If there's one thing I've become certain about in my adulthood, it's that I will never be certain about anything. This is a truth that I handle better on some days than others.
Our society does this confusing thing to us as we grow up where it presents black-and-white "facts" as reality. Think about it: nearly everything pits good versus evil when you are young. In movies, there is a hero and a villain. On TV shows, there is a good guy and a bad guy. At school, there are right ways to behave and wrong ways to behave. And at home, there's a nice way to talk to people and a mean way. Rarely is there anything in between.
Obviously, I see the practical reasons why this binary construct must exist. The brains of children are not complex enough to view the many gradations of truth. Telling a child that lying is sometimes okay is like handing a loaded gun to a lunatic. Sure, you might explain what to do and what not to do, but that gun is probably going off eventually. Better to hide the gun.
But this presents a particular problem for critical thinkers as we reach adulthood: we struggle with our expectations of static, consistent feedback from our actions. We're told if we get good grades all the way through college, we will get a good job. If we treat people with kindness, others will treat us that way. And we hold the falsity to be self-evident that dotting all of our "i"s and crossing all of our "t"s will eventually lead us to a plateau -- where we've "made it" in life. This simply isn't reality.
Reality is a world where the guy that speeds past you and cuts you off sometimes makes the yellow light instead of you. It's a world where lazy, unmotivated people can come up with a single idea that makes them fabulously wealthy while you work 10 hours a day to live paycheck-to-paycheck. But even these are not certainties.
There is no map in the corner of your screen telling you where the end of each level is going to be. There's no statistical analysis that can optimize the decisions you make. There's just moving forward into a future shrouded by the leaves of trees along your journey, and there's just doing the best you can to make choices that don't hurt anyone.
This realization used to frighten me. On some days -- and regarding certain circumstances -- it still does. But I've also accepted that this complete and utter freedom has the best kind of utility for an artist: inspiration.
Writing allows you to play out every situation, every uneasy fear, and every "what if" possible. You can fuck up, and the worst consequence is tearing up the page and starting over. But the best kind of writing is the kind where you explore these uncertainties, these arbitrary decisions we make, and you make readers realize they are not alone in feeling the way they do.
I think that deep down, we all believed that one day we would "feel" like adults. That never happens, as far as I can see. Unless you have a blessed ignorance or cursed apathy about existence, most of us get the sense that we aren't "ready" for a lot that comes our way. I called someone this past week and told them I was refinancing my condo. "Refinancing" felt like such an adult word. How could they let a child like me "refinance" a condo? Wait, how did they let this same child buy a condo? But the irony is that the very people who approved my loan, signed off on the deed, and collect my property taxes all have moments where they feel like children in grown peoples' clothes. We are all babies playing dress-up and house. And sometimes it's harder than we expected.
But that makes writing so much more vital (and reading, too). It allows us to wear another's shoes, or glasses, or brazier, or dominatrix costume, or whatever. We can play out our hopes, our dreams, and best of all, our fears -- all for an audience to relate to. Sometimes it leads to a sense of what we really want. Other times it just stirs us up even more. But it offers catharsis; it offers a sounding board. It has led to some of the best literature, film, and music of all time. So instead of feeling overwhelmed by this uncertainty, I try to turn it into new worlds.
Imagine a world where Poe's darkness had no need for an outlet, where Beethoven was just a deaf guy content without challenging himself, or where David Lynch decided to keep his red-room to himself.
How terribly ordinary the "certain" life would be.
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