be willing to give me a chance? I was stunned by how little I had changed in that regard. I still make the wrong choices. A note I left at the bottom of my travel journal from 2013 read: “I’m not even mad at him but I can’t stop thinking about how I’m needy and not marriage material and I have baggage. They were just things I didn’t know. This will always be the way, won’t it?”
When I traced back the patterns of men over the years, the similarities were terrible.

There were guys I dated who went for my best friends instead. There were men who picked apart my weaknesses. Most of them were womanizers. Back at the beginning of 2013, I had joined a romantic interest on a trip that proved another failure. I spent so much time crying in that car as insults hurled at me, but apparently I’m not adept at learning from my mistakes. By the time I was once again barreling down the highway of a dark and barren landscape with The Next Big Thing, the similarities between the trips resonated with sickening familiarity. How had I let this happen?

When I got home, I fought desperately to retain some normalcy. But I was falling apart at the seams. Hurtful conversations and insults chased me around the house. I lay awake at all hours of the night, staring at the ceiling, unable to forget those hurtful words. One day I cleaned out the closet and came across a gift he had given me. I pressed my cheek into the closet door and cried, Bella the cat staring up at me with her big betrayed eyes. How could he not have tried? We wanted all the same things – big families and eventual settled lifestyles. I deleted him from all my social networks because I was tormenting myself; I just wanted to let go for a while until I could heal. But moving in the same circles meant it was impossible to eliminate all the noise. And despite everything, I didn’t want to be hurtful, as I knew he hadn’t meant to be. I still cared – and still care — about him so goddamned deeply. I miss the conversations. I just miss him. He accused me of lumping him into groups of other men. But he was anything but ordinary. I hope he knows how much he meant to me, how different it all was. I suspect the feeling isn’t mutual, but there, isn’t that life?

Losing a dear friendship was harder in the long run, as friendship is something I’ve grown to count on. But is such friendship ever possible? The months following our departure were cold. None of my friends would ever have caused such pain in my heart, not even unintentionally. There’s simply not enough room in my life for anything else. One morning after a particularly sleepless night I lay awake scrolling through my newsfeeds to read about how he had taken a pretty girl with an easy smile on a date. I never even got a date. I rolled over on my side and cried until I couldn’t anymore.

It was a hard lesson to learn. How easy I am to leave.

By the time I had wrapped up my 52-book challenge at the end of December, my life became saturated in literature again. I realize now I want to go back to being a writer, not just a blogger. I don’t want to exist within the margins of the Internet. I enjoy blogging, but good writing is just so bloody devalued. My life has always been about literature and creating art. Not adding up destinations or being constantly on the move. I want to create beautiful words to resonate with others and make them feel less alone in the world. I’m always surprised to learn there are people out there who have faith in me, like author Mary Sojourner, who’s been talking me back from the hypothetical ledge. I’m working on big things. My dreams of seeing my name on a bookshelf may come true.

More importantly, I want to find the stillness I had before the Internet came along, like at the Writers at Woody Point Festival where I sat listening to my idol Wayne Johnston during a reading and felt more connected to my surroundings than I ever have in my life. Riding along on language and the pleasure of poetry. A room full of appreciative readers laughing at the right moments and sighing audibly when their souls were touched. A simple community with no undertones of snobbery. The silence underneath the stars and between The Tablelands. No hurt, just beauty. I want to sit and pour out my soul in prose, trip over my own words like I am now, embrace the limitless emotion that grips my heart, and I want people to care about it. I want to be a part of that community. Books have never let me down.

Finding the balance as a 20-something hasn’t been an easy mission. I can’t stand to write any more bullshit headlines, the kind that are meant to shock and grab your attention, to create outrage and stir controversy. Watch This Guy Defend His Right to Defecate in Public. You Won’t Believe How You’ll Feel. I want people to stop telling me how to feel. It’s okay to have regrets and pain and heartbreak. I’m alive. If I could, I’d undo that whole trip. I don’t dwell on it, but I wish it had never happened. I wish I had left things the way they were, a perfect happy fling for a weekend in June where I met a nice guy with dimples who made me feel good. You think me melodramatic, but the simple truth is this: sometimes things work out the way you imagine them, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the act of getting married and having kids isn’t the right path, even if you want so badly to be a mom someday. Maybe it will happen, and maybe it won’t. There is only the singular act of living. Most things you can work towards and accomplish, but some things you can’t force. You can’t force love and you can’t force happiness, and no amount of Internet memes touting inspirational messages will change that.

