Letters: B is for Behind

Anyone who knows what they want to do in life, experiences the same feeling:

It’s like something waiting for you in your closet. Or under your bed.

When I was a child, I would lay awake under the covers, knees pouring sweat, fists clenched. There was a light outside my apartment, and sometimes it would flicker. There were times when it looked more like a person walking by, rather than an electrical fault. But I would stare at it for hours, thinking something was waiting there. Coming closer. I imagined a shadow creeping over my bedroom window like mold. I didn’t know what it would do when it would get its fingers under the latch, and didn’t want to.

Night terrors are few and far between for me now, but I’m still afraid. When you’re as young as I was, your ambitions probably aren’t that high. You think about school, homework, your peers, and little else beyond. Though school was a near intolerable drag for me, and it was what my life consisted of, I still couldn’t come to terms with the idea of something coming in through the window and killing me.

Now that I’m older, I have ambitions—things I never would have dreamed of doing at that young age, because they felt impossible. But even then, I felt writing books would’ve been nice, despite not feeling like a writer. It was a goal I had no place to start at.

In junior high, I started writing again. The summer before 7th grade, I read lots of books, and wrote a half-dozen short stories. They were terrible, and I knew they were terrible, but it was all fun. Even then, I never thought of myself as a writer, just someone who wrote some things. Having that mentality pushed me towards other interests, and eventually I wasn’t writing anything at all.

I have a lot of people to thank, who were instrumental in getting my ass back in the writing desk. My friends told me where they saw potential, and ultimately, writing and sharing that writing has given me drive for more writing. It played out like a snowball effect. Nearly a decade after writing all of those terrible early stories and just about giving up, I’m having more ideas than ever. It pulls me out of bed each day—the drive to get the ideas down and share them.

But there is fear in it. And I think this fear is the reason why people never start on what they want to do.

You’re afraid people will judge you for it.

You’re afraid you’ll have wasted your time on nothing.

You’re afraid no one will ever enjoy your story.

Or maybe no one will care to begin with.

Doubt kills creative people. The world trains you to believe that working eight hours a day until you die is the only option. But what you want to do can be done, you just have to do it. It almost seems like over-simplification, but it’s the truth. You have to make it work, and it can be one of the most terrifying things you’ll ever do.

Because even though I’m not eight years old anymore, I’m still afraid—

That something is coming after me. Behind the walls. Behind the closet door. Behind every distraction and place of comfort.

It reminds me of the fact that everything can fail. It may never work out. The future may hold endless cycles of nine-to-five grind, and that will be all.

But you have to ignore this voice.

It’s the very reason why people never make it.

To defeat this monster, all you have to do is hold still. Close your eyes.

Breathe.

Then take the first step.

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