I want to be a writer. But what am I doing about it? What have I accomplished over the past year? Am I ever going to get somewhere? This thinking is where doubt tries to prevail.
On my way home from New York City a few nights ago the train was packed and I wound up sitting next to an elderly man. I sat and we glanced at each other, as two strangers would in close proximity. In my head, his glance was a glare.
“What?” I asked.
He raised his eyebrows. As if to say, “what” right back.
“What?” I asked again. “You’re looking at me like you don’t want me to sit here.” (These are self-centered fears I often think and sometimes say.)
“Not at all, I was just wondering what you have in that bag from Zaros.” He said innocently.
I glanced down at the giant brown pastry bag that took up most the seat.
“Some cupcakes. And a couple cookies. And a loaf of bread that was on sale. And red velvet cake.” (What’s moderation?)
He put his hand up and made the universal sign of perfection, “I love red velvet cake.” From there the conversation took off.
In forty minutes this man dropped more knowledge bombs on me than all the stink bombs in the school cafeteria combined. Apparently he was a legitimate mentor…like a Tuesdays with Morrie kind of dude. What are the chances?! Almost an hour with my personal Mitch Albom.
“Let me guess,” he said halfway into the trip, “you were a troubled teen. Parents got a divorce, you didn’t handle it well, and lost your way for a while.”
“Yes, actually.” I said. This guy was good.
“Strip away all of that. When you were 16, what did you want to be?”
The first thing that came to mind was “pothead.” But that’s not who I wanted to be; that’s who I felt like I had to be. The pothead version of myself was an adaptation for survival; fit in somewhere or die.
What came to mind next was the truth: a writer. Writing has been my passion since 1st grade, from the first time I sat down at a typewriter and my imagination took off on the page. I told mentor-man this. Then I told him about my most recent fears: I’m not good enough.
“Well you’re not good enough.” He said simply.
Um. Ouch? I thought to myself, and waited for the follow up “just kidding.”
“Nope.” He said. “But if you care enough, you will be.”
And just like that, a light blub turned on. Just like fear and faith can’t coexist, neither can passion nor doubt. At least that’s what I took from my train ride with Morrie, because the more doubt I let creep in the quicker passion fizzles out.