“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery – isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
The first two lines of this Bukowski quote are printed across a photograph of a dirt path separating weeds, shrubs, and (maybe they’re) Sycamores. It’s clear the dirt road was formed from cars using the same path as the one before them and the one before that. There’s a little patch of weeds between the path of tires, peeking out of the ground amidst the dirt. I found this picture as I searched for “Bukowski desktop wallpaper.” I don’t know why someone chose this picture with this quote.
Maybe they read those lines and they envisioned a path leading them to isolation. This was their, “All the Way.” I don’t know what my “All the Way” looks like. I feel like I’ve committed to too many things and have lost focus to go “all the way” with something. I was looking through my notebook earlier and read what I imagined my ideal life to be like:
“When my life is ideal I am:
1. Making a living off my writing
2. Racing my bike around the world
3. A world renown writer
4. Working for myself
5. Traveling the world first class”
That was 6 months ago. As I skimmed through the five passions I deemed would bring me my ideal life, I considered doing it again to see what’s changed because again, I feel like the path I’ve been on doesn’t feel like it’s leading anywhere.
The house was silent and gave me just enough energy to scribble another 15 passions and to whittle it down to five. Here they are:
1. Traveling for fun every month to a new country, state, city, etc…
2. Drinking coffee on our back porch in the mountains getting ready to write.
3. Changing people’s lives for the better with my words.
4. Waking up when I want to and riding my bike outside.
5. Making $100,000/year working for myself.
What I’ve noticed between these two lists and what’s pervasive whenever I consider my future is writing. It always comes back to writing and yet, I never fully commit to making this a reality. I explained to Chris earlier today – or at least tried to – that writing brings me the most happiness. I’ve done it ever since I could put sentences together, but with each year that passes, I write less and less because too much of my time is spent on chasing after security. A false sense of security, might I add.
So many of us choose safety, security, caution over our dreams because following your dreams is scary. The future is scary. The job you currently have is not. I learned that you could hate your job and still lose that security you desperately grasp on to as if it’s the last breath of air. I’ve always been scared to follow my passion for writing because I buy into the idea that being a writer doesn’t generate a lot of money. I buy into the idea that I’m no J.K. Rowling, Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath, or hell, Jen Sincero.
I don’t believe I’m good enough. A lot of us let that idea stop us from what we truly want to do. Too many of us take on boring jobs, boring partners, a house in the suburbs because we don’t think we’re good enough. We don’t think we’re worthy of following and achieving our dreams. I do. I’ve always felt that way. Any time I’ve submitted work or applied for a job I’ve thought, “I’m not going to get this. Someone is better than me.” Every time I think that.
I used to think I was the bee’s knees – I was also 16 and a total shithead. I was up my own ass, but dammit did I deserve the world. I was a fighter. I fought for what I believed in even if that meant pissing people off. I scribbled words that left me crying in bed because I got too real and my emotional teenage self was ripping out her heart and slapping it on the page.
I know the 16-year old Jessica would tell the 29-year old Jessica, “Fuck it, dude. Let’s go bowling.” She’d tell me to forget what others thought and if I wanted to write, then write. No one is stopping me.
And for you: do what you truly want to do. Stop playing safe because it will change. Your situation, your life, your friends, your partners, everything.. changes. The only constant in life is change. So go. Go out there and give it your all. You’ll laugh in the face of fear and spit in the eyes of the naysayers. Go all the way, so when you look back on your life, your 16-year old self would give you a high-five.