Do you remember the fantastic?
Well, I do. I remember the little boy, sitting at the dining room table, trying his darndest to master cursive writing. He had been taught before that letters were blocks stacked side-by-side, but when he learned cursive, he saw the beauty of joining letters together to form words, and how those words would form phrases, sentences, paragraphs. Of course, he didn’t realize that back then. He was after all a little child, with a rubbed out pencil, learning to write.
But the little boy grew up. He joined high school papers, and he was eventually made editor. He wasn’t that good back then; in fact, if he could only read his writing now, he’d laugh so hard and hide them in a place no one else could see them. But how well he wrote never stopped him. He never cared if he wrote well or if he wrote poorly; at that time, those meant nothing. At that time, all that matter was the blinking cursor. He saw how his classmates fared, read the musty ol’ tomes from the library, and got guidance from the best teachers he had.
Then he became a writing major. He dabbled a little bit in everything: fiction, poetry, comic book writing, non-fiction. He floundered a bit, he wasn’t the worst writer in class, but he wasn’t the best. In fact, writing courses forced him more to see the craft as a series of check boxes to judge his work. He threw away his pens and typed everything, his notes, his comments, his texts. And when he thought he was floundering as a mediocre writer, he found his voice in one of the more unpopular genres: drama.
The moment he saw the true power of a play, of how it bridges the two worlds he enjoys the most, the literary and the theatrical, he saw potential. And he tried. He wrote dialogue, he wrote stage direction. And it was good. That’s lie. It was a bad. It was really bad. It was laughably, pathetically bad. But he didn’t care. He wrote it and he let people read it. And they told him it was bad, and he went home and cried. The next day, he had sex out of misery. Then he slept for a whole week. Then he brought out his colored markers, sat down, and studied the play line-by-line. It was then that everything made sense. He encircled everything, studying every single word, every single sound.
And he loved it. He loved working with plays, and eventually, he became better at it. He’s still not that good, not by a long shot, but he’s was getting there. He was close to his dream, near his goals, and everyone supported him. He was happy, he was content, he was alive.
He was me.
When I see my past self, I am ashamed. It was a downwards spiral from there. Gone were the dreams, gone were the friends, gone was all the promise. All that’s staring at me is the accusing eyes of the past, hating me for not being who I was supposed to be.
Corporate slave, minimum wage earner, a lost and beaten man, everyday is a fog. Waking up, everything is mechanical. I hate myself, I hate how I’ve become someone I no longer recognize.
If my seven year old self could see me, he won’t recognize me. That innocent little boy who first discovered the beauty of the cursive word would run away from someone as soulless as I have become. If my sixteen year old self could see me, he would shudder. That naive teenager who was beginning to find out where he belonged would never even consider doing what I’m doing. If my twenty-two year old self could see me, he would punch me (and he doesn’t punch anyone). That promising young playwright, cut when he was barely beginning, would never ever believe that he would compromise his craft for anything. ANYTHING, including the almighty dollar.
Sometimes, as I walk to the bus stop, it’s sunny and there is a rainbow. I smile and I think of a play I’d like to write about it. I never do.
Here ends the 100 Songs Project, a 100-day writing challenge based on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs. Every day, I wrote a short poem, prose piece, or play based on, reacting to, rejecting, accepting, or doing something related to one of the songs in the top 100 list.