The Culture of Can’t

My world revolves around my inabilities.

I listened many times over to the song One Tiny Thing off of Nighty Night by 8in8 (Amanda Palmer, Ben Folds, Damian Kulash of OK Go and Neil Gaiman; written, recorded and produced in something like 12 hours, NaNoWriMo style).  All six of these songs are awesome in their own ways, but One Tiny Thing in particular bored deep into its own tiny spot in my brain, as these things tend to do sometimes.  Someone on Twitter (of course on Twitter!  Where else?) said there ought to be a challenge to fans to make videos for the songs, and well, there are now many videos.  And of course, I thought, with the images building in my head around One Tiny Thing, I’ll make a video, too.  I can record video with my fossil of a digital camera, my iPod or my cell phone.  But there were things I knew I wasn’t able to do.  Pressing the record button is one thing.  Making a tiny film is another.  I can’t.  So I didn’t.  (This is not the first time I’ve wanted to make a video of a song and talked myself out of it.)

I’ve considered trying my hand at writing comics.  I gave it a four page go, but I couldn’t write a script properly.  So I went no further.  And where would I find an artist?  And I can’t draw, so forget it.

I want to be a writer, damn it.  I want to publish far and wide (and get paid for it).  But I can’t.  Because?  I just can’t.  I’m not a good enough writer maybe.  I have real life responsibilities to consider.  I have to be a normal adult (really?  why?).  So I can’t just say fuck it and quit my job and be a writer/photographer/weird artist type person.  I can’t.

Can’t can’t can’t.

I don’t know where it started, but I seem to have convinced myself that can’t is the only option.  Did it come from my childhood?  From hearing that what I wanted to do with my life was unreasonable, unrealistic and just plain unwise?  I wanted to be Stephen King!  Nope, can’t.  Stephen King is already Stephen King first of all.  At 14, I didn’t realize that King’s level of fame was actually a rare thing for a writer.  I would have learned that sooner or later.  It shouldn’t have mattered that the odds were against me.  It was what I wanted, what I loved.  But (they said) you can’t.

I maybe continued to harbor some of these delusions through college, considered journalism (which I didn’t really want to do) until I took the class and hated it.  I had no plan and little in the way of ambition.  I think my main goal was to get out of my parents’ house, out of Chesapeake, out of a place where I felt stifled.  What are you going to do when you graduate? people would ask.  I’m gonna go to New Orleans, sit in a bar smoking, drinking screwdrivers and writing.  That was Plan A.

Plan B landed me here in Raleigh with a regular job and a regular boring life.  Well, life could be less boring if I wasn’t still so immersed in the Culture of Can’t that I’ve built up around myself.  I mean, for fuck’s sake, if I want to go roam around the art museum, why not just fucking go?  Can’t.  Not allowed?  Or just won’t?  Hmm.

Can’t submit stories or poems to mags.  Won’t get accepted, so fuck it.  Can’t.  Do you know?  Have you tried?  Or are you just scared?

Plan A isn’t exactly feasible any more.  I quit smoking some dozen years ago, and since I like breathing, I don’t plan to pick that habit up again.  Vodka and I had a bit of a falling out, and I don’t drink much any more.  Most of New Orleans is still there, I suppose.  But I don’t think it was ever the place that was important.  I can find a bar in Raleigh, chew on cinnamon Altoids and drink water or the occasional Southern Comfort and Coke.  Or not.

Plan B always ends in unhappiness.  Life itself may be just fine.  I have a lot that I’m grateful for.  I have a job, although it frustrates me and I don’t love it.  I have a nice house, a car, food, enough money, all that wonderful suburban bland success.  But for all that, I don’t feel fulfilled.  Because I put aside what I loved, believing, honestly and fervently, that it was impossible.  But who told me that?  Who had a TARDIS and went and looked and saw that no matter what, I could never do what I wanted?  Why was this dull, numb, suburban bliss my only option?  Can’t.  Just can’t.  Can’t turn my back on reality.  Whatever the fuck that means.

Plan A.1, a revision: do you realize, oh wonders of wonder, that you aren’t at work all the time, that you can easily find places to send your work and some of those can be as simple as hitting the send button on your email, that there are thousands and thousands of published writers but still only one Stephen King, that even if you never (and be realistic — you may never) get to the point where a normal job is superfluous, you can still do what you love without it being a silly little hobby?  But … but …

Fuck it.  Fuck plan B.  Fuck my Culture of Can’t.  I always said or heard can’t and never really asked why the fuck not?  Well, I’m asking now.  Why the fuck not?  Um … job, mortgage, bills, the hypothetical kid you’ll likely never have … Fuck all that.

I can’t not do what I love.

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