It’ll be a very long time before I risk my heart to anyone else, and that’s okay. At this point, after a lifetime of romantic failures and zero successes, I doubt it’ll ever even happen, and that’s okay. There isn’t “somebody out there for everybody.” Sometimes there isn’t. As sure as I am of my sexuality, I’m sure of this improbability. I’d rather not dwell in it. I hope this yawning absence of such an elemental human experience just means greater things are in store for me. I tried the Internet dating thing and the real life dating thing just to refill that well of hope, but I find myself all worn out. I find myself unable to stop replaying his painful words. I find myself still wondering why I wasn’t good enough for a chance. I find myself knowing that I’m a good person, one of the best, but such things matter little in affairs of the heart. I stupidly read his side of the story and all the old wounds opened anew. I hope he knows I would never have held him back, not from anything. I never would have kept him for myself. I’m shocked he’d think so. I guess he didn’t know me, after all. It’s a hard time to be 27 when you don’t have anything figured out.

2013 had incredible moments with the most incredible people on earth, but I am happy to see it disappear. Lately I started writing fiction again. In the waning light of my darkest hours I unplugged the Internet, turned off the phone, and devoted hours to language. I moved back into it, smooth. I forgot about the suffocating blanket of loss. I forgot about the staccato of events of 2013 that irreparably led me to this breakthrough. I forgot about the enormous events of the year that’ll take me decades to write about. I forgot about loneliness and hurt. I moved back into the greatest love of my life.

On December 12th I bought my plane ticket to Greece and booked a room on Santorini island for a month. I’ll be leaving in early February and returning sometime at the end of June, before moving on to aid a humanitarian effort in women equality in Central America (can’t divulge those details yet), and then completing my MFA in Creative Writing. And I’ll be doing it while drastically limiting my Internet usage to no more than two hours per day. I worry people will misconstrue this post as something else, but I am lighter than I have been in months. I have goals. I have to stop hurting and I have to stop making it all about me. I’m better now. Just different. I am going the journey alone.

  • January 01 2014

    Beautifully written. I can’t wait to see what you publish in the coming year.

  • January 01 2014

    Great post! You have so much potential Candice and I hope 2014 is an amazing year filled with everything you love! Take time to take care of yourself. :)

  • January 01 2014
    Maggie BB

    I have no words. Just lots of love. <3 <3 <3

  • January 01 2014
    Trish McNeill

    I absolutely adore, am in awe of, and am inspired by you.

  • January 01 2014
    Tammy Burns

    Candice, this is why you are one of my favourite writers out there. This post, right here, is writing in the purest sense — emotions and honesty rather than the bullshit headlines you mentioned. And what you’ve conveyed (from love to self-doubt to dreams) are the very things I’ve been struggling with for months, that I’m sure others are struggling to understand (one of my favourite quotes, by Carl Rogers, is this very fact: “That which is most personal is most universal.”) And I agree with you that there’s a lightness in letting ugly feelings just spill out so you trip over the words.

    (Also, ummm, I’m still not entirely sure we’re not the same person. Escaping to Santorini for a few months to write is MY dream… and possibly tangible goal for next year. There, now I’ve said it out loud on a public forum, so I have to follow through.)

    Anyway, you have so much talent, on the internet and beyond.

    • January 06 2014

      I can’t believe I’m one of your favourite writers, that’s so incredible. Thank you for your sweet words! Seriously, they mean the world to me. Join me on Santorini? I’m living in a cave. No, really.

      • January 09 2014
        Tammy Burns

        A cave?! You’re killing me. Alas, I can’t join you this time. And I think escaping to Santorini is best done solo — for both of us. My time will come. In the meantime, ENJOY!

  • January 01 2014
    Mary Sojourner

    Brava. As you know, I could have written the essence of this myself – when I was 25, 35, 45, 55 and 65. I am going through old journals since 75 is only a year away and I recently witnessed people going through a dead woman’s journals. It seems as though the most common entries are: “He called. He didn’t call.” Thank you for reminding me why I do what I do and what it means to mentor a real writer. So glad we’ll be in each others’ lives in 2014

    • January 06 2014

      Thank you, Mary, you’ve been an astronomical influence on me these past few weeks!

  • January 01 2014
    Britany Robinson

    Beautiful honesty and inspiring words here, Candice. I truly can’t wait to read your book.

    • January 06 2014

      Thank you, Britany! It was a pleasure meeting you this year. Hope to see you again in 2014

  • January 01 2014
    Melodie McClure

    Enjoy that lightness. Soak in that wisdom and ROCK 2014 and beyond. I’ll patiently wait for updates!

  • January 01 2014
    Ana Cláudia Gusso

    This is the first post from you that I am reading. And it feels so sincere and pure. Thanks for sharing all of this. I am also starting to write again (and now in a different language) and I hope I am good enough for a chance in the writers/bloggers world. I wish you all the best in 2014 and that you find what you are looking for. I will start mine 2014 with a travel writer course :)

  • January 01 2014

    Good girl. Hope I get to travel with you again soon!

