Mending Broken Narratives

I’ve been struggling with topics to write about as of late. I spend a lot of time thinking about articles, essays, and op-eds to pitch to editors, but end up discarding the vast majority of them because they’re not what I want to read and not what I want to write.

I know from experience that everyone likes to watch a trainwreck, most people like to read about tragedies, and a lot of readers love a good redemption arc. I have plenty of those stories. I’ve crashed and burned more times than I can count in struggles with relationships, trauma, mental illness, death, etc. But I don’t want to write about those things. Or at least, I don’t want to put the worst parts of myself on display on a regular basis.

I don’t think I should have to be broken in order to have a worthy story to tell. Sometimes people need to hear narratives of people who are doing okay. People who wake up in the morning, go to their jobs, come home, feed the cat, and go about their day.

Maybe the answer then is to tell a story about how everything will be okay because you, too, can make it to the other side.

What do you think? What kinds of stories grip you?


A Happiness Project

“Happiness can be found in even the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.” – Steve Kloves (screenwriter for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Funand it’s been making me think more about the nature of happiness. Probably not a surprise, given that I deliberately sought out a tome on how a woman went on an active pursuit of happiness, but I often wonder if I’m happy. It sounds strange because I don’t generally think of myself as an unhappy person, however, upon reflection, I’ve realized that I’ve pretty always had this nagging feeling of something being missing.

As a child (and if we’re being completely honest, sometimes I still do this), I used to close my eyes and think to myself, “I want to go home.” What makes this remarkable is that this behavior happened while I was in my own home. I’d be laying on the couch, sitting in my bedroom, walking into the door, and I’d have this deep-seated ache that something wasn’t right and that wherever I was, it wasn’t home. I’d spend hours listening to the same CD over and over again (Youngstown’s “Down For The Get Down,” if you’re at all curious) while reading escapist fiction (Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series, for those counting at home), dreaming of being somewhere different, doing something different, being someone different. I felt, and sometimes still do feel, as if there’s something I’m supposed to be doing, someone I’m supposed to be, and I’m just not there yet.

Let me be the first to say that this wasn’t the kind of situation where my parents were neglectful; by anyone’s standards, I was a fairly privileged kid, and I recognize that there are struggles out there way worse than not knowing who you’re supposed to be or having feelings of displacement, but it is very strange to feel like a stranger in not just your own home, but also in your body.

As an adult, I now know that at least some of these feelings were inklings of nascent depression and anxiety diagnoses to come, but underneath that, I have the feeling that I’ve never really sat down and thought about what I want from life. That isn’t to say that I’m directionless or unambitious – just that I’ve probably spent more time worrying about what my parents, friends, and family will think of me than what I think of myself.

So, to combat this sense of burned-outed-ness and to align my life with my heretofore relatively undisclosed desires, I’ll be starting a happiness project of my own. Obviously, I want to finish this book first, but after that, I’ll see what I can do to finally come home to myself.

Here’s a question for you: When do you feel your happiest? What makes you feel most like yourself?