I was trying to write my mortician feature story late last night, but found myself blank and unable to write. Prior that, I spent the past three hours editing the articles of my staff writers for the November issue and realized, after breaking my back for hours, just how tough and thankless the job of an editor is. I am not complaining, by the way, it’s just a Truth I need to come to terms with. I think editors and writers in general feel in the beginning that writing is a thankless job. Unless you’re famous, no one comes up to you saying, “Thank you for writing, you changed my life.” It’s the type of work where you need tenure to actually get the respect you deserve—and sometimes, you don’t even get that respect, no matter how long you’ve been in the field. But here’s the principal question: Why do we still write?
I have no straight answer to that question. I’d like to believe that someday I will, but for now, I guess I cannot think of anything rational. It certainly isn’t a lucrative field; if I wanted to be rich, I would’ve chosen a different path, yet why are we still here, writing? I guess it’s because it’s the only way I can keep myself alive and amused, it’s the only way to make this life bearable. Writing from the cheap seats, to reflect the times, to release surges of emotions, to escape, and critique a profoundly sick society. I honestly believe we have too much of men in suits and less of teachers and writers and anthropologists and professors and researchers and historians and artists. And, I think, at the state of our world right now wherein violence and war is the answer to everything, we need these people now more than ever to remind us what it really means to be alive.
My parents, I must admit, always wanted a corporate job for me. And I don’t know how I’m going to tell them, Hey, I want to be a forensic anthropologist and spend the rest of my life in the fields, digging up bones, and confined in research labs, writing dissertations. I want to do research and teach in classrooms, I want to continue writing features and fiction stories on the side, what are you going to do about it?
And it sucks, because I do not get the support I need from the people who should be my support system, and that’s okay, because we can’t have everything and I won’t demand for their support if they’re not willing to give it wholeheartedly. I know we should never compromise our finances—that is just absurd and irresponsible, but I don’t see the point in life if I am forced to live a life I have no interest in living.
I am actually doing my internship at a property management corporation right now, and this internship has helped me so much in realizing what I do not want to do in the future. Certainly I don’t want to spend the hours of my day trapped in a cubicle inside a cold, characterless, behemoth building. That I know for sure. The people have been great and regardless if it’s corporate, I am learning new things which I believe is always a good thing, either way. But a week ago, I was talking to my boss and my other colleagues and they all said the same thing: “This isn’t what I want to do.”
And I get that we have to sacrifice sometimes. Some people aren’t privileged enough to go about what they want, knowing they have families to feed and bills to pay. And it just makes me so sad that we have to suffer this way, giving up what we want and love to make way for something else, something that we don’t feel so strongly about in the first place. And I hate so much that some people are never able to live their dreams because of the sacrifices they made and they die lonely and unfulfilled because they never got to do what they really wanted to do, and it just makes me so depressed that even though I am saying all these things right now, there is always that possibility in the future that I will be a hypocrite to my own word and work a job I do not love and as much as I try to align my actions to my own principles, I have a fear that I will be betraying my own word. And I wish I never have to reach that point in my life wherein I have to sell out just because I am forced to. I will never forgive myself for that.
Sigh. To be honest, I think this whole mortician feature story is messing with my head. When I interviewed the mortician a Friday ago, we talked about life and death, and how his work has changed his entire life. But listen here. This mortician never wanted to be a mortician in the first place. He was studying engineering in university when he had to stop because of lack of funds. His father, a mortician, taught him the trade and he decided to just take his father’s job on his shoulders. Decades later and here he is now and he tells me he is happy with his job. So, I suppose, it is possible to get into a job we don’t initially love and learn to love it down the road, I guess? The mortician did tell me that although people still have a stigma towards the nature of their job, it’s important to be reminded that we all die in the end. And the phrase, memento mori, popped up in my head. Remember that you must die.
We all die in the end. I am 20 and already feel really old, as if I’ve been here forever. I was contemplating the other day whether I wanted to die young or old. I realize I don’t want to die young, having achieved nothing, but I am also deathly afraid of getting old, to be honest. Of being wrinkly, and losing my mind to dementia, where it takes away the very essence of what makes me human. But I also know that I have a lot of things to learn, lots of books to read, lots of stories to write and tell, and of course, lots of people to love—and I want all that stretched out in decades. Not everyone has the privilege to reach an old age and share the wisdom they’ve learned throughout the years. I want to see myself at that point; wiser, more confident, more humble, with so much love for the world.
Perhaps I am overthinking things again, but I always tell myself it’s better to overthink than not think at all. I’d like to believe that this whole thing has been heightened by the mortician feature story I’m currently writing, but I cannot help myself. I always get attached to the stories I write and sometimes, these stories are too heavy to tell, but still need telling, to remind us that we are only human. Insignificant compared to the astronomical universe, but relevant to the tiny blips of people we matter to.
Maybe if we looked at life at a different vantage we’d appreciate it more. Eating, drinking, laughing, spending time with loved ones—these are things we so easily take advantage of. And I guess, what I’m trying to say is, I just want to be more appreciative and content with the things I have and do, because I am so tired of feeling like I will never amount to anything.
That there is absolutely no reason to beat myself up for going too slow or not doing the same things my peers are doing, that I am absolutely doing perfectly well at my own pace, that there is no need for me to compare myself to anybody but my yesterday-self, that I only have to worry about my possible future self, that I don’t have to mind other people’s lives and businesses, that I don’t have to be depressed every time I go out of my door, that I don’t have to be afraid all the time, that I will be fine as long as I keep walking, regardless if I do it with a limp or with two steady feet, that being insecure at times is fine, that being flawed is perfect because it always gives me something to strive for, that I don’t have to make life so difficult for me, that it’s fine to appreciate the mere fact of sitting down, breathing and just being alive, that I can take a rest and not feel guilty, that no matter what happens, no matter how conscious and angry I feel with myself, I can always pick up my pen and write, and that if I do find myself stubborn or weak at times to pick up my pen, I can always stow my shoes away, climb to bed, sleep, and wake up the next day to try again.