  • January 01 2014
    Kim Castlemain (Montreal)

    Once you have found yourself Candice, those chains of past words and pains will fall away. I think you are going to continue to feel lighter, and going it alone is something to be so proud of. So many twenty-somethings feel like this but not many are honest about it. You got guts. When I reflect on my early twenties I wish I’d focused more on me and what I wanted, and what I could want and be. Instead I wondered why he hadn’t called or why I wasn’t good enough. These thoughts lead to a dark place. I only ever felt as good as what the next big thing thought of me, instead of what I thought of me. My Mother told me a long time ago to get my confidence from me, not from another person. And here we should read confidence as happiness, I wish you a brilliant year and thanks for the words :)

    • January 06 2014

      Thank you, Kim! I hope I don’t come across as too “boy crazy” in my posts. Sometimes it’s the only type of pain that’s easy enough to talk about.

      • January 06 2014
        Kim Castlemain (Montreal)

        Boys are great :) pain can be inspirational too. Sometimes I hear songs that remind me of those past times of similar heartache, and they now make me feel happy. They remind us how much we can feel, and how hopefully these experiences will make us grow.

  • January 01 2014
    Katie Aune

    Wonderfully honest post. I can relate to so much even though I’m like 10 years older. It sounds like you’ve reached a good place now, so just keep going with that. And don’t worry if you feel like you don’t have it all figured out. When I was 27, I thought I knew exactly what I was doing, where I was going and what I wanted and by the time I hit 30, everything changed and what I thought I wanted, I didn’t anymore. I’m still trying to figure it out. :)

    • January 06 2014

      Weird how that happens, huh? I always thought this travel blogging life was exactly what I wanted, but I think it was the freedom I craved. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, I suppose.

  • January 01 2014

    I love your honesty. Heart break is a wretched thing, but I promise it will transform from an ugly duckling into a swan before your very eyes. Keep riding the wave till it breaks.

  • January 02 2014

    Beautifully written, Candice.

    • January 06 2014

      Thanks Christine! I’m in NYC soon. Let’s hang out.

  • January 02 2014
    Mariellen Ward

    Candice, I was so moved by this, by the power of your words and the very real scenes you created. I was right there with you, in the car, crying too! (And I want to break that guy’s legs!)

    I’m a lot older than you, and aging is not fun, but it has its blessings. And one of them is when you realize that sometimes people reject us not because we’re not good enough for them but BECAUSE WE’RE TOO GOOD FOR THEM, AND DEEP DOWN INSIDE THEY KNOW IT. People who hurl insults are insecure people, lashing out at the world to make themselves fell better about themselves. I wish you could see this as clearly and resolutely as I can.

    My hope for you in 2014 is that you feel deep-down, rock-solid, unshakeably good about yourself as a human being, a very talented writer and a beautiful woman.

    Thanks for sharing yourself so generously. The quicker you learn who deserves this generosity and who doesn’t, the happier you will be.

    • January 06 2014

      Hahaha, Mariellen. I wish you could break his legs! Just kidding. I don’t have much anger these days. From a person as talented as yourself, that means a lot to me. Writing this post really helped me see how wonderful people are. It’s been so humbling.

  • January 02 2014
    Maggie McC

    This was an incredibly brave thing to write. I am also trying to find my way back to creative writing and it was comforting to hear that someone else faces the same stumbling blocks on the way towards it. I hope your journey back into it is exciting and fulfilling and that 2014 is full of adventure and kindness for you! (and I look forward to reading your published work someday!)

  • January 02 2014

    Your way with words is unparalleled. A beautiful post with so much raw honesty and powerful emotion; it reminds me why I fell in love with your writing ages ago :) Keep your chin up, your eye on the horizon, and know that good things come to good people. And you, my friend, are one of the best. Cheers and Happy New Year!

    • January 06 2014

      Thank you Tiffany, and thank you for following the ride all these years!

  • January 02 2014

    Thank you Candice for sharing your life so honestly. This is beautiful! I look forward to reading more of your creative writing. All the best, I hope 2014 brings all you hope for

  • January 03 2014

    I read this post yesterday and had to come back today. I think that you are having boy problems and need to be patient and wait for a man. I’m not saying that you are supposed to sit around and do nothing and the universe will just magically bring one your way, but dealing with the boys that you are is clearly weighing on you. As a unmarried guy (I’ll leave it up to you to determine my man/boy status), it hurts to see my lady friends get all emotionally invested only to have their boy split when things get slightly tough. That’s a big difference to me. Men are willing to stay around, talk about tough subjects, and work things out whereas boys don’t want to talk about things, flee, and are instantly fine because they wouldn’t/couldn’t get emotionally attached.

