I started this column five different ways — that’s what happens when you start a column past midnight — but I think it’s the most honest piece I’ve written in a while.
These are various thoughts and feelings that I’ve discussed with many of my friends who are, like me, trying to figure out how to make something of their lives and be satisfied with it. I guess everyone has these thoughts and feelings, but these are mine, as lucid as they’ll ever come past midnight:
12:16 a.m.: I want to report again. I want to talk with people, observe miniscule details about them and capture their personality with words.
I remember last summer, I was reporting on a tense school board meeting in Liberty, Mo., and as community members started to yell at the board, I noticed an old woman in the very back row knitting a lime green scarf. I wrote her into my story and the next day, that woman called me. “I think you were referring to me,” she said. “I’ve been knitting at those meetings for 20 years.”
Geez, I miss that.
You know what else I miss? I remember once, I was reporting on “Take Your Kid to Work Day.” I went to a local hospital and, of course, the kids couldn’t shadow their parents, who were busy in the ER saving lives. So the hospital set up a tornado disaster drill for the kids. Half of them were victims, with fake blood and all. The other half were doctors, nurses and policemen. As the nurses rushed one young girl into the ER, the 9-year-old doctor asked the victim what was wrong. She told him she had a “bleeding heart.” His answer: “Get her a new one.”
I miss making people smile.
12:48 a.m.: I have been chasing a fleeting sensation.
It is perhaps the one Picasso felt every time he dipped his thick brush into a heavy oil paint and carefully stroked it across a white canvas. The paint stroke had a purpose. It mattered.
I’ve been trying to make my words matter, just like those paint strokes. I’ve been trying to make them bold, thick lines on clean white paper. Instead, I feel like my words are faint watercolors seeping into newsprint. And this has been dissatisfying.
It’s the same reason little kids use Sharpies to write on clean, white walls. Ever hear of a kid using a highlighter to deface a wall? Didn’t think so.
1:23 a.m.: Sometimes, I type really slowly. I push down each key and wait for it to push back on my fingertips before moving onto the next letter. I think that, maybe then, my words will matter more. But of course they don’t, because they are quantifiably no different than the words on Roseanne Barr’s blog. Anyone can put thoughtless words on the internet and, with so much content online, it is all diluted
1:48 a.m.: I have tried, so desperately, to make my words matter. But I have failed, and it has been the hardest part of entering the real world.
2:02 a.m.: I’ve taken progress for granted. The last 16 years, I kept moving forward — from first grade to second, second to third. But now progress isn’t so easy to measure.
My goal is simple: I want to tell stories for a living. But for the past few months, I’ve been struggling to figure out the first step toward that.
Well, the other day, I applied to grad school. I spent two months on the application. And during that time, I’ve realized this is what I want — it is, by my best guess, the right step.
If things don’t go as planned, I’ll just find another step to take. Just gotta keep the legs moving — at least until I make some life epiphany about being patient in life.