I live in a different story now
My piece in Gently Used seems so distant from the life I’m living now. Writing it was therapeutic and necessary. Most of the other writers and Brad saw the pages of crazy-person scrawled notes on the story taken as I was writing it. Caffeine and insomnia focused my attention on trying to understand what had happened to me the summer before my senior year of college. I had no idea what the experiences had meant – like most people still in the midst of an identity crisis – and so I worked my way through the process by writing it all out. I don’t mean to say that this story was written out all at once like some sort of digestive product. It took me months of conversation with friends and family to step out of myself and realistically look back at that summer. I learned that we can’t understand our own past actions or the past actions of others without time and movement. It would have been easy to blame my problems on external factors in my story; a girl who’d left me, a stale academic career, a band without a future, etc.
The truth is that all of these problems are my own responsibility regardless of where or how they were created. I’m not sure if I was ever able to make clear in the story that I needed to have the universe kick me in the ass so that I could take charge of what was happening in my life, much like how the ass-kicking in Brad’s Intro to Magazine course pushed me to work harder. I needed to stop whining, stop hating myself, and stop trying to destroy myself. The only way to do that was by looking inward and outward for the truth about my own small problems.
There’s an applicable David Foster Wallace (and I have to thank Brad for the introduction to DFW) quote from Infinite Jest, “The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.” I tortured myself for a long time trying to figure my own actions out. I still do. It’s hard for us to accept that we’ve made mistakes or that we aren’t as strong as we think ourselves to be, especially with such convenient excuses. That’s what I’ve learned from my participation in this writer’s group.
I live with a different story now. Picture a college graduate living with his gracious parents, freelancing for some local alt-weekly magazines, working for minimum wage on the side, drinking too much coffee, never playing enough pool, and waiting in fear to pay back student loans. I’ve separated myself from some people and grown closer to others. I read this story and wonder what past-Jordan thought he was trying to say with it. I’m not him any longer because I’ve learned to embrace this type of change – which, from what I can tell, comes naturally to most people – instead of latching onto the weaker parts of who I used to be.
I’m so proud of the other writers in this book for the dedication, the talent, and the courage to write about struggles far beyond the scope of my own story. I’m glad that I got to know all of The Invictus Writers, even those whose writing did not make it to the end. And lastly I’d like to thank The Brad King for developing a reputation for being a demanding professor and living up to it in class and outside of it with projects like this one. You helped convince this rougish, drinking writer that giving up wasn’t an option anymore.