Drunken Persistence, Redux

I got hooked on Laborie pinotage some time back, when I took a tour of the Winelands in Cape Town. It’s amazingly gorgeous there. Trader Joe’s had a special on some South African pinotage this week, and I snagged a couple bottles. Laborie it ain’t, but it’s made me nostalgic. And a little drunk.

Sometimes, I am struck by where I am in my life, the people I’ve known, the places I’ve seen, the accomplishments I’ve made at 25. I have been running, running, running, working so hard to get to this place, to have these experiences behind me, to be looking forward to more, to life, to what lies beyond the horizon.

I was talking to both Jenn and B about how tough the last couple of years here in Chicago had been. Not the actual living part – the living has been happy and mostly easy. I can pay my bills. I love my roommates. I enjoy the weather, the public transit. But I’ve invested two years of my life working an admin job, turning down career opportunities that would require me to curb my writing (and my health) in order to advance. A career in the cell phone industry just wasn’t what I was looking for.

Every time somebody asked me what I was working toward with each successive degree, with each job, I told them I was just *this* close to making the books pan out, to making money writing, to being a writer, working to build *that* career above all others. That was my life. That’s what I was working toward.

But two years of giving up on more traditional opportunities can get to you. You can start to lose hope. You start to wonder what you’re doing. You start to wonder if you’re crazy. I’d been talking with both Jenn and B about getting other jobs, about finding ways to take in more money, about sacrificing writing time for something more tradtional, some other life. And I talked about it like a woman who was ready to grow up, to put away childish ideas about what could be and what might be and start worrying about how these student loans were ever going to be paid off.

I started to understand how people got trapped in jobs they hated, so they could buy things they didn’t need, so they could have a life they didn’t want.

I’ve bought some of my favorite wine, and I’m sitting here drinking it and staring at line edits I need to finish by Friday, and I’m haunted by the life that I want, the life I know I can have. I’ve said to myself, over and over, I just need to work harder. I can have this. I just need to work harder. Because there’s always somebody out there who’s willing to work harder than you are.

I have a blind belief in what I do, in this writing, in what I have. I’m not a genius, but I’m getting better every year. Each book is better than the last. And I have a secret:

This is it. This is what I want to do. I want to write fantasy books. I want to make a living at it. I want to be the best at it, whatever that is or means. I want, I desire, and it’s a desire that eats me up.

I want to write for a living, I want to travel, I want to dip my toes in every ocean. I want to go bungee jumping in New Zealand. I want to climb Kilimanjaro. I want to hike up to Machu Picchu. I want a big, wide, bold life. I want to be an old woman on her death bed, gazing out over the pictures of her life. I want, I desire.

How does one want so much and keep going, keep striving in a world that tells you every odd is against you; you’re too fat, too slight, too tall, untalented, too talented, not pretty enough, too pretty. It’s a world that doesn’t believe in anyone or anything, a world that watches faces get their 15 minutes and then moves on, callous, regardless.

And there’s no answer to that, really, and whatever answer you do find is a little mad.

Because the answer is you just keep doing it while people tell you no. You keep getting better at it, because you want it. And you do it as long as you have to, if you have to spend five years at a shitty admin job and traveling to foreign locales on credit cards. You do it because the alternative is not to do it, and that’s a far, far, more frightening fate.

B sent me Amanda’s post over at Pandagon today, about all the things men had told her was wrong with her, about how she’d finally decided to ditch her boyfriend. And I was reminded of another time, another place, when I cared what people thought of me, when I valued myself based on my attractiveness to others, when I tried to mold myself into what other people thought I should be.

I wanted to reach out to Amanda and hold her and cry and say, “Honey, fuck everybody and leave the whole world. Go buy a one-way ticket to somewhere you’ve never been and start a whole new life and find out how strong you are. Don’t go out finding yourself, go the fuck out and fucking create yourself. That’s what life is. You find out what the fuck you can do. You realize how strong you are. You realize you can fly.”

I can fly.

Even in the darkest times, when I’m freaking out and stress eating and missing the gym and scared and lonely, I know exactly what I can do. I know I can trek alone 160 km into rural Africa. I know I can buy a one-way ticket to Fairbanks, Alaska. I know I can pull together an entire person from the ashes of someone else entirely, and I know that even in the darkest times, during those dark teatimes of the soul, I will come back out of it awake, alive, ready to pursue my desires until the end.

Because this is who I am, this is what I do.

And I seem to have finished this bottle of wine.

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