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How I Knew I Wanted to Be a Writer
On one particular New Year’s Eve, I found myself alone, basking in the feathery glow of a black and white television in a tortuously cold, unfamiliar room. It was slightly larger, but slightly bleaker than an average prison cell. I rocked back and forth against the rigidity of the bed and reluctantly inhaled the stale air of my own Alcatraz, my Bastille.
On the dusty television screen, a grayish ball in a distant city I had never seen radiated its hollow light. The huddled masses in the street gave raucous shouts in the frigid air for the rest of the world to hear and experience vicariously. But in the lonely room, I only heard the morose sound of rain, an endless barrage of liquid bullets and the caterwauling of a beast called the wind. The rickety bungalow was a sudden shock of wood on wave-swept cliff, and that little house by the sea swayed violently and constantly under the cacophony of thunder.
The last dying minutes of that year were wild and turbulent, as if fighting off the coming death and change, but I was determined to watch them go. I wondered what it was like to be at sea, just a few miles away, on a night like this. Surely one would be bravely clinging to a deck inundated with the equivalent of a small body of water just long enough for the old storm, the old year to be swept into nothingness by the shiny and the new. While I was buried in my own romantic, melodramatic images of a winter night by the sea, my mind flashed back to the words of my father from just a few hours ago.
“I think you guys are going to really like this house, it’s supposed to be beautiful this time of year,” he announced to our family, plus one claustrophobic dog, as we crowded in a normally spacious car. I don’t think my father ever really just said things. He was always announcing something to the rest of the world, or at least acting like he was.
I gave a loud, exaggerated sigh from the back seat. “Yeah, but only if beautiful means cold and lonely. Who would want to go to the beach in the middle of winter? On New Year’s Eve!”
“I want to, and since I want to, you want to too,” I could see the reflection of my father’s perfectly wry smile in the rearview mirror. Whenever he made one of his numerous attempts at a joke, he would flash that exact same wry smile, as if something impossibly clever was hidden somewhere in his words. This time, there wasn’t.
Another louder, more desperate, and exasperated sigh resonated around the car. I laid back in the seat bitterly as the car pulled away, the childish shrieks of two of my nieces and my younger brother rattled in my eardrums for the next three hours. The dog gave desperate whines every few minutes, as if complaining about the accommodations, I echoed him with my sighs. Neither of us was acknowledged.
The memory slowly faded away into the rainy darkness of the night. I shivered and felt the greasy Chinese food heavily on my stomach with waves of inconstant nausea. Not many quality restaurants were open three hours before the New Year in a winter beach town. I sighed again for my own benefit and at that moment, I realized something monumentally profound and simple, I was bored. It was so much more than just the boredom of a lonely night. Something was gnawing at my soul, at my life. With about twelve minutes left until the swiftly approaching death of an old, dusty year, I walked out of my room and into the kitchen.
The petite kitchen was illuminated by the soft, scarlet smoldering of an open oven, the miserable replacement for a broken heater. My mother stood in front of the oven, staring into the effervescent hum of redness, and she looked at me with a thin smile on her lips, vaguely hiding her apparent misery. I returned the smile, just as thinly and hollowly.
“You smile just like your father,” were the only words I heard her say, and then she was lost in the impossible redness again. I vaguely acknowledged her and went pacing out the room, into the narrow hallway.
I had never felt more unsatisfied with my life. The moments of life were slowly disappearing right before my eyes, and I was just standing there, silently waiting for the end to come. I could thrash violently against the change, against the inexorable sweep of time, like the old year was fighting for its last taste of life before the new year. Or I could turn over, accept the change, and surrender to my own stagnancy. Maybe I was being a little dramatic, but then again, maybe I wasn’t.
For all my thirteen years of life, I had never really wanted to do anything even remotely ambitious. But at that moment, I knew I had to do something, even if that something was just a thought. My father was always telling me with his wry little smile, “Evan, you have to do something you love. If you don’t, you’ll be miserable. But if you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think that at least that time, it was something impossibly clever. A beautiful moment of epiphany blossomed around me.
Every way I turned the answer stared me right in the face, as if painted on the walls in big bold letters. With cracks of thunder and howls of the wind, I went into my room, picked up my pen, and starting scribbling away. Life was what I loved, and for me, the perfect way to capture the impossibly gorgeous moments of life was through words. I wanted to be a writer simply because there was no other way to live. I wanted to be writer simply because the suffering and the starving was worth the joy. And I wanted to be a writer most of all for the sake of doing what I loved. And I will go on suffering, starving, and loving every moment until the life is sucked out of my body.
I watched the flickering gray light on the television as the ball dropped and a new year was born. For hours into the night, I wrote until my hand was sore and my mind was raggedly starved of inspiration. I would always be a writer, the only question after finally realizing that was whether or not I would get paid for it.
The next morning, the storm had gone. There was a delicate stillness in the air, as if the newly born moments were still sluggishly adapting to life. I opened the door and went charging outside to my first glimpse of the rocky seashore in daylight. The rolling waves of the ocean crashed on the beach, and on some distant shore thousands of miles away, the same waves were crashing. Maybe someday I would see those waves, but for now, I could experience every part of the world through a few scribbled words. The sun was rising to the east, and in the morning light, I smiled the same wry smile toward a new day full of new expectations and a new year.