Was There a Misstep Along the Way?

Wanted

I know I promised the Ichabod Brooks blurbs on a post that most people don’t read over the weekend.  Figure I have over a month to get that done, so I can get this brain worm out of my head.

So, I’m 37 and I recently considered all of the things that happened over the course of that time.  Many ideas have come and gone, so few have reached completion.  Plenty of games have been played and workdays have been slogged through.  If lucky, I could live for another 37, which means many more events and ideas can occur.  Yet, I wonder if there’s a point and also if the phrasing I had in the shower will return to me.  Won’t bet on that last part.

For a while, I’ve wondered if humans simply waste most of their lives.  I should say most humans because there are a handful that get to live out their dreams.  Others make the best of their situation and still find happiness, which is the way to go.  Yet, I’m seeing more and more people who simply hate where they are.  I could list the problems, but it really boils down to something in their life sucks and they can’t find a way to change it.  This is where somebody will step in to say ‘only you can change your life’.  Very few people can simply quit their job and go into something else or cast the sources of negativity away because some of those are family.  That phrase is actually fairly painful because it means the situation is entirely that person’s fault.  For as much control as we have over our lives, the actions of others can impact us without us wanting them too.  For example, a seasonal staffer steals money at a retail job and the management decides to let all of the seasonal staff go because everyone shared shifts at some point.  That happened to me once and it was rather deflating.

Many questions turn up when I think about this:

  • Did I not try hard enough?
  • Did I miss an opportunity?
  • Was I lazy?
  • Was I never supposed to try this in the first place?
  • Should I have or have not listened to that person?
  • AND THE KICKER:  Do I even remember what it’s like to be totally happy?

As I watch sales trickle in even on the new book and struggle to think of promotional abilities, my mind drifts to how I spent my life.  10 years writing, editing, and submitting thinking I’d eventually get a bite.  Nothing happened.  4.5 years living in Florida, which feels like a waste outside of the friends I made.  Most of what I learned in elementary school has been forgotten because I had no use for it.  College courses I took for graduation requirements are vague at best.  Just how much of what I’ve done in my life has gone to waste and I simply did it because I had to.  There wasn’t a connection to my endgame, which many people have tried to talk me out of.  Even today, I get weekly inquires about when I’m going to grow up.

And there we also have it.  People are very quick to tell others to put away the ‘childish things’ and act like an adult.  If the fun stuff isn’t allowed when you grow up then what’s the fucking point?  Does society require that an adult be miserable and never shed the illusion of maturity?  Yeah, I said illusion because deep-down every person wants to go back to having fun like a kid.  They want a day to lounge or a chance to grab the dream they never pursued.  Is that what living is?  Surviving and letting the regrets gnaw away at you until you either die, go insane, or make a move for the dream?

37 years!  That’s how long I’ve been around and it’s only been the last 4 that I’ve put any real progress on my dream.  Legends of Windemere has been in outline form for nearly a decade and 12 of the books weren’t even written prior to 2012.  This isn’t counting Bedlam and Ichabod Brooks.  What the hell could I have accomplished if I was allowed to charge into this world straight out of college?  Well, there probably wasn’t a chance because e-readers and indie publishing wasn’t around.  Yet, even when it started, I was convinced by others that it was a fad that I shouldn’t bother with.

Why did I listen to them?  Because they were older than me, so I assumed they knew better since they’ve been around.  We’ve all done that when younger.  Then we hit the same age and realize those people are full of more shit than a latrine.  You get there and suddenly you don’t feel wiser.  You feel tired, battered, and end up staring at your past that is filled with only slightly more than nothing.  You pick out the times you were too afraid or unconfident to do what you really wanted.  A trend of people repeatedly talking you down from a ledge turns up too.  They think you’re going to go splat on the ground, but they don’t see that you’ve got your wings ready.  Their words make it that you forget you can fly if even for a little bit.

Now, this post has turned into a finger-pointing thing, but the truth between the lines is that I think people waste their lives.  They listen to the wrong advice because it sounds good and safe.  They believe that their chance for the dream will always come until it’s clear that it will never happen.  I think all of us are guilty of this.  We depend on people to help guide us, but nobody truly knows what we want and need except for us.  Yet, we still listen and deny ourselves the dream.

It’s almost like society depends on people giving up on what they really want.  Only so many people can stand at the top for some reason.  I wonder what life would be like if we saw the world less like a jagged peak and more like a large plateau.  Even better if there was room in this world for everyone to be what they dreamed of being.  Imagine a world like that.  Wonder how many problems would be solved if people were allowed the right to be happy with their dreams.

(Think this post got really far away from me.)

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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33 Responses to Was There a Misstep Along the Way?

