Fifteen. The number of years my father’s been languishing in an ornate box in the ground. That’s fifteen years of no hugs, no phone calls, an infinite amount of change. I have to assume he can see me and is watching as I stumble through life, making and repeating past mistakes before finally seeing the light, changing course, and making new ones. Fifteen years’ worth of decisions I had to make without his input. My mother has had to play two roles and weather my incessant questions about the man my father really was, the man I never had the chance to know. I was eleven when he died, peacefully in his sleep, and left me to wonder for the rest of my life. I have millions of questions I would ask if I could see him — are you proud of me? Am I doing this right? Do you approve? Who are you? What did you like? — the list is endless. Fifteen years of cherishing the same memories without the ability to create new ones.
Two. The number of years I haven’t self-injured. Not that the temptation hasn’t been there, the temptation to find something sharp and dig into my skin with it. But I haven’t. Two years I’ve kept the promise I made myself to do better, be better, and be nicer to myself. It’s also the number of guitars I have, beautiful guitars I’ve wrangled music from with my unsteady fingers. Eleven is the number of years I’ve played, six since the recording of my first EP.
Eighty-nine. The number of original songs languishing between the covers of a plain white binder. Each melody, every chord, and every lyric erupted from somewhere deep within me and splashed itself across the page. There’s a private story for every song, a layer underneath resonating with truth. Occasionally I’ll share the story when asked, but more often than not I’ll settle for the songs to be open to interpretation. It remains to be seen if they’ll ever be committed to recording. Each one brings up a new memory of the head-space in which I used to live. A darker place.
Four. The number of published articles I’ve written. Some better than others, but each one a part of me. I never thought I would make any money at all from writing, but occasionally I tell myself that maybe there’s something to this. Maybe there’s a reason I spent my entire childhood locked away in a world of books, using them as substitutes for the friends I didn’t have. Maybe my love of language and lust for the perfect sarcastic sentence isn’t all for naught. I tell myself that, and keep writing. Fifty-five is the number of blog posts I’ve published since starting this journey.
Thirty. The number of days in November, the month of NaNoWriMo. Say what you want about the quality of writing one can wrangle in such a small amount of time, but as long as it’s creative gasoline fueling literary fire, it’s a wonderful thing. I wonder if all writers are frightened procrastinators and think it might just be me, so next month I’ll be speed-writing the book I’ve been afraid to talk about. Not editing, not judging, just pouring out the story and characters that have been living in my head for so long. Setting them free, to live on the page before I go in with my editor’s knife and chop bits of them away to discard and trim the story.
One hundred twenty-four. The number of days since I last bought a pack of cigarettes and used them to slowly destroy myself. I’ve found new ways to tame the demons in the attic of my mind, using gum and tea to appease my oral fixation. I couldn’t even count the number of cups of tea I’ve consumed recently. Occasionally I’ll be doing something mundane like cleaning the bathroom at work and I’ll be hit by a wave of craving so big it could be classified as a tsunami. I wait, and it dissipates.
One. The number of lives I’ve been given, to spend however I choose. Do I choose to be afraid to seek that which fulfills me? Do I choose the banal over the spectacular? How many minutes will I waste on things that don’t matter to me, things that will never bring me joy, peace or knowledge? None. Beginning today.
There is no point living if the life is not one of my own design.