Life, Death & Love From San Francisco
Death is a painfully slow process. I’m not speaking of the inevitable fate that lies ahead for all of us. Instead, I’m speaking of the steady decline that comes along with not living your truth. Perhaps you’re the bored tech worker that dreams of building the next Spotify. Perhaps you’re the writer whose anthology is titled “DRAFTS.” Perhaps you’re the pretend photographer, managing only the occasional weekend shoots, the results of which you will never show a soul. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. If you’re not doing you, you’re dying.
For a long time now, I’ve felt myself dying. I’ve never drowned before, but I would imagine that this is what it feels like. It’s as if I’m trying to reach the surface, but the currents of self-loathing and doubt are keeping me down.
I still don’t know how to swim.
Failure scares me. I have my issues with the doing, of course, but the real problem is putting it out there — putting myself out there. For everything I’ve done well, I’ve also done poorly. That fear of the latter far outweighs the former. And I’m sure this will sound crazy, but I’m afraid of what you will think. Yes, you, you reading this right now. When I should be writing, all I see is your face staring back at my words, laughing at my foolish undertaking:
“This is kinda trash.”
“Paul really takes himself too seriously.”
“Yo… He seriously thinks he’s a writer.”
From there, I rationalize my fear into some warped sense of reality:
“Shit, this is trash.”
“God, that line is corny.”
“Why can’t I be Ta-Nehisi?”
I wrote this letter once. It was to a girl that I had dated my first couple of months in San Francisco. We were more in like than in love, but the relationship carried some sort of significance that I just couldn’t put my finger on. So, I wrote this letter to express my confusion, at being happy that she ended it before I had to and yet missing it all just the same. To this day, I still haven’t published it, not out of fear of what she might say, but out of fear of what YOU might say. What will my other exes think? How much shit am I going to get from my boys? Will this be a running joke in the office? Will people laugh at me at my most authentic? It’s so fucking scary. Even writing this, alone in my room, I just want to give up. And if I do finish this? The anxiety of simply clicking “publish” will more than likely push me towards a drink or an egregiously long session of Tindering or the digital crushing of oversatured candies, just about anything else but putting myself out there. Steven Pressfield called it “Resistance.”
The strangest part of this situation is that I’ve already had my talents “validated.”. I’ve had my work published on various websites; I’ve received overwhelming praise from my peers; I’ve even been entrusted with writing the liner notes to my friends’ very first album. That’s love. And yet even with all the reaffirmation I can stand, I still think that every single person handing it out is completely out of their fucking mind.
At this point, I feel myself rambling and now I’m scared that you do too. But the greatest fear I’m having right now is that because I’ve taken this first step, by simply choosing to write, I’ve opened my door to a goddamn cornucopia of failures — long ones, tall ones, short ones, brown ones. See, that’s the reality of trying. If you do it right, you’re going to fail — a lot. But the payoff for all of those failures is living — not existing, not clocking in and out — actual life. I still feel myself drowning, but now I’m fighting against the current.