It is, for me, a haunting question, and one whose answer I still very much struggle with at 30 years of age. Of course, I’ve really never had an answer, only thoughts about the possibility of one, ranging from President to social worker to pastor. I’ve dabbled in the latter two, having long ago forsaken the notion that a President truly has the power to effect the most positive change for the greatest number of people. Along the way, I discovered something of a facility for writing, or perhaps I merely discovered that it was the most readily available means by which I could conjure up positive feedback for myself. Either way, I’ve dabbled in that too, and obviously am doing so even now.
I have found writing and the larger idea of "telling my story" (in a variety of ways) to be exceedingly therapeutic- cathartic even, and for this reason, if nothing else, I continue to be drawn to it. I am, for good or ill, still intensely driven by the desire to be known, to be understood and validated, and this only betrays the truth that, as in the words of a favorite song, "I’ve been trying to make peace with my own existence," and I’ve found it to be an exceedingly difficult task. I write, then, perhaps like all great writers do (Frederick Buechner, Anne Lammott, and the many writers of the Bible come to mind, though I do not of course necessarily number myself among them), to tell the truth. As I alluded to above, I usually find the truth of my own life so frightening that simply attempting to give words to it consumes me, but I am even more frightened by the thought of the power it would have over me if it remained a secret- if only to myself- and so I labor on.
So I find myself compelled to write, to speak, to preach, and always, as best as I can, to do so for the purpose of telling the truth as I understand it. Yet there is something else lurking in this endeavor, something unknown to me which I hope to uncover and expose with the light of these words. I am not merely content with writing for its own sake, for the sake of whatever cathartic value can be gleaned from the mere act taking place in the privacy of my office, in the vacuum of my computer. No, I write too because I want to be known, to be understood for who I am as a result of all I’ve been through, and in that knowing I yearn for validation and acceptance.
I dream, and have for some years, of being a published writer- one whose work is recognized as having some kind of intrinsic value, and in this I hope to produce the same kind of affect that Buechner and Lammott have had on me- that is, that in the telling of the truth of their own lives I learn to see some of the truth of mine as well. I think this is so because I do not believe that my pain, my suffering, my passion, and love really matter if they matter only to me. If, however, my truth-telling speaks to the larger human condition and there is meaning to be found there, then I have some hope. I think too that what I hope for is simply to be part of something larger than myself. I hope and yearn for community, and for me the solitary and introspective act of writing as a means of self-disclosure is meant to bring about the end of community, of relationship. Moreover, I long to leave a legacy. I want to be remembered as "someone who made a difference." I know and am thrilled to know that the greatest legacy I may leave is to be found in the kind of person my son grows up to be and in the kind of marriage I have over the years, bringing to mind the words of another song: "If they ever leave a legacy, it’s that they loved each other well." Yet somehow I still yearn for something more.
So I fancy myself a writer, and am now, finally, taking a few small faltering steps to begin to realize that dream. It starts, of course, with really embracing "the writing life," and this blog is an excellent way to practice the discipline of daily writing. For the few of you who actually check this blog out occasionally, out of stubbornness or some sense of family/friend obligation, expect to find it updated, Lord willing, on a daily basis. I may keep you posted too on my progress or lack thereof on any publishing goals. What do I want to be when I grow up? I want to be someone who does what I am, rather than the other way around; so I’ll keep writing to uncover more deeply just what/who that is.