Off The Deep End


Come on in, the water is fine.  Come in off the deep end.  What are you doing standing around there, looking on at the swimmers and wondering what it would feel like?  Dipping a toe in the water, thinking it’s too cold?  Going for a walk around the lake, then coming back again?

Why do you stand there envying the swimmers?  Why not jump in?

Yes, going in off the deep end feels like going insane, like losing control.  But it’s not, you know?  It’s more like gaining control.  More like being yourself.  Who else would you be?  Why would you want to be anyone else?

Speaking of going insane, you say – which is rude, since you’re on my blog. –  Well, I go, you know I’m not.  And you know it’s not that difficult to figure out what I’m talking about, don’t you?

I don’t believe that most people live lives of quiet desperation.  I do believe most people get what they’re working towards, sooner or later.

I just believe most people spend a lot of their lives anesthezising themselves so they don’t go for what they want.  It’s just one more hour in front of a reality show.  A moment of sitting here, sipping at a beer and then you can go to bed.  And then tomorrow there’s work to do.  And work is also an anesthesia.  Oh, it must be done, no doubt about it – people don’t owe you a living.  But if that’s all you do and then you come home and you say you don’t have the mind space for anything else, and you envy the people doing what they want to do – you’re lying to yourself.  Oh, yeah, you’re busy and tried and human – but if you really wanted it, you’d find a way to jump in: to go in off the deep end.

Is this about writing?  Sometimes.  I mean, by virtue of being me, that’s what I have experience with.  It’s also a lot of the people I know.  They talk about writing.  They talk a good game.  Next week, they’re going to finish their novel.  Next year they’re going to write that non-fiction book.  Next never, they’re going to finish those essays.

But I’m not completely stupid, nor do I live in a world of clones.  No, I don’t think everyone alive can, should or wants to be a writer.  But I’ve lived a long time and I’ve found that almost everyone wants to be something.  Sometimes they’re so afraid of that dream that they don’t admit it: even to themselves.

Sometimes it’s something artistic, but I don’t even know if that’s real, or if it exists because our culture expects most impossible dreams to be artistic in nature.  Maybe they are athletic.  Okay, you’ll never go into the Olympics, but does that mean you can’t run marathons?  Or maybe they’re something else entirely.  I’ve met people who REALLY wanted to be married.  I’ve met people who REALLY wanted to be moms.  I once met someone whose dream it was to become a secretary.  I know people who dream of working with wood, or cars, or…

JUMP.  Figure out a path to get where you want to go.  There usually is a way, even when it looks impossible.

Sixteen years ago some part of me had decided my dream of being a writer was impossible.  I didn’t know anyone in the field; most of the time I couldn’t send stuff out because we lacked money for postage; we didn’t have money to go to cons; I had two small children; I was an ESL speaker.

I didn’t admit to myself I’d given up, but one short story a year isn’t really trying.  And then I got sick with pneumonia, and I realized I couldn’t die – COULDN’T – with all the worlds unwritten within me.  And I came out of it ready to fight.

Of course, perhaps you’re afraid to find out that what you think is your dream, really isn’t.  This happens.  In our twenties Dan and I briefly joined an investors-and-get-rich-club.  These were people more or less in our circumstances who were buying houses, fixing them up, selling them, finding businesses to invest in, fixing them, selling their share.  I’m sure our friends who introduced us to it could now buy and sell us several times over, but here’s the issue: while we’d like to be rich, (who wouldn’t?) we found the whole PROCESS – scouting properties, buying, selling, scouting other properties, finding financing, etc – DREARY.  We never even started doing it, because the obstacles in the way were many (we didn’t know how to secure financing) and because we found the process BORING.

We decided we’d either never be rich or it would have to be made another way.  Part of this was that it wasn’t really our dream.  While we’d like to be comfortably well off – where we don’t have to worry about where the kids’ tuition is coming from (to dream, the impossible dream,) – and wouldn’t turn our nose up at a few million, the truth is we’d probably balk at the idea of having so much money that managing it is ALL we do and our whole concentration in life.  And this is where that group was headed.

You might find that.  You might jump in and decide you really didn’t want to swim in salt water, and your pond is over there.  Don’t be afraid of it.  It’s one more step towards becoming yourself.

Of course any dream worth having is not going to be easy to get to from wherever you are.  If it were, you’d already be doing it.  And of course there’s the possibility you’ll still want it, but will fail.  I’m not going to say it’s better to have loved and lost.  I’m going to say that other cliche: if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.  A different angle of attack might also help.  Remember NO ONE ever made it big in something without failing at other iterations… and sometimes failing hard.  What are you afraid of?  You can always try again.  While there’s life, there’s hope.

If you’ve read The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, remember what Manny said about Prof?  How he made it in Luna?  He got the job he could get, washing dishes, then moved on to babysitting, then opened his own creche, then moved on to opening a school, then to tutoring.  He made a lot of money, but also he was aiming towards a field, an area he wanted to work in.  He was, after all, a professor.

Now, would you say “I want to be a University professor.  I’ll start by washing a lot of dishes?”  No?  Why not?

Paths aren’t always easy or clear.  And sometimes you might not even be sure what you’re aiming for: you just want out of the situation you’re in.  A little more money would help you explore what you want to do…  So find a way to make a little more money.

I’m not going to say there’s dignity in every job.  There is, but some jobs purely suck.  I almost died of boredom working in retail.  But I survived.  And I moved on…

There’s this game I play with myself.  Let’s suppose somewhere thirty or forty years from now I’m on my death bed and I get a chance to send my mind/will back to myself now, to merge with my own.  I died unfulfilled, forgotten.  There was something I wanted me to do – fulfill that dream I never did in that life.

It’s my second chance.  It’s my only chance.  I was sent to this time and this place because from here I can reach my dream.  It won’t be easy.  It won’t be fast.  The path might not really be clear, but there’s a path, or I wouldn’t have been sent here and now.

So – how do I get to that dream of being a bestseller?  Well, if I start the short stories indie, maybe some people will discover me that way.  And I suck at publicity, but I can do blogs…  And then maybe…

Jump.  What are you waiting for?  Chart a course to your dream and change what doesn’t work, and keep moving.

Jump!  Go in off the deep end.