  1. The nice part of all these questions at 37 is you will have some time to get the answers. This is my 76th year and I think I have uncovered each stone. I have found wasted time to be a relative term. Sometimes what looks like wasted time is really learning time. This post does inspire some deep thinking. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. N. N. Light says:

    Way to go, Charles, for airing what we’ve all felt at one point or another. So much truth and things to think on.

    I got a degree in creative writing but when I graduated, my “helpful” family told me I needed to grow up and get a real job. So, I went into business/banking. Truth be told, I regret listening to their helpful advice and didn’t start writing until 22 years later.

    Want to hear a funny? My husband was a successful chef for years and when he quit to be a numismatist, his brother said, “That’s great! Now you have a “real” job.” We guess being a 5 star chef catering to lawyers, celebrities and society’s finest wasn’t a grown-up job. lol!

    I’m one of those people you describe as finding happiness. I’m not going to apologize but hope you will be able to find some kind of happiness. I know the stress is horrific for you and you’re under a great deal of pressure. My advice: do what you enjoy, whether it’s video games, watching cartoons, eating something high is calories. Find a moment of happiness and be in the moment.

    And to all the people telling you to grow up and be an adult, shake your head and flip ’em off.

    All this talk reminds me of that song by The Pursuit of Happiness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFxivmjW34o

    😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks. I got a degree in Writing Arts too, which my family never spoke about. It wasn’t until years later that I learned some people thought it was a mistake and hoped I’d grow out of the author phase. The advice I listened to was that I could work a ‘real job’ and the writing would happen naturally. Not sure why I believed that since it feels like nothing can be gained without working for it.

      They didn’t consider a being a chef having a real job? I can’t wrap my head around that. How do they think you get food at a restaurant? Some high school senior that needs to make some car payments?

      The happiness thing is baffling to me these days. It’s also a little worrisome because it’s starting to become a foreign sensation. It brings anxiety with it since there is a ‘tradition’ around here that a happy Charles needs to be brought back to Earth immediately. So, it’s like I see it as a sign that I’m about to get smacked back down and can’t enjoy it. This falls into that waste of time issue too. Is relaxing and being happy with a non-work thing really a waste like some people seem to believe?

      Like

    • L. Marie says:

      I can’t imagine someone telling a chef that his job wasn’t “a real job.” 😦 Who doesn’t appreciate food cooked well????? I am not a good cook, so I definitely appreciate those who have contributed to the culinary arts.

      Like

  3. L. Marie says:

    “Imagine a world like that. Wonder how many problems would be solved if people were allowed the right to be happy with their dreams.” Well said, Charles. I have two degrees in writing. As an undergraduate I heard, “You need to major in something useful.” I’ve been a full-time editor and a writer. I have found my degrees very useful. So thanks for your opinion, detractors!

    In grad school, many of my fellow writing majors were lawyers, doctors, bankers, etc.–people with parent-pleasing degrees who were simply tired of ignoring their desire to write books for kids. We were all so giddy, having discovered a community of like-minded people.

    Misery loves company. Some people are quick to tell someone else to give up a dream because he or she has already done so, in favor of “reality.” Yet I’ll bet those people are the ones who play video games or watch movies or TV shows–the products of imagination.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember being told that I had to double major with something else. It was usually teaching too, but the program was so hard to get into. I think I had a few minors that I dropped when I lost interest though. Are minors even a thing these days?

      I remember the parent-pleasing degrees. Very popular in my family of lawyers, teachers, and doctors. No bankers though. Good point on misery loving company, but I think some people take it the wrong way. They don’t try to commiserate with others. Instead, they attempt to drag happier people into their misery under the guise of being a realist or something.

      Liked by 1 person

      • L. Marie says:

        At one point I worked for the Bar Association and a very huge law firm in Chicago. I was going to go to law school. But everyone seemed so overworked and underappreciated. So I took an editorial job. Never looked back.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve noticed a lot of people who went into law get burnt out quickly. Think a lot of them start writing crime novels too. That or they find some artistic career path, which feels like the opposite of law.

        Like

  4. kirizar says:

    Charles, it sounds as though you’ve hit that rut where expectation of what life ‘should be’ meets life as it ‘actually is.’ That rut is only one in a long line of hazards land-mining your path. (Here I am, at the advanced age-of-older-than-dirt trying to tell you something everyone has to figure out for themselves.)

    The only advice I ever got (and truly appreciated) on the subject of happiness vis a vis my life situation was this: “Maybe aiming for ‘Happiness’ is reaching too high.” It was said with gentle recognition that my situation wasn’t and isn’t conducive to actually being happy. Setting an unattainable goal was making me miserable. I am actually happier not trying to achieve it. Now, when happiness strikes, I can take pleasure in its momentary existence without mourning its loss.

    If writing makes you happy, regardless of success, recognition, or financial gain, then screw anyone else’s opinion that it isn’t worthwhile.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One challenge here is that it’s hard to talk about specifics in my situation. Some of the sources of my stress lurk around my blog and come at me on this side of the computer when they read stuff like this. All I can really say is that it’s hard to be happy and do what makes me happy when I spend more time defending being happy.

