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.