The “Easy” Complaints of the Young Writer.

I complain a lot. I complain about where I am and where i’ve been; I complain about the weather and student loans; I complain about being unemployed and not having a life. I complain because I only see what’s right in front of me at this moment. There is no next week in sight, only here, now and the past. I don’t intend to complain so much, there is never any intention to sound annoying; it just happens. A frequent indication of my whiny ego is always in regards to what I studied in college (I studied English): So you want to become a teacher? My response is almost natural, I roll my eyes, sigh and utter the perfectly scripted phrase that I have been giving since May: “No. Not teaching. I’ve been looking into [insert broad, nondescript job title that will get the interviewer off my back].” I use this response because it’s easy.

That response, albeit subtle, is also a complaint. When you factor in tone and body language, you can tell that i’m not in the mood to answer the question. I’d sooner be anywhere else. The real response, the response that has been floating around in my brain for years is simple: “I want to be a writer. I want to write for movies or write for television or write a book or write a recipe to the world’s best snickerdoodle. In short, I want to write.” For years I have fought myself on when I would be able to call myself a writer. I have racked my brain to determine the amount of pieces written or the “successes” I would have to earn to garner such a title. To my surprise, the title of “Writer” is the easiest one to earn; you write something. Easy, right? Right.

My ability to write and to call myself a writer goes hand in hand with my ability to complain. Instead of needing to find a poor, unsuspecting individual to inundate with my tawdry problems, I can just write an article, post it online and share it with the world in under five seconds. The life of a complaining writer is easy. Well, it’s easy when you have no job, all the time in the world, and a whole library of quick-witted analogies and hyperboles to keep you company. Like I said, there is no intention to complain so much or to sound annoying; it’s just all I know.

I am twenty-three and I feel like I am thirty-seven with all of my “issues” that I write about. I don’t have many issues. I have written upwards of ten articles on my lack of a job, five articles on my failed relationships, and about a handful of rants that end with no message from which a reader could take away. I am twenty-three, I am young and I don’t have issues. That is what I often forget. Youth is supposed to be freeing and joyful and magical, yet all I do is write and complain and share it with the world. Why? Because it’s easy.

Easy is comfortable, comfortable is stagnant, stagnant is monotonous. Perhaps the reason I complain so much is to give off the illusion of a struggle. Perhaps the reason I complain so much is because I feel it puts me in the  ranks of these people I admire so much. Perhaps I should stop complaining altogether; at least until I have actual problems to complain about, like a mortgage or loan payments. Oh wait, I already have that last one.

The future is terrifying and choosing what’s difficult is terrifying; these are the true terror that send shivers down my spine and make me pee my pants. It’s always hard to face these things when you don’t acknowledge them outright. Before then, they’re just obscure silhouettes of anxiety, ready to kill you. But they’re really there to make you grow up. They’re really there to push you forward and make you uneasy. Easy is comfortable, comfortable is stagnant, stagnant is monotonous. When all is said and done, I don’t want to choose what’s easy. Put as bluntly as possible, I’m going to pee my pants and as a writer, I am obligated to take you with me, every pee-soaked step of the way.

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Let’s Learn How to Read Again: Advice from the Once-Tortured English Major.

If you were to gather every book I have ever owned, from ‘Good Night Moon’ to ‘Cloud Atlas’, one could erect a castle as tall as the Empire State Building and as wide as the State Capitol. However, if you remove all the books I have read from this Empire State Building of Literature, you wouldn’t be able to erect something the size of Barbie’s Dream House.

Dear Reader, I have forgotten how to read.

Fortunately, I am still quite literate. What has seemed to vex me for the subsequent four years is my inability to read leisurely. After several pages of our book, I find my attention waning. I can easily be drawn into a book from the mere four sentence plot on the back of a book jacket, but once crack it open, it’s as if the illusion shatters. They have tried and (seemingly) failed to hold me.

As any English Major can tell you, we are relentlessly barraged by required readings of the Brontes, Baldwin, and Dickens and I feel it’s extremely difficult to recover from that. Especially if the only copies they have in the bookstore are hardcovers or anthologies. Now, that isn’t to say that I hated these books. In fact, I hold them up as literary masterpieces, forever to stay in the Golden Bookshelf in my future library.

I suppose what has “cursed” me (a term I use lightly; to be cursed by a book is actually a blessing in disguise) is how I came across these books. For every book in between semesters and after I had graduated, I feel there is an upcoming deadline to finish them.

I’m on a clock.

While that is somewhat the case (of course I want to finish these books. I’d be wasting money otherwise), I feel this academically induced pressure has attached itself to my brain. I still highlight and write in the margins of every book as if I have to refer back to them for a final essay. It’s like a twitch that appears on picture day or a zit before a first date. Something beautiful is about to happen, but stress and overthinking creates an obstacle to challenge you. It won’t leave me alone.

For instance, there’s this amazing book called ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara and it’s a literary behemoth, clocking in at upwards of 700+ pages. I wanted to devour this book. I wanted to lose myself and become enveloped in these words. But I’m so preoccupied with needing a highlighter, a pen, and to have to understand every last line as if I had a test to take. I put this enormous pressure merely because I feel obligated to.

The English Major has tainted my love of reading!

Now that I have my clickbait title built in I can go on to say that that’s not entirely true. It has enhanced my love of reading. It just takes more time to fully digest everything. Especially with works like Bronte, Baldwin, Dickens and Yanagihara, you don’t want to rush through them. You need to take your time (a man-made concept, but we’ll disregard that). I feel that’s what I need to get through my big, empty head; don’t time yourself, pace yourself.

Literature isn’t something to take lightly.┬áTake it seriously. Fall with Alice and walk with Dorothy and at their pace. If you beat them to the end of the line, you might just spoil their own story.