I turn 38 this week.
And with official entrance into the late-thirties rodeo, I’ve finally gained enough confidence to admit –I’m lost.
A few weeks ago at a party, I fell into a conversation with a young woman who recently graduated from college. A mutual friend introduce me as a “writer” and informed me that young woman had started a blog.
“A blog. That’s great.What do you write about?”
“Thanks,” she smiled and nodded, “It’s a fitnesss blog. I’m currently training for my third full marathon and I’ve always enjoyed writing. I feel now I have some experience and knowledge to share with the young adult fitness niche.”
“So, what do you write?”
I smiled, “Words.”
Not amused, she pressed, “Seriously, what do you write? What’s your niche?”
Niche is a popular word in the modern writing community. Niche is your area of specialization–fitness, parenting, politics, education, drunken knittting.
The internet affords anyone the ability to start a blog and write on absolutely any subject. And any modern writing tutorial will explain the importance of having a clearly defined niche–especially in the hyper-competive internet age.
Write well about a specific subject, write well for a specific audience,and over time you’ll achieve success.
“I write stories. Mostly personal stories, about… well about a lot subjects.”
“How long have you been writing?”
“Everyday for two years. And I’ve published at least one story each week over that time.”
She took a sip of her Pinot Grigio, “Cool. So…what’s your niche?”
I hesitated, did a quick inventory of the everything I’ve written and said, “You know, I don’t know my niche. I guess…I guess, I’m lost.”
Over the past calendar year, I have explored a variety of subjects.
Below you will find 13 excerpts from stories I have written over the last year.
Each on a different niche, each furthering my lostness.
In the throes of life, when life is not romantic as hell, the health of a marriage hinges on those little, private moments that you create for one another.
It’s in those moments where you reconnect, rediscover each other all over again.
A chronically sick man (me) whose hands are shaking, whose body aches, whose teetering on the edge of self-destruction is sitting beside his wife in a Las Vegas ballroom. They’re high school sweethearts. They have three children together. But seven months ago things suddenly got harder.
And yet she still takes notes.
As the professor speaks and the damaged brain that holds the screen looms like a thundercloud over the room with her free hand, she reaches across the table to hold his hand, to ease him, to feel his pain.
Young men, like the gods we dress ourselves up to be, often believe we are the sole creators of our success and happiness. So we distance ourselves from others.
We forge fantasies.
We mask our unhappiness and insecurity with false bravado and empty dreams. We puff out our chest, turn our hat backwards and pretend we’re in control of our life and that fate is just a motif found in ancient Greek theater.
“Do you have any advice on how to cross a threshold?”
“Crossing a threshold is often mental. The initial fear of just transitioning from one place to the next often prevents us from progression. But when you find the nerve to finally cross, you realize there was nothing to fear at all. ”
I stood up, shook his hand, said I was looking forward to seeing him in six months. He smiled, spun away, opened the door and disappeared.
I slipped on my coat and strode through the threshold, from the examination room into the hall and back into life.
A life born of thresholds, waiting patiently for us to simply brave up and cross.
Writing is a contradictory experience.
Writing is more about the reader then the writer. Yet the fate of the relationship is solely the writer’s responsibility. The writer has to sacrifice and bleed and refuse compression for the relationship to work.
There were times in 2017 I didn’t bleed for you. Sometimes I winced. I wrote for clicks and likes and shares. I wrote easy. I was a glory whore.
In 2018 I resolve to do a better job writing for myself. I need to write hard. I need to bleed for me. Not for recognition. And not for you.
This is not to shut you out.
I need to be more selfish, more self-examining to engage you on a more honest, more visceral level.
In 2018 I promise to work on me so that we can work on us.
Together I hope we find better ways to appreciate our lives, to tell our stories so when the time is right–we may find our way back to each other.
On Education in America
These are hard moments.
Every time I learn about another school shooting I recoil and shake my head as if to say this is sad. This is so fucking sad.
What happened to the great American school experience that so many of us knew and enjoyed?
The one where you went to school and lived. The one where you pledge allegiance to a flag that you believed would protect you.
With all these dead children in the news, sometimes I feel guilty thinking about my daughter sitting at her desk, alive.
