Striking a Fire in the Void
When I was young, I split my time between scurrying through the woods around my house and writing stories on the bench next to the dingy greenhouse in my backyard. I was one of the shortest, chubbiest, and most sleep-deprived people in my elementary school (most of my classmates were born with lacrosse sticks welded to their hands and weren’t prone to night terrors like I was), but I rarely ever ran out of energy. I was fascinated by the world — how everything cooled and died and blossomed and sweltered with the passing of the seasons, how time seemed to speed up and slow down depending on how you felt, and how, no matter what horrible thing I did, my parents would still love me, even though I was terrified their adoration was conditional.
I’ve recently been reflecting on and writing a lot about my childhood. I remember feeling like a happy kid despite a number of familial difficulties, and thinking that my life was the most interesting of anyone in the world’s because I was the only one who had the ability to experience it. I had a small group of friends that hung out on a near-daily basis, a mountain of books and video games that could keep me occupied until the early hours of daylight, and passions that alarmingly resembled obsessions (I was so good at Guitar Hero that, when I played at arcades, people would gather around to watch me shred; over the course of four years I drew an entire city, which I named Erasville, on 300 pages of computer paper; and I wrote an 80-page story about a homeless man who turns his life around after a wealthy passerby gives him $100 and says a cheesy maxim about paying it forward).
As with most people, growing up was difficult, filled with frustration and bullying and awakening to the realities of existence, and I found myself becoming less interested in doing things just for the sake of them. Hanging out with friends lost its innocent allure and inched toward obligation, time seemed to double in speed every year, and activities like reading and writing became ways of ensuring my future success rather than of enjoying myself.
I wonder when my sense of idealism was marginalized by the development of my brain, and why it had to be that way. Why I couldn’t grow up without consequence. Why I can’t live blind to the mysteries and banalities of this bizarre world.
These questions are uncomfortable and unanswerable. And precisely because they’re uncomfortable and unanswerable, I feel obligated to write about them. I don’t know why. But I believe that, since my youth, I’ve gotten better at dancing around the shadowy truths of living, which makes me think that my writing is an exercise in a faith I didn’t think I had.
If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that trying to strike a fire in all this void, however futile it may ultimately be, feels like it’s all I should be doing. And that’s all that matters.