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November 28, 2008

Dear Phetasy,

I have a lot on my mind.  This is usually the case.  But it’s funny, as a writer, turning 30 has somehow opened up Pandora’s Box of memories. The decade known as my “20’s” is behind me; and now, fair game for reflection, the floodgates have opened.  And what a decade it has been.  Globally it was a decade that started with Clinton and ended with Obama; with everything from Y2K to Bush to 911 in between. Personally it was a decade that started in L.A. and ended in back in L.A. with everything from treatment to Rhode Island to divorce in between. Where have I come from?  How did I get here? Who am I now?  And other than me, who cares??

But I do know one thing for sure——whether I like it or not—I’m a writer. And apparently, I was born one.  I’ve only recently come to this realization, although I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon. My mother always told me I was a writer. She still has books I wrote and illustrated at the age of 8 about the cycle of life.  I had enormously frustrated teachers tell me I had a gift, but at the time I was too buried in emotional garbage from a fucked up, insane, completely unstable home life to give two shits about my education or my supposed “gifts” anymore.  That, and I was too high.

But don’t get all excited. This won’t be some sob story about my fucked up life and how I turned to drugs to escape it.  I turned to drugs to escape myself and I have no one but myself to blame. None of this makes me special or unique.  Reading my story is like reading the textbook story of most American kids growing up in the 90’s.  At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.

My life, like most people’s lives, has been rather challenging and heart bruising. When my parents got divorced, I turned to writing.  When I was drugged and raped at 18--I wrote about it.  But after that, at 19, I only wrote crazy (and I mean, crazy) stream of conscious rants to get me through panic attacks when I was coming down from drugs like speed and ecstasy.  I didn’t really turn back to a journal again until I was in treatment a year later for heroin addiction.  Two days into kicking heroin, sick as a dog and out of my head, I started writing again. I wrote for 7 months straight and filled 3 journals.  I haven’t stopped writing since.

“Too Many Notes” is what I call it now.  “IT” is the never-ending flood of ideas that were triggered in my early 20’s and haven’t stopped.  These ideas harass my constant waking moments for attention.  Too Many Notes is why I am lucky when I get 6 hours of sleep. Two Many Notes is the third party, the writer in me constantly narrating, observing and usually laughing at the ridiculousness of whatever situation I might find myself in; whether it’s a party in the Hollywood Hills or the cafeteria of a treatment center in the hood—you can be sure it’s all being duly noted.

I couldn’t admit that I was a writer for a long time because, for obvious good reasons, I was afraid that I would become a suicidal alcoholic. This fear was based on four relevant facts that I believed would lead to the perfect storm of insanity and a high possibility of wanting to eventually shove my head in an oven:

1. My inherent fascination with depth and the dark side.
2. My Irish constitution and propensity to drink.
3. My seemingly insatiable desire to write all the time
4. My keen observation that most writers are inherently, suicidal alcoholics.

Excuses, excuses.  I was afraid.

If I admitted to myself I was a writer, I would not only have to take full responsibility for directing this creative force industriously, but I would actually have to write and not just talk about it.  More horrifying to me than anything else though was the fear of failure; I was afraid if I didn’t have the guts, the talent, the luck and the discipline to succeed (you need all 4), I would end up a completely fucked-up, pent-up, punch drunk, coked-out, bitter, incompetent, spiteful waitress (and did for a while in fact—known as the dark years—the only thing that saved me was this column I wrote, unfortunately, my salvation often pisses a lot of people off).

Follow your bliss because--and I truly believe this is the ROOT of most people’s misery--when you don’t use your natural gifts productively, you self-destruct.  At least I know I do.

The human mind has always been a powerfully restless creative force that can either be used constructively or destructively. My mom is a total hypochondriac and my father a chronic worrier.  When my brain is not occupied creating, it likes to occupy itself with worrying and compulsive negative thinking. Add that to the fact I'm a writer with an extremely overactive imagination.  You can only envision where that will lead unchecked. I know I can. And constantly do. 

After 7 months of observing me in treatment, even my counselors understood why I craved the sweet relief of Nothingness that heroin brought me, if even for a moment. But, as they wisely pointed out, my journals and writing were what saved me. And it’s true, writing is one of the few things, like singing, dancing, practicing yoga, meditating or working with autistic kids, that the more I do, the more sane I feel—because these are the things that ground me in the moment.  And these are the things I do regardless of whether or not I’m afraid, because they teach me the art of true fearlessness. 

And so finally, after 20-plus years of writing, I feel mentally tough enough to acknowledge, I’m a writer.

But then again…who am I really kidding?  I’m not even CLOSE to being out of the woods psychologically yet! That’s what’s so funny about turning 30. You feel so old but what you don’t realize, you’re only getting older.  I’m only 30 and I’m looking back nostalgically like I’ve got it all figured out.  I give any senior citizen the right to punch me in the face for such open displays of youthful ignorance.  There is still plenty of time to become a suicidal alcoholic or worse!  Especially if I meet with success! At least hardship keeps me in check!

Writing this essay has led me to 3 important conclusions:
1.  Writing saves my life because when I’m not writing, I’m imagining myself to death.
2.  However, the very process of writing might kill me.
3.  Because all writers are inherently suicidal alcoholics.

From the looks of it, I’m on the right track! That’s fantastic! I can’t wait to see what I’ll be writing about my 30’s! 

That is, if I don’t shove my head into an oven.