“I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done. I want to be an honest man and a good writer.”
Baldwin, James. Notes of a Native Son (p. 10). Beacon Press.
It’s not new or interesting to say Baldwin was an amazing writer. I like that he’s getting more attention with the recent documentary. His prose is timeless and his intelligence is blistering and the injustices he was screaming about in the most eloquent way possible in the ’60s are still alive and well 50 years later.
(I’m not saying progress hasn’t been made. But sorry Chief Justice of the KKK Roberts, institutional racism and systematic disenfranchisement of minorities still are alive and well in the south and most red states.
The American flag should really just be white because all the other colors sure as fuck aren’t treated equally.)
But I’m going off on a tangent, as is my wont.
So I’ll never come close to being the kind of quality writer and intellect that James Baldwin was. I like to write. But it’s just a fun hobby and therapeutic outlet. It’s not a gift from the universe employed to shine a light on the darkest aspects of American humanity.
But I do like his goal.
I also know I have many responsibilities. My greatest one I will not talk about now but it does cosmically dovetail with Hemingway’s lasting goal.
I want to, as Hemingway said, ‘last’ . I’m not really sure what that means. Is it simply to persevere and defend one’s principles? Or did Papa want to live forever? I don’t know. But I like the sound of it.
I can’t commit to wanting to be an honest man because I don’t even know what that means anymore. Do honest men tell white lies? Do honest men choose kindness over telling the truth that would cause pain? Do honest men tell untruths to bring joy to the people they love?
Like most complex things, what I was taught as a child about honesty was very simplistic and very inaccurate. The thoughts and feelings I have about honesty wouldn’t fit into several of my long-winded posts, let alone in an aside in this one. So I’m tabling my opinion about being an honest man as TBD.
I do want to get my work done. I think getting back to work in November of 2017 saved my life. Knowing that I could be useful and competent again lit a cleansing fire in my mind and heart. The cleansing heat of accomplishment seared away a desolate, cold, miserable tundra of self-loathing and depression. I feel alive again. I feel more alive than I’ve ever felt. That inferno didn’t just shake me out of Mental hell. It burned away old demons I had carried with me since my childhood.
I really am still getting used to how to process happiness and liking myself a little. It’s one of those “good problems”, though. I’m not complaining.
Finally, I do want to be a good writer. It does give me joy when I write something I find clever. It’s ok if no one else thinks it’s clever. It’s even better if one other person does think it’s clever! For me, my writing is a way to communicate.
This is going to sound like I think I’m special but that’s not what I’m going for. As a person who has struggled with clinical depression and severe anxiety and been in and out of more than a dozen shrink offices and been on just about every happiness drug that’s been on the market in the past 22 years, I think I can safely say I know what the world looks like to people with similar mental health struggles. I’d go even further to say that across the wide and complicated spectrum of mental health illness and conditions, I think there are some shared core feelings.
1. Why can’t I be like everyone else?
2. I’m broken
Self-esteem issues and fitting into humanity’s statistically normal social dynamic is, in my opinion, what powers sadness and pain for people with mental health struggles.
This is not to say that those who would not claim to have mental health issues don’t have struggles with liking themselves or fitting in. But I am talking out the vast minority (though it’s growing every day because of America’s toxic culture).
When someone says I’m depressed because I didn’t get floor seats for Taylor Swift, it’s not the same as when a person with a chemical balance thinks their meds are giving them nightmares and going off them would make their waking hours even more hellish.)
So wow that was a MOTHERFUCKING long weird tangent.
Sorry but I just only have about 1 hour a day to write because I got some very big fish to fry at the moment.
So yeah, I’m with Mr. Baldwin. I want to be a good writer, too. But I’ll settle for writing every day and expressing everything my heart and mind and fucked up soul wants to sing.
“Every little soul must shine.”