      It is a shame that we live in a society where aiming for happiness can be seen as too lofty. That really should be a key component of living, especially with so many widespread mental conditions. Heck, maybe so many people being miserable and stressed is why things like depression are so common. Guess the other question is: ‘who is to say that my goals are unattainable?’ Other people have made their living off being an author, so it’s certainly possible with enough work and support. That second thing is the kicker too.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m right there with you currently. I’m big on stability and keeping things from going off the deep end. We’ve put off trips, medical issues, and more for a time when we had the funds. I’ve needed to see a dentist for two years, to give you an idea. The thing is, every year we get older. Time slips away, and I can’t do some of the things I once could. My employment is just a device to keep the wolf at bay, not a source of pride anymore. I’d like to write, but can only squeeze in an hour here and there. Still, we find happiness in small things and places. A wonderful review, or a new puppy makes me pause to appreciate it all now. I like to savor date night, even if it’s pizza and beer, because there were times we shook out coins to buy a bag of rice to feed the kids. For me, I try to remind myself to savor the small things. We’re never going to live like rockstars, but they probably have their own problems.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The dentist thing was me for a while until one broke. That seemed to start everything rolling. Almost like we’re always saving up for an emergency.

      Can definitely see how a new puppy (or two) and a great review can help bring some happiness. Be nice to get a date night too, but that usually doesn’t happen. I’ve been told that the time will come when my son is older and out of the house. This has actually led me to realize I come from a family that didn’t really do much until retirement or the kids were adults. Is that common or just my family?

      Good point on the rockstar thing. I’d aim more for a mid-range author who at least makes enough to live off of and can keep writing. That’s more of a goal than fame and a TV show/movie that overshadows the original work. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • I need my income to support my writing habit. Unfortunately, work is prohibiting me from getting to the final edits of Enhanced League. Vicious circle.

        Like

      • Lived that for 10 years. Retail was a killer because it meant I didn’t even have weekends. The teaching gig was better with giving me time to write, but it also meant less money, especially during the breaks.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Jean Lamb says:

    I’m 62 and I’m just now really working on my dream! Four books up and working on number five…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. twixie13 says:

    I often feel like I’ve wasted time in my life (I’m 29, at this point). I have a degree in Illustration, and have been feeling the pressure to get a “real” (or at least paying) job. Student loans definitely help with that. The issue with getting a “real” job is when they just outright don’t want you. I mainly work on art and writing to keep myself from completely snapping, and have seen just how difficult it is to convince people that paying me money is a good idea. But even with all of the demoralizing shit wrapped up in it, I still keep going with the art/writing thing. It’s that thing that keeps me sane and at least somewhat happy, in spite of whatever pain stems from it. Granted, I may have something of a masochistic streak, as well. Plus, I feel that if I quit, that will justify my Drawing instructor’s comments in Freshman year, about how I should have quit her class (despite it being one of the most important for my major). Or that comment about how I was right to skip the trip to New York City for Portfolio Day in that last year of college. I know that my stuff wasn’t quite to the point of everyone else’s, but telling a student to quit? Dick move, there.

    Like

    • Student loans are the bane of the younger generations at this point. I was lucky enough to avoid them, but most of my friends are still in debt. How can people expect anyone to survive or succeed with that albatross around their neck?

      Think most artists develop a masochistic streak. Authors get a sadistic one too if they write stories where characters can suffer. Fully agree that the teacher pulled a dick move. The hell is the point of that crap. Pretty sure kids get enough of it from family and peers.

      You mention when a job outright doesn’t want you and that brings back some rough memories. Being asked why I can’t get a real job in the same week that I was rejected for one because I didn’t ‘fit’ what they were looking for. You don’t have an answer for why you didn’t get anywhere because god forbid they tell you. Always hated that aspect of job hunting because I never knew if I kept making the same mistake and nobody thought I was worth telling.

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  8. I think the world would be a better place if people felt they had the right to reach for their dreams, and to let the child inside of them out to play on a regular basis.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I hear you, Charles. I think every writer feels those things. Was there something else we should have or could have done to advance our careers? But at the risk of sounding insanely cheerful, you could also look at how many books you have in print, and realize how many other people only think about writing and never even put their fingers on a keyboard. You’ve accomplished a lot.

    Like

    • The thing I worry about is that the victories are more ephemeral than I realize. At least they won’t build up to anything bigger because of a misstep on my part. It doesn’t help that I feel bombarded by negativity directed toward my decision. This started in 2012 and it hasn’t stopped to this day, which wears a person day.

