The Flame Which Fuels, Consumes

Colonel Tanner: All that hate's gonna burn you up, kid.
Robert: It keeps me warm.
-- Red Dawn, 1984

I loved this quote. I loved it from the second I heard it, when I was 7 years old and we saw Red Dawn in the theater. I loved it as a teenager, young adult, and adult. And only recently -- two days ago, in fact -- did the full gravity of that statement finally hit me.

I posted about my lack of discipline the other day. Shortly after I posted it, I was talking to a friend about the situation, and it finally dawned on me... My fire's gone out. And it's not a bad thing.

For many, many years, I had this deep desire to prove everyone wrong. 33 years, in fact. Everyone in my life who ever told me I couldn't do anything I wanted to do. That I had no talent. That I had no chance in life. That I should just quit dreaming and go get a job at the Home Depot. That I couldn't draw - not technically, but physically was not allowed to.

Family members. "Friends." People that were supposed to help me and support me... I spent a lot of years living in fear -- seriously, fear -- of my own creativity and need to do things like write and draw, because I knew I'd hear shit about it and get relentlessly mocked and derided.

I hated them. Hated. It's a strong word, and I just used it. I hated my birth father for abandoning me. I hated my older brother for tormenting me. I hated every kid in every school I went to who refused to just let me be a normal kid. I hated my family for having a particular viewpoint of me, which was ultimately wrong -- because they always assumed, since I was related to them, that they knew me by default. I hated and hated and hated.

And I don't hate anymore.

I mean, yeah, I still hate hipsters and wannabes and fashion geeks Glenn Beck and the usual cast of people who pull our collective conscious down into the gutter and make us lesser as a society. But that's just hate for the sake of calling people out on their bullshit. I don't want to actually punch and hurt and maim these people, I just want them to stop with their nonsense.

...Okay, maybe I do want to punch Glenn Beck. And maim and hurt him. But the others... You get what I'm talking about.

After my breakdown last winter, I had to face a lot of things that were very, very difficult - not just things in my immediate periphery, like what was going on with my book or my life, but deep-seated, root issues that caused this panic and fear that I felt I was always forced to overcome every time I sat down to do ANYTHING. Draw. Design. Write. The ghosts of a hundred horrible people whispered in my ear each and every time, and I had to force my way past them and put pen to paper and push as hard as I could to get it to move.

I felt it in everything I ever did. I had to force myself to put these mental walls up every time I sought out to do anything I wanted to do that even remotely involved creativity. After all, I was supposed to be working at the Home Depot all this time - which is not a bad career, I love my local Home Depot guys. Those guys know what the hell they're talking about, and have helped me fix more than one thing around my home. But that's not me, and the context in which I was told that was not "go help people fix their homes," it was "you will never - EVER - make it as a web developer, designer, writer, or artist. You need to find a comfortable job with a basic skillset and do that."

Teachers. "Friends." Family, you guys - the one group you're supposed to be able to rely on no matter what... They were awful. My birth father would get drunk when I was a kid and smash up everything. He'd break my pencils just to be an asshole. My older brother would melt my crayons with a torch. It was ridiculous.

And they can't get at me anymore. No one can. I realized the night I wrote the discipline post that my fire's extinguished... And I'm the one who put it out, and it's a great, great thing. I'm no longer motivated by "Fuck YOU, I sure as hell can write, or draw, or bench press a ton of plates, or play pro football, or whatever the hell I want! You can't stop me!" It's now "Man, this would be so cool to do. I think I'll go do it."

I'm not afraid of myself anymore. I'm not afraid of BEING myself. And that's part of why I finally wrote the "How to write, publish and sell your book" thing. I'm okay admitting to myself now that I AM a writer. I have succeeded. I get to create things for a living, and I don't have to hide from anyone or justify it to anyone or explain why I did it. I do okay at this here writing thing. And I can help people do okay at it as well, if I can just get over the shyness of saying out loud the various things I do and do well.

I'm not scared anymore. There's no more hate in me. I'm not letting anyone's "No you can't" make me prove I can. I'm just happy doing what I like doing... For the first time in my life. That flame which I thought was fueling me was consuming me.

You can't let anyone - ANYONE - own that much of you. Ever. Hate is a leash. You buck and you growl and you snarl, and still they're the ones keeping you tethered to them. You can hate them, or you can get the ultimate revenge... You can let them go forever and make them watch as you forget they even exist.