A chronic illness unnerves you.
For years I endured moral freezes. I couldn’t think, decide. I couldn’t, as my old soccer coach would bark, “get my shit together.”
Like a high stakes game of hide-and-go-seek, success in life is often predicated on our curiosity, our desire to seek until we find what we are looking for.
But what happens when you’re sick and short on energy? What happens after years of blood tests, biopsies, scans and observations experts still shrug and admit they don’t know?
What happens when you simply can’t find what you’re looking for?
Work is a tricky thing.
Immersing yourself in work for only a paycheck is a soul-sucking existence. Working for personal fulfillment is righteous but doesn’t pay the electric bill.
Maybe, if we look hard enough, we find work that fills a previous void.
Intuition does not get easier with age.
Self-reliance comes with a real cost.
And a fear of judgement lingers long after high school.
I can only hope that you find the courage to trust yourself, to take the risk to be heard.
You’re impressionable–miles away from figuring out who you are and yet you’re about to change in immense and unknown ways.
Change for yourself and what you believe is right for you.
Trust your change.
On Being 19
When you’re 19, life gets complicated.
Choices become harder, they have more gravity and greater consequence. Time is suddenly finite. Reality is tangible. You realize you need to do something with your life. And as sad as it is, you realize your on the verge of comprising your dreams to appease the status quo.
On Redefining Yourself
Redefining yourself is not easy. It’s scary.
You’re not a kid but you fear judgement and criticism the way you did in high school. And sometimes redefining yourself becomes dangerous work. Drugs, alcohol and other destructive habits become your new definitions.
But I’ve learned that if you redefine yourself positively and purposefully you can tap new potentials.
When you write your new definitions you find new ways to in be strong and empowered and your life is suddenly swirling with exciting possibilities. You discover new energies. New angles. You begin to realize your potential.
It’s become clear, fatherhood is not about meddling or interjecting or inflicting my will on you or filling your head with fiction.
In fact, fatherhood really isn’t about the father at all. It has and always will be about the livelihood of the child.
In 9 years you’ll be 18 and things will have undoubtedly change.
You’ll be driving yourself. You’ll be standing at the cusp of adulthood and may not need me the way you do now. But despite my dwindling demand, my job description remains.
You need the dad who drove you and your mother home from the hospital 9 years ago. A dad to remain vigilance and focus.
You’ve entrusted me to listen, eliminate distractions, anticipate danger, embrace the incredible and enjoy the ride.
And my girl, I don’t want to let you down.
Happiness and gratitude are a package deal.
You can’t be happy and ungrateful at the same time. Show gratitude and you’ll find happiness.
Chase (my 7 year old son )and Deb (my friend with ALS) confirmed what I already knew, what most of us know — that relationships are the fruits of happiness. A 7 year old boy, a dying woman cemented such truth — we are fragile and finite but in relationships we find strength, we experience forever.
Why is such simplicity so hard to understand? Why do we foolishly think that one more material possession will sprout the happiness we so desperately desire?
And so if growing up is a just matter of perspective, it’s curious to think that we’ll spend so much pain, energy and money trying to realize what we knew all along.
Because real, lasting happiness requires you to do uncomfortable things. Let go. Give up. Be honest. Move on. Admit flaws. Admit mistakes. Accept judgment.
“It was nice meeting you,” the young woman smiled, moved to the bar, poured another Pinot Grigio and struck up a conversation with a young woman holding a plate of pita chips.
I don’t have a niche.
I’m not a blogger. I’m not concerned with SEO or affiliate links or popular trends. I’m not here to tell you about 5 easy ways to find romance or 3 foods you must eat before lunch or how to survive a nuclear apocalypse.
And I’m not a fiction writer either. I do not have the patience and imagination to create new worlds for invented characters to get drunk in, have sex in, slay dragons, rob banks, bypass time, build robots, dismantle bombs, dismantle children, befriend tigers and on one fateful afternoon, get shot and tumble into lifelessly into a swimming pool.
I’m 38 now– eight years too old to lie to myself.
I’m lost. I don’t have a niche.
All I have are my experiences, my voice, my conviction to write as truthfully as I can and a growing desire to be found.