Here is a photograph from my high school graduation, the day I realized I could get out of the mountains and go anywhere I wanted. (That’s me in black on the left, clearly I’m ecstatic; my beautiful best friend in high school, Esme, is in the white dress on the right.):
I left the Catskill Mountains and I never went back, except to visit. And except in my writing—Dani Noir takes place there; Imaginary Girls takes place there; and the secret novel I’m writing now also takes place there.
I wanted to be a writer then. But I had no idea—absolutely none—how hard it would be to make that come true, how many years it would take—and what it would take out of me to keep trying until I pushed through. No clue. None.
Do you ever look around at the life you chose? (Or maybe you think it chose you?) I chose mine, deliberately yet sloppily, naively yet with stubborn determination. Ever since I was a teenager, I wanted to be a published author, and sacrifices to get me there be damned.
Maybe this happens when you get over [age that will not be mentioned]. Maybe then you look around and think, Is THIS where I was trying to get to?
Everything I’m doing is what I wanted it to be, and yet entirely different from how I thought it would turn out. It’s so strange. No babies. No house. No dayjob career. And all of that is okay with me. I have deep love. And these degrees I couldn’t afford. And city living. And getting books published. And making a career of being a writer, or starting to. That was my plan.
I can’t deny that I’m struggling still—and the depths of my insecurities are so low, I shouldn’t put them in words on this blog—but it occurs to me that I am who I set out to be. When Imaginary Girls comes out next year, I think I will be. I think that’s the moment it will feel real to me. Maybe I’ll feel good about all my choices then.
Here I am, age 17 I think, on a school field trip to a museum in New York City, where I vowed to one day move. We snuck out to a playground nearby and tried the slide. I’m on the right, sunglasses and thrift-store man’s vest and jacket on, my whole life ahead of me:
Would I do it again the way I did? Probably not.
I’d do it differently—but I’d still do it.
But I’m here now. With my soulmate, doing what I wanted in the city where I thought I wanted to live since I was five. How odd.