      Like

  10. Bookwraiths says:

    Having already survived my mid-life crisis, my solution to the shit we call real life is to be “content” with this moment, enjoy it because it won’t come again, and savor every second. Sure, I have times of childlike happiness, periods when the joy of youth returns, but they just don’t last anymore. But contentment . . . now, that is easier for me to find and maintain. Simple things like watching my children laughs, enjoying a movie with my kids, or reading a really good book helps me find contentment. It doesn’t plaster over the problems, but it soothes them. Helps me survive another day without losing my mind or doing something stupid which will make matters worse. Contentment. That is where it is a for me personally.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of built up anger at the unfairness of life, the lack of empathy for my dreams (my wife is my issue), and some majorly bad choices when I was younger that I’m still paying for (Literally, paying for. I’m a lawyer and owe more on my student loans than my house. And, yeah, it sucks, especially since I hate being a damn attorney.), but I try to work around them. Hard to do at times, since I have to pick and choose when to fight for what I want and when I have to raise my hands up in surrender. But I’m learning what is a good balance for me. Because, let’s face it, life is all about balance. Balancing work with family. Balancing your dreams against the dreams of your loved ones. Balancing expectations against reality. Balancing your wants against your needs. It’s damn tough and horribly depressing at times. But we all do it everyday I truly believe.

    As always, I wish the best for you, Charles. You are a class guy, a talented writer, and a person I respect for chasing your dream. I offer my idea of contentment only as an illustration, not as an answer. Hell, I don’t know if I believe in universal answers to questions anymore. But keep on searching for the answer that is right for you, brother. We are all pulling for you!

    Like

    • Sorry to hear about the loans and lack of empathy. I’ve got the second one, which I guess is well documented on this blog. Balance and contentment are good things to shoot for. Yet, it also reminds me of all the people who tell me to aim for stability and then keep my head down. I’ve seen a lot of people do that and then they retire to just kind of wander around in a daze. Still, contentment might be easier than happiness and could even be the stepping stone. Kind of like starting in the mail room of a business. You work your way up.

      I’m curious about something. I have run into and known many lawyers who grow to hate that career path. Is that a common problem? If so, I wonder what it is about law that wears people down so quickly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bookwraiths says:

        All of my law school friends also hate being attorneys. (Well, except for one guy, but he is just one of those people who adores being perceived as important.) Several of these people are in lucrative private practices, three are judges, and a few are in federal/state legal positions, and all are what society would call successful from a financial standpoint. But everyone wishes they had done something different for a living.

        The reason I hear most from them regarding their unhappiness and disgust with our career is the unrealistic expectations people have about the legal system (i.e. I’m going to be a millionaire after having a minor accident; there should be no consequences for their decision to break the law because I hired X attorney; or my lawyer will kill my ex-husband/wife for me and take all his/her money, so I never have to work again). Added to this client problem you have the constant politics of being an attorney (Judges/DAs are politicians first and foremost, so if a politically appointed position or an elected one is something you aspire to then you have to constantly play politics.), the endless need to promote yourself on tv, social media, et cetera (There are far too many lawyers in the USA, so you have to get noticed to succeed.), the huge student loan debt, the long hours, the need to juggle hundreds of clients, deadlines, and court dates, and the adversarial posture and near universal cut throat nature of the legal field where you can trust no one … ever — even your supposed friends.

        Honestly, being an attorney is not a glamorous job at all. I realized that during my last year of law school when a famous lawyer from Atlanta, Ga came to speak to one of my classes and said (I quote loosely), “I love the law. It has made me rich, famous, and opened my pathway to a career in politics. Yes, I have been divorced three times, have almost no relationship with my children, and don’t have any real friends, but I love the law. She is a harsh mistress, but if you students are willing to sacrifice your life to her she will take you places.” At this point, I thought to myself “OMFG what the f*!k have I gotten myself into.” And my intuition was so spot on. 🙂

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      • Keep thinking how TV and movies make being a lawyer look so nice. You tend to forget that when one lawyer wins, the other one loses. Not to mention the fees that come after the Law & Order credits. Definitely sounds like a meat grinder that only a few people can survive. Though I’m not sure what to think about that Atlanta guy. Sure, he survived, but he seems a little nuts to me. Kind of like saying you won a war, but now you’re stuck on an island with no arms and only a lifetime supply of hummus to survive on. Then again, I’m sure such a person would find a way to sue somebody for something in that situation. 😛 We really should listen to our intuition more often. That would have saved me from a few disasters too. *cough* Florida! *cough*

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Hugs. I so identify. I wasted a lot of years not doing what I wanted because I had responsibilities. Yes, I did but there was room for my dreams. There still is. My children are grown now and starting to make their own way in life. I know things have been said to them to sway them from their dreams and I tell them, don’t give up. Do what you want to do. It will make you happy. Don’t get stuck in a rut with regrets like I did. I’m trying to make up for lost time now.

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  12. Pingback: Writing 5/22/17 – Where Genres Collide

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