Letter to a young writer in NYC

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…It’s funny you know, but it feels as though I have a better relationship with my father now he’s gone. Our relationship was always tumultuous. We loved each other as much as we disliked each other, and those are the most intriguing connections we share on earth; more so because the absence of say, romance, makes it even more questionable: why not simply cut off? Leave home and do your own thing? Just go, grow up and outgrow. Well, family is tricky. One does not just walk away. For most of my life I have believed my father to be the bane of my troubles. It was because of him I had no confidence. It was because of him I felt stupid in front of girls. Because of him, I could not form meaningful, trusting relationships with men. Because of him I ended up fat. And so on.

It’s crazy easy to project or dump your unhappiness on others. It may seem obvious that once they’re dead it’s pretty much in the bag who you’re going to blame for your miseries. But once my dad died, I felt our love was truly liberated. I felt we could now, finally, see each other as fair equals unrestrained by his addictions or my fearfulness. It sounds heartless when I say I don’t miss him, but I don’t. He comes to me so often in dreams and we are always joyous, dizzy with laughter, and finally, finally friends.

Don’t indulge in things that bring you no joy. I have learned this the hard way. Do not nurture your demons, do not feed your maladies, do not keep your sadness in goldfish bowls, or put a leash on it and take it for a walk. Don’t feed it. It’s a pack of lies. Don’t live it. Don’t love it to the point you cannot walk out. Do not mother the worst parts of you and others. Kill your darlings.

Life is short. You have heard it so many times but it is true. If there is one thing that is true, it is this: life IS short. Before you know it, you’re in your forties, living alone in a pretty apartment and feeding other people’s intrigues about your seemingly profound life. (Many people I meet say they have this image of me in sepia, smoking cigarettes in a filter, coffee black and stone cold at my side, writing my magnum opus longhand with a fountain pen) Other people’s ideas about you don’t define you. Your acts don’t define you. Your intentions alone define you. They are the core of where you come from.

You are young and there is still time for you to set upon a path that will not only feed you but make you write. You can write because it’s your gift; because it is what you must leave to the world. And not because, if you don’t it will choke you to death. They argue the latter produces better work, but if you ask me, I don’t see the point of killing yourself by trying to stay alive.

Make your peace with things. Believe you are the ultimate emotional mechanic capable of repairing any relationship; even ones with the dead. Any chance you get to lay on the grass in the open and take a nap – don’t refuse. There is a great joy in very small things. You are not a small thing. Imagine how brilliant your life is.

You are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*art by Jenny Holzer

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