Will J. J.

Day-to-day musings and occasional short stories for your delight.


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Remembering Me

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For the past month and a half, I’ve been feeling revived, through and through, as if I’ve awakened from a stupor I wasn’t aware of until now. Early last month, one of my closest friends, Leah, surprised me with a visit. It was wonderful to see her, and during her visit, we had a profound and honest discussion about certain events of several years ago that changed the courses of both our lives. These were memories I had not explored in years, and ones she and I had never discussed in such depth. That conversation may have been the most meaningful talk I’ve ever had, and it reawakened me to my dreams.

The following day, I pulled out one of my old journals and read through my entries from the years Leah and I had discussed the night before. I’m a diligent journaler, and my thoughts and feelings from those days were detailed across the pages in crystal clarity. Between our conversation and my journey through old journal entries, I relived the entirety of a several year span in the course of a few hours.

Every joy and every despair came rushing back to me in full force. Quite frankly, it was overwhelming, experiencing that many conflicting emotions and memories simultaneously. It felt as if I had been thrust back into the mind of my old self, except I could see both forward and backward in time from that point. I could trace the path my life would take for years to come, knowing every twist and turn in that span. Most of all, I remembered my dreams for my self and what I cared about most at that point in my life, and that’s what shook me so deeply.

For the past several years, I’ve allowed a haze to fall over my life. It’s been so gradual that I didn’t notice it happening. I’ve felt trapped within myself, slowly buried beneath a perpetual wave of monotony and routine. Day after day, week after week, month after month. It wore on me, and no matter how hard I resisted, I couldn’t fight it, because the change was too slow for me to pinpoint.

When Leah and I revisited those olden days, I realized just how much I had changed, just how much I had deviated from the person I had wanted to become. In fact, I had forgotten who I wanted to be, and that surprised me most. It felt very much like visiting a friend or relative for the first time in years, and realizing how drastically they’ve changed over the course of your absence, except that person was me.

Earlier this very week, Timehop reminded me of a thought I posted on Facebook three years ago, and it was eerily prophetic and relevant to the feelings I had been grappling with since Leah’s visit.

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Seeing that post made me realize that I knew, even then, what could happen, I just didn’t think it would happen to me. I underestimated the mind-numbing effects of time and relentless tedium. The constant grind can erode your dreams to nothing. I kept telling myself that who I really was and what I really cared about lay in my passions: Writing. Bringing to life new and interesting creations. Exploring the beauty of the universe. Expanding my mind and challenging others to do the same. Creating a better world, with whatever tools available to me. We are what we repeatedly do, and if you do not devote time to your passions, you may lose those passions. That is precisely what happened to me.

A perfect example is my writing. I told myself that I was going to write more. I kept saying it, for weeks and months, never quite taking that leap into action. I had put my head down and dedicated myself to my career, because I had so much to learn and I needed to succeed, but at the end of each day, I had no spirit left for the creative goals that kept me excited about life. Gradually, that voice reminding me to write more spoke less and less, and eventually, it left my mind completely. The one passion I held above all else, reduced to a distant memory of a forgotten goal that I stumbled upon from time to time, simply because of inaction. I didn’t work hard enough to make those passions into habits. What you make a habit becomes part of your routine, but it’s that act of finding the time on a regular basis and integrating something into your routine, that’s the hard part.

Time creeps up on you. It is both deceptively stagnant and impossibly swift. Ever since Leah came to visit, I’ve felt awake for the first time in a long time. I don’t want to go back to sleep. I want to fight for the part of myself that really means something, my passion and my excitement. It’s so easy to get comfortable, settle in, and coast. I don’t want that. Life is too short for coasting.

I want to be the man I always saw in myself, and I’m fighting to make him real. I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that I’ve become a mindless drone, that I’ve spent my life scrolling through my newsfeed instead of living. I demanded more from myself then, and it’s time I did so again. I need to be the best combination of dreamer and doer, the person who bursts with ideas and makes them reality, because I know that’s what I’m capable of. Time will pass no matter what I do, so I’m fighting for the future I dreamed of.

