I’ll call it The Crippling Fear of Leaving No Legacy. How does that sound? Not strong enough to make an impact, I know. Maybe One Million Invisible Earthquakes. That’s slightly snappier. It could start with some boxed Ikea intro like, “Every day, there are approximately 32 earthquakes around the world [I should probably look up that stat before I make it the first sentence]. Almost always, the shiftings, givings-way, and collapses of the Earth’s crust go completely unnoticed, excepting a few needles of a few machines that hop and mark one more rumble on a graph. This is the story of my million invisible earthquakes–My ground-breaking, jolting, foundation-rattling, unnoticed and unrecognized journey away from ‘okay.'”
Perhaps I should keep away from first person, though. I read an interview with an author who said that most bad novels are written in first person. Do I even want to write a memoir anyways? Perhaps I should just keep blogging and keep my three readers happy.
Heres the thing. I want to write a novel. A great novel. One that changes everything tastefully and gracefully. I want to be spotted in cafés in Provence and rumored to have died on multiple occasions in a variety of styles. I want to create legend, but I’m very aware that what I have here is quirky, familiar dialogue. The shit you hear when some girl does a voiceover during the introduction of a rom com right before that record-scratch audio clip that precedes some minor complication, a camera swing, and the premise for a mediocre plot. That kind of stuff doesn’t build legends.
Though it sounds gag-inducing, I’ve always anticipated greatness. During college applications, I wrote a resume that was three pages long and designed to grow into the Moby Dick of excellence. How I Became An Author, Artist, CEO, Nonprofit-Starter, Teacher, Politician, and God.
Unfortunately, I’m finding that not only do I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life, I also have no idea how I’m going to do it. Undoubtedly, I peaked senior year of high school. Then I entered the big bad “real world” of Harvard College and went to polo practice as my earthquakes started silently rumbling. Things that defined me–interests, drives, relationships, personality traits– revealed more fault lines than I ever could have anticipated. Everything gently collapsed, and the pieces are still gently floating to the ground, dust settling on my city, catching the light and fogging up my horizon. When the earth quakes are silent, you see, no one sees the fall. No one digs through your rubble. Even you don’t give a damn because Look! You’re still standing! You’re smiling, even!
In the immutable restlessness of an undefinable ache, you continue your days and weeks until someone or something knocks on the front door of your mind and asks if anyone’s home. As you search desperately for some cogent set of honest and functional pieces, you realize that the high school achiever isn’t there anymore and all you have is an index of expectations and a dictionary of observational knowledge to undersatisfy them. No one is home–only a storage space of cured memories, jarred emotions, and bottled, aged dreams that all seem to be spoiling.
I am not who I thought I’d be, but what kind of pride is it to assume that I deserve to write those words? “I’m not who I thought I’d be…” Who is? How could I be? how could I ever have anticipated where I’d go and if I’d follow that path? There is no uniqueness there.
That’s an interesting discovery I’ve made since exploring this diagnosis I’ve earned of anxiety. The more I research, the more I find patterns of thought and behavior I completely identify with–thoughts like “I’m not good enough for this,””How can I make it through the day?” or “Anyone could do this… Then why am I still shaking?” There is great comfort in knowing that the darkness doesn’t only touch you… That there are others in that shadow. These moments of connectedness are often minimized, however, by a sense of overdramatic and naive provinciality.
I’m not the first person to have unfounded fears. I didn’t invent travel nervousness. If there is a romantic sadness about anxiety, it fits in the rom com I was writing the voiceover to earlier. Emotional, yes. Difficult, hell yes. Unique and poignant? Not quite.
But, just like any post about anxiety I’ve seen, I must conventionally end on a happy note. I must remind myself that it isn’t my job to tell a fantastical story. It is my job to tell the story I know, and to tell it well. Even if I write fiction, I write with my pen, at my desk, drawing on words and voices and echoes in my mind.
One Million Invisible Earthquakes won’t ever shake the world and flatten mountains. They are invisible. They are unimportant. But they are the story I know I can tell.