Another breath, another hour, another day, gone. I thought time was supposed to slow down as you grew up. No. It slips through your fingers like sand. Time treads at its own pace. It doesn't care whether you're jogging beside it or gasping for air miles back. I've been choking on Times dust for a while now. Twenty-four nothing to show.
Wedged between the cushions of my hammy down couch, I stare numbly at the ceiling. Couches were made to feel comfortable and peaceful, yet here I lay drowning in insecurity.
My boyfriend and I broke up today. Nothing serious, we just both started drifting. I also, was fired from my job last week. Not an important job, a bartender at Applebee's. The culprit was my "lack of motivation." Lack of motivation. Three words that adequately sum up the entirety of my year. The problem wasn't that I lacked ambition or dreams. It was that I HAD dreams and failed to reach them. That's what crushed me, numbed me.
What am I without accomplishments? A failure. I’m a failure. Just another adult who grew up and coasted. My 10-year-old self would be heartbroken, I couldn't look her in the eyes.
I abruptly sit up.
What am I thinking? I'm 23, not 70! I need to snap out of this, for real this time!
A wave of doubt floods my chest as I recall the past attempts to "get my life together."
Doesn’t matter. I have to change. I WILL change.
I bounce off the couch, bolting towards the kitchen counter. I open the junk drawer and rummage to the back.
Feeling a smooth surface, I yank out a crimson red notebook. It was a Christmas gift from Mom. Scribbled inside is “For my Writer.”
Now mid-July, I’d only used a page and a half. A few grocery lists and a recipe for raisin cookies.
Tearing out the grocery lists I grab a pen.
I scribble down a simple “To-Do” list.
1. Clean up living room.
2. Wash dish pile.
3. Take shower
Just as I’m about to write “4” I stop myself.
Take it slow, you always overload yourself and end up quitting. Just do the three tasks. Three tasks…Do I WANT to clean my fowl apartment? No. I want to binge my favorite Netflix show and ignore everything for today.
But I can already feel it. A little voice inside me, praising my effort. Proud of me. That voice is exhilarating.
So, I clean the living room. I pick up the takeout garbage, piled on top of the coffee table. I vacuum the dirty floor. Lastly, I hurl a mountain of dirty clothes, into the washer.
I venture to the kitchen. The kitchen is harder. Looking at it makes me sick, no, sad. It’s not like I’m a clean-freak or anything. It just hurts seeing the overflow of grimy dishes, fruit rotting, and open chip bags scattered on the floor. It seems like the ultimate symbol of my failure. Regardless, I clean it. I then take a long hot shower to reward myself.
Why has it been so hard to take showers? It feels amazing. Calming.
Check, check, check. Day one is complete.
Day two and I grab the notebook.
2. Do laundry
3. Take shower
4. Write for an hour
That last one stings more than the first three. Writing. That was the dream, well, being an author, that is. Not just an author, anyone can be an author. I dreamed of being an esteemed novelist. That’s what I want. That’s what I need.
Check, check, check, check. I complete the day's work. I then complete the weeks work.
It’s been a month now and the “To-Do” list seems to have grown with my stamina. The little voice inside my head has grown too. Getting bolder. It feels good to have my things in order. My apartment, my schedule, my work. It feels good, being in control.
Three more months have flown by. The voice is getting less and less satisfied with simple accomplishments. It needs more. More work, more productivity. I am utterly dependent on my schedule. There is a place for everything, and everything must be productive. This has resulted in cutting out things that aren’t productive. A few weeks ago my ex-boyfriend called. He apologized for his past failures. He wanted to try again, try to make things better than they had been. I don’t know why, but the word “relationship” sounded less appealing than it had before. I said no. We haven’t spoken in…well I don’t know how long.
I’m getting a lot done, especially writing. I’ve become extremely productive. This has resulted in finishing my first novel. It’s not perfect, it’s honestly barely tolerable. However, with more time and more discipline it will improve. It must improve, if I want to become anything.
I’m thirty now. Two years ago, I moved into a penthouse in LA. Over the past six years I’ve published a total of five novels, each making an appearance on “New York Best Sellers.” I’ve done a multitude of book tours, interviews, and conferences.
“Bing.” A notification lights up my computer as I lay beside it in bed. I know, I know, it’s a bad habit, but it calms me down when I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept well in a while.
It’s a text message.
Her name catches me off guard as I stare blankly at the screen.
Gosh I haven’t talked to her in a long time.
Guilt sinks into me as I open the message.
“Remember this old thing?” There's a selfie of her sitting on a hammy down couch. The one I gave to her when I moved. I chuckle, first at seeing my mom attempt a selfie, and second, at the memory of that ratty old couch.
I remember that couch. I remember that day, the day it all began. The notebook, the desperation. I remember the laziness and nihilism.
I’ve fought so hard to escape the grips of my old life, but what have I become? Was THIS truly the only alternative? Sprinting. Sprinting fueled by a fear of failure. What even is failure? Not accomplishing my “dreams?”
Well, I accomplished my dreams. Is this what it feels like, success? Drowning in work. Consumed only by myself, all other relationships broken and scattered. Dictated by a never satisfied ego that screams “work harder, run faster, be better.” I still feel insecure, I still feel like I’m not good enough. This is not success, this is tyranny. Maybe there’s something higher out there than accomplishing your dreams, something richer.
Time treads fast, but sprinting to keep up with it doesn’t slow Time down. Maybe I need to slow down. Maybe I need to breathe.