Blank Spaces on the Map

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” – Jonathan Safran Foer

I was feeling melancholy recently about my circumstances. Living with family, employed in the same place that I worked at in college, not working in the field that the very expensive piece of paper that I owe about 27k on tells me I’m qualified to do.

I wonder if in a parallel universe there’s an Anne who is married with children. In another one, there’s one where I’m a famous actress who has just won her first Oscar. Another where I’m an astronaut. A few where I’m not there cause I was sick, or chose to end it. There’s an infinite number of lives I could be living (if one were to hold to the belief of parallel universes, that is).

At some point you have to pick a path, right? You have to choose, and stick with it.

Do I want to go back to New York and find a job in production or a media office? Do I want to move to Los Angeles and really get this writing thing right? Do I want to travel and wait tables and write about what I see, the people I interact with?

I was given a book titled, Daily Afflictions: the Agony of Being Connected to Everything in the Universe as a Christmas gift a few years back. One of the essays discusses commitment to a path, to a career, to your life, and there’s a line, just one, that says “The future is full of possibilities that I must shoot in the head.

That’s what all this boils down to. I’m scared of commitment. I’m scared that if I pick one path it’ll be the wrong one and I’ll end up back where I am. I can’t imagine picking the wrong path.

But we have to fail right? We have to make mistakes and we have to hit the bottom and pull ourselves up. We have to learn from those lessons.

It’s also selfish. I want to do ALL those things. I want to have a steady job in LA or NYC (I’d love to be bicoastal!) that allows me to travel all around the world. I want to backpack across Europe and go from place to place, working as I see fit. I want to spend a year in Italy, a year in France, a year in Ireland, I want to drink wine and coffee in cafes all over the world and I want to be able to live comfortably when I decide to stop moving.

I want it all.

I won’t be able to have it all.

That’s probably the first lesson isn’t it? Knowing that I can’t have it all, and that I have to commit to one thing fully. To commit and know that things may not turn out perfectly.

I have to take all those possibilities out back and put a bullet in each and every ones head.

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Live with a Warrior’s Heart

This post has taken on many forms in the past month I’ve been writing it. It usually only takes me a day, maybe two, to write a post once I sit down to write, but this past month hasn’t been an easy one, physically and emotionally, and I’ve needed more time to process things.

I don’t know if I have, though. It’s hard to process the loss of someone who was gone too soon, far before her time, hard to try and comprehend that there’s so much she won’t get to do.

One of my favorite creators, Julia Albain, wrote a book a few years ago (A Glamorously Unglamorous Life, it’s a wonderful introspective read). I ordered a copy, and received with it, a small gorgeous piece of watercolor art, with the words LIVE WITH A WARRIOR’S HEART printed on it. Now, more than ever, do I need that. For myself, and all the things that my dear friend won’t get to do.

The first time we met in person was at a convention for a TV show we used to watch (nerds to the end). I was struck by how quiet she was, but when she spoke, you listened. She was intelligent, and almost cuttingly funny, with a razor sharp wit. By the end of the weekend, we all had nicknames. She was 00Q, because she was quiet, but like a secret agent, she was not to be underestimated.

It’s not fair.

I miss her. I miss her deeply.  I miss her thoughts on the Oscar Nominations (would she reuse her picture reply from last year a box of “Assorted Entertainment Crackers” or something new?), and pop culture and activism and racism and sexism and body positivity.

I miss her.

But I have to believe that my heart is a warriors heart. That for her, I will never ever stop trying to achieve what I want.

So this year, every thing I do, every thing I write, every adventure I take,  I’ll do for me.

But I’m also doing it for Chelle.

albainbookmark

Bookmark created by Julia Albain

Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?

Aaron Burr and I have something in common. At least the Aaron Burr of Hamilton. I haven’t killed a colleague or run for political office, but there’s a connection between us. While our peers raced forward into careers, we both floundered, waiting for our right moment. 

In the musical, Burr plays his cards close to his chest. He waits to see which way the wind blows and hedges his bets. He has a legacy to continue. 

Whereas I just sit around a hope to hell that something happens to propel me forward. I’m stuck, but I let myself be stuck. I complain and come up with plans, and then do nothing, content to stay in a job that short of shooting someone in a duel (like Burr) I have some job security in. 

The fantastic Leslie Odom Jr. sings “I am the one thing in life I can control/I am inimitable/I am an original” in Burr’s soliloquy “Wait For It” and that’s something I know to be true. Something that’s true of everyone.

I think a huge part of the problem is my generation was taught not to be mediocre or average. To always strive to be the best, no matter what. Even if it kills you. My generation doesn’t know how to do average (or really, what’s normal) without feeling like abject failures. Or maybe it’s just me that feels that way. 

But I am the one thing in life I can control. This is is where I leave my Aaron Burr like tendencies behind and become more like Alexander Hamilton (“How do you write like you’re running out of time?”). It’s time to become unstuck. 

So I’m applying for everything I can. Jobs in my field. Grad school programs that could further my career. Writing fellowships that I have no shot in hell of getting, but think it would be fun to apply to anyway (Amtrak’s in particular, I think traveling across country by train would be just the thing I need). 

But say none of those work out? It’s possible, certainly, but I have to try to tell my story, before I can’t any longer. 
p.s. I wish I could apologize for the gratuitous Hamilton references, but I can’t.

First loves.

My first love was reading and writing.

I’d sneak books under the covers long after lights out. I remember not liking endings to stories I was read at bedtime, so I’d stay up and come up with new ones to tell all my stuffed animals.

I don’t really remember when I wanted to be a writer. Does anyone? I remember my first short story: Strawberry Shortcake and her cat, Custard, fought and won against the evil Jafar (it was 1992, Aladdin had just come out, okay?) leaving everyone in a mix of Agrabah and Strawberryland living their happily ever afters (or HEA’s as you’ll see me call them, I do write romances).

Since then I’ve moved on to writing other things. More short stories (less Strawberry Shortcake and Custard and more angst and brooding, but always the HEA), pilots, a few plays, two screenplays….

My first novel though, well I haven’t finished it. I have about seven novels anywhere between just started and 3/4’s of the way completed, but managed to write myself into corners with most of them. Sometimes it’s like I’m all ideas and no follow through.

What I’m writing now, though. This, has potential. It deals with first loves, the ones that stick with you, the ones all loves from there on out are compared to.

In an ideal world, they’d all be our last loves, but that’s why we have fiction, isn’t it?

Reading about first loves, brings back all the memories, the nostalgia, the feelings that were happening for the first time. It reminds us that you never really get over those feelings, that a part, no matter how small, will always brighten at the sight of your first love (even if the rest of you cringes).

So no, you never really get over first loves. I’ll never be over writing, or striving for the best story to tell.