I realized almost immediately that I didn’t want to be alone. I reluctantly drank two beers and couldn’t shut up about my desire to come home. I cried once, showered twice. In my mind, this was normal for a twenty-something who had chosen the path of independence, of being a writer, rather than choosing a path of reliance, attempting to cling to the emotional support of friends and family.
I used to do everything by myself because I had this idea of what a writer should be. Writers are supposed to stand in the kitchen of their studio apartment, sipping on whiskey while their forgotten coffee grows cold. A writer would need to step outside for a bit to smoke a cigarette out of frustration from looking at a blank page for several hours. And writers definitely needed to spend a lot of time in the comfort of a familiar coffeehouse, knowing the name of the redheaded barista who would watch the writer look out the window in search of a new topic. The problem was, while I was admiring and romanticizing this unhealthy and toxic lifestyle, I wasn’t actually doing any writing.
When I was 19 years old, I moved to a city in hopes to pursue my writing career. This is where my first article was published, and it was literally about the situation I was dealing with at the time. I was new to a city, I didn’t have friends, I didn’t have a job. I was merely existing in this place and no one knew about it but me which felt absurd. I felt alone and I needed others who felt alone to know that I was there experiencing the same exact thing.
I cried when I got the email with a link to my article. My phone lit up while I was cooking shrimp and binge-watching an FX show on Netflix and I figured it was my mother, asking me how I was doing. I recognized the sender almost immediately. I had read so many of her articles before. The next few days after my name was officially on the list of writers for the Thought Catalog, I decided I needed more. I began working on several new pieces, getting them published one after the other and every time my submissions got published, I felt on top of the world.
When I was 20 years old, I woke up on the bathroom floor of my apartment with little to no memory of getting there. Although it wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds, I knew I had to get out of the city. I was drinking too much. Shortly after my ostentatious adventures of living in a studio apartment by myself at the age of 19, I moved out. It felt like defeat, like I couldn’t handle the unhinged lifestyle of a writer. I went on family vacations with my parents and completely forgot about writing because I was happy. There wasn’t the incredible urge to run to my laptop to write about the unique feelings that my particular life was producing. I was just living. My days went from sitting at my typewriter and taking trips down to the coffee shop and reading books by myself on the waterfront to drinking my morning coffee in the sunshine and cooking breakfast for my family and swimming in volcanically heated pools. I was posting more on Instagram but I certainly wasn’t writing.
I’m nearly 22 years old now and this past year of my writing hiatus has been a whirlwind of emotions and life-changing decisions. I made the excruciatingly difficult decision to drop out of college, I started a photography business, I moved into a house in a small town, and I realized how much I missed writing. After several transitions, I finally felt at ease. There was a sense of security that I hadn’t felt in years, so it seemed crazy to sit down and write about anything. People didn’t want to know I was happy.
It took me a long time to realize there needs to be separation between sadness and writing. I used to think writers were always so miserable and alone. I mean, some of my favorite authors are Sylvia Plath and Hunter S. Thompson so I was definitely under the impression that I had to be drinking a lot and there was no way in hell I could be happy. The emotional toll I brought on myself from believing in one way of living actually destroyed my desire to write.
But a writer defines what a writer is. A writer defines themselves by their writing. A writer is someone who writes. I mistook being a writer for independence and I mistook independence for being alone. I thought it was all the same damn thing and I shut myself out when I didn’t need to. But the truth is, you can be independent and you can write and you can succumb to the normal practices of love and life.