    From reading your posts, I can tell that you have a lot of good things going on and while this is a concern, don’t let it be such a large issue that is alters your future. If you get married at 28, 32, or (gasp) 37, I think it will be a major tragedy if you look back and realize that you wasted time between now and then with such a large emphasis on relationships with boys. Don’t let your 2023 diary read the same way your 2013 and 2003 diaries do. Keep your career moving forward, invest time with level-headed girls that will shoot you straight and call you out on things, finish your degree, and stay debt free while continuing to travel. Be happy! You are a well spoken writer and you make me want to travel more, if that is possible.

    A side note. A previous commenter wrote something about getting rejected for being too good for guys and they know it. Boys don’t know it and when men find that a woman is better than they are, they work hard to hang on to it.

    • January 06 2014

      Hi Chase, I appreciate your honesty so much. I know a lot of what you say is true. In hindsight, me and this guy would never have worked. I think he misunderstood me the whole time, but never bothered to ask me about it. It was all so one sided. Now, where’s the map to where all the real men are?

  • January 04 2014

    Kudos Candice. Going through a very similar situations and I often get encouraged in the sheer thought that those of us who are going through this, are still standing even if wavering at times and are emotionally bare to be able to talk about this out loud! The emotional awareness you exude here is comforting, validating, and very much cherished. Keep doing you, and your journey (though nothing is too final, don’t forget!) – it is all your own and beautiful. Happy 2014!

    • January 06 2014

      It’s comments like these that remind me what I do what I do — that ability to connect with someone, to feel a little less alone, etc. It’s shitty that others are feeling the same way, but hey, we’re all in this together, right?

  • January 05 2014
    Carol Perehudoff

    Let 2014 be the year of books! Doing a MFA in Creative Writing sounds truly amazing as does a month in Greece just to write. Hope you have a great year.

    • January 06 2014

      Thank you, Carol, and after reading your post I hope 2014 is better for you too!

  • January 07 2014

    We all have baggage, Candice. I’m sure you’ve had a million people tell you to keep your head up. I just want to wish you an awesome new year. It will be exactly what you make it. Expect a piece of snail mail soon, my friend. <3

    • January 08 2014

      Thank you, JoAnna! I was stung when he said I had baggage. I felt like my baggage was nothing compared to most people. And thank you for the snail mail, hopefully when I get back to St. John’s it’s there!

  • January 08 2014

    Good on you Candice. You’ve gone to hell and back and you’ve made it out the other side. Kudos for having the guts to pour your heart out onto the page. It’s not easy to do.

    Everyone that reads your blog would be rooting for you. Continue to fight the fight and don’t give up.

    Enjoy Greece and CA, you’ll feel awesome after some real sunshine hits your heart.

    • January 08 2014

      Thanks Roma, I’m so grateful for your kind words. :) I’m so looking forward to six months of travelling!

  • January 22 2014

    amazing! so well written! you are one very talented person! I could feel your pain and just felt like I should be there beside your bed with tissues and a block of chocolate and 12 bottles of wine as your best friends should be. Firstly I have to say, that when you wrote “Most things you can work towards and accomplish, but some things you can’t force. You can’t force love and you can’t force happiness, and no amount of Internet memes touting inspirational messages will change that.” I was very much nodding to myself saying “Yep thats what I tell myself all the time” and the truth is, whilst you dont have a partner there beside you, its the perfect time to do excatl what you want and focus on you, making you the person you should be – and by that time, the right guy will be there ready to grab you falling in his arms.

    Your going to make an amazing writter and the plan for 2014 sounds like a great one, that just may well lead you to the right, place, time, experience and person.

    And finely I highly doubt that your easy to leave or that your not worthy of his love – its just not the right connection, time!

    Everything happens for a reason!

    • January 22 2014

      Your words are so kind, thanks so much! I’m glad you can relate. I appreciate your sentiments. And trust me, there have been a few boxes of chocolates and lots of wine. Hehe.

  • January 29 2014
    Amiee Maxwell

    I will definitely buy your book(s), in PRINT! I am so happy to hear you are headed to Greece. I remember you talking about that dream when I first “met” you and look at you now! I saw you read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild in your 52 books post so I highly recommend her Tiny Beautiful Things – I think it would be perfect for you right now :)

    • February 05 2014

      Aww, thank you, Amiee! Especially for hte fact you’ll buy it in print. Hahahaha. I’ve read an excerpt from Tiny Beautiful Things. DEFINITELY picking that one up.

  • March 09 2014

    On of my favourite posts.

  • April 30 2016

    Candice, you are a dear, sweet thing. I so admire your raw, heart-felt honesty. I think every person on the planet has felt inadequate at some point, and I do hope these 2013 feelings are far, far behind you! I love reading your blog– you are a genuine talent, and I can’t wait to read more!

    • May 04 2016

      Brooke, your comment made my day! Thank you! How sweet. Yes, it’s safe to say those feelings are long behind me. :)

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