Right now my wife is reading this book entitled What Alice Forgot, where the protagonist gets a concussion and forgets the last decade of her life. Everything that seems recent to her is ancient history to her friends and family. She has children she doesn’t know and a husband she loves who wants to divorce her because of history she can’t recall. The story unfolds as she learns more about the choices and events of her last decade, and the past “her” does not like the present “her”. (I’m in the middle of another novel, and since I read slowly, I’m perfectly happy with my wife relaying the story after dinner each night.)
The story is timely for us because tomorrow we celebrate our ten year anniversary, and my wife asked me the other night: if I did lose my memory that way, would the past me look at my current life with approval or scorn?
Ten years ago, we were on the cusp of getting married; excited for the event, tired of the planning, and looking forward to our lives together. Career wise, I was in transition, having been laid off twice in the same year, and seriously questioning the direction of my “day job” while still trying to make a go of writing. It was during this period that I finished the rough draft of ATT but knew I was still a long way from getting published. I was on the right track though – I had made the time for writing in my life, and despite the distractions and life events, was hitting a decent stride, week-to-month-to-year.
A decade before that, I was just out of school; enjoying my freedom, free time, and a decent paycheck. I went out a lot. I wrote a little. I could waste six hours at a stretch playing Civilization. I sat on the couch and watched a lot of bad movies. And I listened to music.
Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was one of my regulars, and at some point, one of their lyrics resonated with me:
Ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun.
So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking.
Racing around to come up behind you again.
I realized that I didn’t want to wake up in my thirties, never having started the novel I kept putting off. I had to stop wasting time (or waste less of it), hunker down and make time for writing. So I got up earlier. I wrote when I was most alert. I dreamed and sketched and hammered and cropped. During that first ten years I succeeded at a stressful day job but probably stayed a couple years longer than I should have. But I met my wife in those last two years, so it was worth it.
I wandered through a couple of jobs, trying to define a career I was second-guessing. I pursued creative ideas that were fun, but taxing, and ultimately they took me away from my writing—which was what I really wanted to do. My wife and I got married, bought a house, enjoyed our time for a couple of years, then dove into parenthood with the births of our two daughters.
Today I’m grateful for steady, manageable work and a schedule that allows for time with my family, and time for my writing as well. It’s not perfect. There are things that piss me off on any given day, but all things considered, it’s pretty damn good.
So to answer my wife’s question, I think past me might poke at some of my choices along the way, but ultimately, those choices led me to a pretty good situation (knock on wood). While I don’t yet have a thriving, full-time writing career, I’m writing nonetheless—and I think that’s more important. I’m writing a tale that inspires me, and hopefully I’m setting an example for my daughters, showing them something I produced through hard work, and that I’m proud of. Maybe that prods them to find not only the thing that inspires them, but also the courage to pursue it. And maybe it’ll make their kids boatloads of money long after my death. That would be cool too.