Once upon a time, those stories had inspired my hands to write them down on paper. Once upon a time, I had a thought that I could share these stories with people. Once upon a time, I thought that I could make a living from this hobby of mine.
Once upon a time, I was naive.
I was but a child clinging on to a childish dream, as fascination towards space would gravitate a child to aspire becoming an astronaut. They were worlds apart, but still a part of this world, and as such, had their own respective rules. Rules that weren't taught in school and would do one ignorant of them no good.
"Why don't you sell this?"
"Why don't you make money off of this?"
Always the same sentences uttered from adults who wished to better my life. They may not mean it, but I found it condescending to a fault. They were spitting at my face and my inability to find success in the path I had chosen. There was only one figure in my life who wasn't so money-oriented. A dreamer, an idealist just like I was. The apple doesn't really fall far from the tree, does it, Father?
They wouldn't be satisfied no matter how many hours I spent on researching the materials for my stories, how many words I wrote on a daily basis, how much sweat I had shed in pursuit of this abstract idea they called "success". My father's idea of success was not money-oriented. He just wanted me to have a genuine smile on my face.
They didn't know, of course, that was the problem. He knew, and he kept encouraging me to pursue this path.
I dare not boast of my efforts when they bear no fruit. In their eyes, it would only be wasted time, wasted effort.
In this world I live in, cold hard cash makes the world go round.
So I gave in to their demands and strayed off the chosen path. I surrendered and acquiesced to their wishes and aspirations, in exchange for mine. I abandoned the me I had striven to be. I declared my father's encouragements void and null. Yet, he kept supporting me.
"No matter what you decide to do, know that I'm always with you and will continue to support you," those were his words, and he kept true to them.
17 years passed. It was as if I had only finished a life sentence in the prison we call "this world". As they dictated, I had become a gray husk of a man, a hollow shell of my former self. My smile had been taken away and I infected my own vision to be as gray as I am.
An average man working an average job with an average income. That's who I have become. I would like to ask if I had envisioned this part of me back when I was a hopeful teenager. I would like to ask what I did wrong to be so engrossed in the ennui of the world. Every single day, every passing hour, every fleeting moment.
I typed a formal letter to be sent to another company for a negotiation. It was dull as it was stiff. As it had to be. My eyes were worn out from the boredom rather than fatigue. Years of experience had made this particular assignment rather mundane. I finished in record time. Not this world's record, lest I'd actually have time in the spotlight.
I blended into the background and the darkness of the room. Only the ticking of the lonely clock accompanied me. I stared at my laptop as it stared back at me.
I opened up a folder titled "Stories" to see a list of documents show up at the screen.
I glanced at the clock.
I'm an adult now. They should be satisfied now. I've done my job. I'm allowed this brief respite, am I not?
I conversed with myself to an obvious conclusion.
I deleted the folder, and proceeded to click the icon for emptying the recycle bin. A pop-up message appeared:
"Are you sure you want to permanently delete these 32 items?"
I couldn't afford any distractions from my full-time job.
I went back to reviewing the letters and spreadsheets. A wave of lethargy washed over me. My mind was bored out of its mind.
20 years of slaving my life away later, a certain news broke out to forcefully pull me out of the monotonous life I had led. My father had fallen ill. The man whom I respected and looked up to, one who radiated an aura of majesty and resilience, was now bedridden. He was one of the few people in this world who weren't so adamant in me making any money from my hobby.
From the moment I started writing stories to the decision I made in stopping, he was supporting me all along the way.
I wasn't one who would break down in tears, but the pitiful sight of my father pierced my gray heart. It turned into a sorrowful, serene sky blue.
I took leave from my job to look after my father, whose condition worsened by the day. He was starting to mutter nonsensical sentences under his short, slight breaths. It was difficult to see him like this.
5 months. I didn't allow myself a moment's rest in the desperate hopes of my father's recovery. I had spared no pennies in getting him the best facilities a local hospital could offer. I would visit him every night after I got off work to accompany him so as not to make him feel lonely. Loneliness could make you focus more on the bad side of life, worsening the disease in some cases. I would know a thing or two about loneliness and its effects.
I was unable to make any small talk or conversation to my father who was suffering to just hold on to his consciousness. I would find myself holding the lump in my throat to keep myself from crying.
I felt so helpless. As helpless as I was before becoming your average salaryman.
I felt just as helpless as I watched his cremation.
Chants and mantras permeated as the flames engulfed him.
Then came the time to read his will and inheritance.
My ears were numb in disbelief as the solicitor read the names that would receive their share of his assets. He is gone. He is really gone. I sobbed silent tears, not wanting anyone to notice. As this world goes, however, one cannot always get what they want.
A gentle pat on the shoulder brought me back to my senses. The solicitor was calling my name. My father had left me a hefty amount of money and an old notebook tattered by time.
When I had the notebook in my hands, curiosity moved me to read them at once. My eyes couldn't help but shed tears again as I realized what it was in my hands. The notebook was filled with scrawls of a child, broken sentences with poor grammar and spellings that could hardly be made out.
As the pages turned, the handwriting became more legible, the sentences more coherent, and the spellings more impeccable. Progress was recorded within this notebook. The progress of my writing. At the end of the book was a little outline and a brief synopsis of a work I had long forgotten.
"Dear diary, tomorrow I shall leave this world to explore the infinite universes hidden to humanity. Tomorrow, a new adventure awaits. Tomorrow, I shall no longer see you, but I will keep a log on my adventures for many to read and be inspired by. Tomorrow, my life as an adventurer will begin. Dear diary, please do keep this a secret from my father, as he needn't know or worry of my (possibly) life-threatening adventure until I come back safe and sound in one piece."
It stopped there. I had forgotten the fact that I had written such a paragraph as a teenager. I had forgotten the feeling of thinking up ridiculous scenarios and worlds. I had forgotten not to be so rooted in this world.
In this world, cold hard cash makes the world go round.
I am not happy with this world and the facts and rules set by it.
So, I decided to wipe my tears and reignite my determination. This was the very first coherent paragraph I wrote and the very first world I dreamed up of. A space hunter that would venture across different fictitious galaxies to discover more about the life he was living, and more about himself. A river of ideas came rushing in. My fingers were itching to word the fragments thought up in my mind. I decided to make a world of my own.
Tomorrow, a new adventure awaits.
Thank you, Father.