It was a time when I thought every bridge had been burned and every world I’d ever inhabited had been laid to waste. The thing about bridges, even burned ones, is that they take us some place different. We spend so much time looking back across these expanses and considering where we‘ve been. We think about what could have been done differently, or mistakenly believe there‘s no way back. But that’s not true. If we build enough bridges straight ahead, we can eventually get back from where we started.
The sad reality is: Everything ends. People die. Relationships dissolve. Love fades. Careers can be killed. And what we don’t really see at the time is that it is our futile attempts to preserve something that usually end up killing it. It’s a desperate need to cling to the familiar, to stave off the inevitable. We cling to expectations so tightly, we end up murdering the very thing we are trying to save. Fate is a concept I never bought into. Destiny is for suckers. The idea that we just stumble into a future is a sickening thought.
However, I do believe in the importance of timing.
Ten years after I started this journey, I found myself in an unfamiliar place. Desperate to forge ahead and let go of the anger and resentment that had been hanging over me—to abandon the need for validation. To look back at the events of my life and see humor where tragedy once resided. To laugh at the insanity in which I so willingly participated. To think of every person that helped shape my life and remember them fondly—even the ones I spent so much time claiming to hate.
I was never one for dispensing advice because I had always been so poorly qualified to do so, but I know this much: Look where you are and ask yourself: Am I happy? When the answer is “yes,” every poor decision, every stumble, every catastrophic error in judgment, had to happen to get you there. That isn’t fate, destiny or kismet. It is simply accepting that not everything will always go according to plan. What good story does?
When something ends, we often first examine it with the kind of cold logic of a postmortem medical exam. Parse through the evidence and look for a single reason to explain the tragic outcome; a moment or event that set everything in motion. We try and convince ourselves that there was something we could have done to avert disaster. As time passes, we’re able to see the bigger picture and realize the signs of that imminent demise were pretty obvious.
Further down the road, with any luck, we fondly look back and remember everything with a certain degree of levity. To find those moments where we were unable to contain laughter or the ones where we were driven to tears. With any luck we are able to remember even the most tumultuous times and consider them good memories.
I don’t believe in regret, but I understand missed opportunities. Mine was not forming better bonds with the people I have so reverently written about. The ones whose stories I’ve told so many times over the years of the funny, unique, grating and often heartbreaking cast of characters who populated my life. I spent so much time cataloguing their behaviors and taking note of their peculiarities, but I never took the time to really get to know them. I never forged a friendship that lasted one minute longer than the end of a wrap party. I never had a relationship deeper than the bottom of a drink. Sometimes I feel as if this isn’t even really my story, but theirs. The truth is: I’m the least interesting character in this piece—a witness to my own autobiography.
I wish I could tell them how much it all meant to me. That my life turned out well in no small part to their involvement. Eventually, I found a moral to this story. I learned that things don’t always end up as we plan them to be. I learned that gutters are lined with people who have the best intentions. We can choke on our dreams, even. I learned how fame is fleeting at the drive-through of a Taco Bell. A drug addict taught me even the most wretched of souls can still believe in redemption. I was schooled on life by a woman obsessed with death.
I want to tell these people at some point that stressed out, perpetually frustrated ball of anxiety finally got his priorities straight and ended up with a pretty enviable life.
I still write—a lot, actually. Every so often I get paid for a few articles here and there—a screenplay option once in a blue moon. I don’t know if one could still call it a “career”; I lack the kind of ambition it takes to have one. The kind of frantic pace and abandonment of roots that makes it possible to succeed. There will always be part of me that wonders what would have happened had circumstances been different. That melancholy that lingers over when applying metrics to life.
My career died. But I came out the other side with a life. It’s not a bad trade.