This is a very personal post, but I wanted to share my story. I think I became a better writer when I became a person happy with my life.
We are born into this world not with sin, but weakness of character and the challenge to be great. Each of us has a unique collection of challenges and privileges randomly determined when, where, and to whom we’re born. It is the journey that can forge us into shining souls or broken shards of unrealistic dreams and bitter expectations. My greatest character flaw has always been jealousy. The green-eyed monster is not a simple beast to conquer for an angry boy. I learned to covet happiness at an early age and my survival instinct was to escape into the world of stories. That was my backdoor entry into attempting to become a writer.
I allowed my jealousy to turn me into a bitter, childish man for many years until I finally learned to let it go.
Granted, my life has never been easy. My father was murdered attempting to stop pumpkin thieves on Halloween when I was five years old. He was the manager of the convenience store and felt obligated to absurdly risk his life over a few stolen pumpkins. I’m told that my mother was never the same after his death. I only remember her as a sad woman that slipped further and further away into drugs, abusive boyfriends, and depression.
I was a moody and bitter boy that railed against the unfair universe that had pretty much shit on me from my earliest memories. Jealousy of others turned me selfish and I was not always kind to those that offered a hand to me. It felt like my entire family reeked of failure. I watched as relative after relative turned to alcohol or drugs. I wasn’t always kind to my cousins. I regret not spending more time with my cousin Ted.
College was rough without a support system. A good number of my fellow students had families that helped them a great deal emotional and financially. I secretly hated them. My jealousy wouldn’t let me appreciate the scholarships and opportunities. The first year of school finished well. My mother really wanted to try to make things up to me and promised me a job working with my uncle if I returned home for the summer. Without earning money, I couldn’t go back to school. More money meant working less while taking classes,
I returned to one of the hottest summers in Fresno history. Somehow, I was surprised that the plumbing assistant job never existed. I searched around and there weren’t any jobs with a single exception. I spent the sweltering summer cooking burgers at Wendy’s. I was less than pleased. When I went back to school, I swore that I would never go back.
I kept my word until a couple of years ago when I learned that my mother had cancer and was dying. My maternal grandparents had died and no one bothered to tell me. I spent a week with her and worked to forgive her. It is strange to hold anger against someone so weak. It was as though I could literally see the life drain from her. She died peacefully, completely out of her mind. It took me a couple of years to forgive her, but I wouldn’t have been able to do so unless I had seen her one last time.
The last time I was home was for the funeral for my cousin Kevin. He died in a car accident that was stupid and unnecessary. During that time I stayed with my Aunt Jan. She was my father’s little sister and we talked a great deal. I realized that my anger was pointless. My jealousy had kept me from enjoying the people that loved me. The night before we buried Kevin, I learned something very strange.
I was present during the robbery where my father was murdered. My father left me sleeping in the back of an old Datsun with a camper while he finished some business at the store he managed. I have only vague recollections of the store. Did my fascination with the dark side of life come from that moment? I suppose only years of therapy I can’t afford would begin to answer that.
I feel like I really started to turn my life around two years ago when I decided I was going to put away my insecurities and jealousy and put my heart into my writing. I wrote The Highway West based on a couple of incidents in my life and added the magic I always wished was real. Expressing my fears on the page helped me overcome them and allowed me to see them from the outside.
The next step was to learn to be happy for the successes of others. I think I was a selfish friend. I was trapped inside like a turtle in his shell. I give credit to my wife Lisa for helping me grow and being a better person.
The funny thing is that once you learn to be happy for others and concentrate on your own world, the details sharpen into focus and the universe starts to work with you instead of against you. I am now almost forty and feel as though I’ve only recently become a man.