Thank you for this gift, Leah, for reminding me of my dreams and giving me the opportunity to change course before it’s too late. Second chances don’t come often, and I won’t waste this one. 🙂

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Inspiration and Struan!

Day 3475

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Hello friends! In my last entry, I detailed the experience of opening a present Emily had given me for our six month-iversary, and waiting to open her card because of the infinite possibility it represented. Today, I’d like to tell you about the card and the story it led me to write 🙂

Remember, this package was labeled “open when you need some inspiration”. Once I finally opened the card within, I found an invitation to take the Emily McKeown writing challenge! Uh, heck yes! There were 10 separate challenges included in the card, each labeled a number from 1 to 10. The card told me to pick a number from 1 to 10, read the instructions for that challenge only, and take no more than two minutes to brainstorm before writing, once I had my inspiration.  I picked the second challenge.

Challenge two told me to 1) go to a baby name generator online and pick a name at random, 2) look up the meaning of that name, and 3) write about a character perfectly suited to that name.

The first name that popped out was “Struan” (I had never heard of it either). When I looked up the name, I found that it meant “the flow at the point where a spring appears.” I interpreted that to mean the origin point for something that grows from there. My mind took off from there. What is the struan the origin of? What does it grow into? Two minutes later, I wrote the following story. Hope you like it! Thanks for the inspiration Emily 🙂

 

 

     Struan

     Struan left school that Friday afternoon, daydreaming down the sidewalk. Her eyes were glued to the page of a novel. Why can’t I be like one of those characters, she wondered, so adventurous, brave, and bold? She felt like none of those adjectives described her, and she’d have settled for one. It came to her then, an idea, grander and more radiant than anything she had ever known, an explosion of possibility.

Her walk may have ended when she reached her bedroom, but her mind continued to race, like an uncontrollable freight train. She liked it. Struan started jotting down her thoughts at length, none complete, but each catching a new facet of her idea before it fluttered away. Later that evening, her mom knocked on the door to let her know that dinner was ready. She found Struan scribbling away at the pages, her hand cramping, but showing no signs of slowing down. Spotting her mom, Struan’s idea came tumbling out of her like raging rapids. Her mom was excited, but anxious at the same time, for she knew her daughter had dreamed up something big. She cautioned Struan against sharing her idea until she fully understood it, but Struan’s excitement would not be contained.

The next day, despite her mother’s warnings, Struan told everyone she could about her idea, and it soon spread like wildfire. Before she knew it, acquaintances were stopping her in the hall to tell her abut this crazy, revolutionary idea they had heard, not realizing she was its mother. Like a runaway train, it matters little where it began, and far more where it is headed.

Upon arrival at school on the third day, Struan’s excitement had abated, giving way to clear minded observation. What she witnessed was sobering. This idea, so pure and hopeful in its infancy, had grown beyond her power to control, and in its expansion, the purity had been lost. What once was clear and shining had become murky and twisted. The whispers she heard on that day were different than those relayed only a day before, malignant. Like a grand case of telephone, the idea had been changed from person to person, both out of misunderstanding and self-interest, and what remained was only a shade of what she had originally hoped.

No, she cried, and she struck back defiantly, struggling to clarify and reshape. She grabbed her classmates by the arms and screamed, striving valiantly to fight the tide, but she quickly realized that it was too late. Her idea was not hers any longer. She could only watch as the idea ran its course, part of her hoping it would die, but another part longing to watch it grow. She was reminded of Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite as an instrument of peace, only to see it used as a means to further war.

On the walk home from school that day, Struan’s focus was flooded by thoughts once again, unable to distract herself from the idea she had unleashed. Only when she tripped off a curb did she realize how mindlessly she had been striding. Picking herself up, she found herself in the middle of an empty intersection. A swift breeze pushed at her back. She looked in all four directions, each one taking her down a different path. It occurred to her suddenly that, while her dream had failed, she had succeeded. She had become adventurous, brave, and even bold, but at what cost? What would her idea lead to?