We are creatures of habits and instincts. Often, despite what we think, know or believe, we respond to our body’s chemical and hormonal cues or behaviors learned in childhood. No matter what we encounter, we face reality in ways we were taught. You’re smart, but were told you are stupid and incapable of doing anything intelligent and that your life will be a struggle. Perhaps you were teased. It doesn’t really matter why, a weakness in the teaser rather than you, it undermines your confidence. Your approach to life may become tentative and you fear you will be judged lacking, despite what you know to the contrary.
I received an odd version of this. Perhaps it was a normal version, and I reacted atypically, at least in part. I was teased by neighborhood peers through middle and high school. This hurt and I sometimes isolated myself at home. In one sense I was lucky. The emotional toll hit on already dampened emotions. On the plus side, I didn’t lose my sense of self, which centered in my intellect. I was bright and I knew it. I became an inveterate reader and my imagination kept me whole. I believe I had been tempered to such slights and slurs at a much younger age.
My father competed in all things and never allowed his children to win simply because they were children. I found this incredibly frustrating. It felt as if I could never be good enough or even simply enough. Fortunately, this didn’t cause me to give up and withdraw. I tried harder. Eventually I became able to win some of the time. Though these hard lessons taught me persistence and personal discipline, it also taught me a pattern. I learned that in order to succeed, I must fail many times, in many ways. I’m sure most successful people will tell you this is the way it happens. Would they also say they learned the other knowledge I gained. That I would succeed as long as I persevered.
Currently, I choose to believe that by recognizing my pattern once again. That I’m about to reach the peak of my cycle. Continued tenacity, one more try will lead me to accomplish what I set out to do. It’s been a battle, but my objective is in sight. To clarify, it’s not simply that my goal is near, but I’ve decided I’m going to reach it. It’s not only a question of clearly defining what I want, though that’s a factor. It’s deeper than that. This comes when I’ve made a decision with my whole being, allowing who I am to direct how I behave.
That sounds great, I hear you say, but what does it mean? What are you talking about? I’m talking about my art, my thought, my creativity. For many years, I talked about being a writer, my first dream but with very little output. Eventually, with I loving kick-in-the-butt, I stopped talking about being a writer and began to write in earnest. Unfortunately, I decided to pursue a form of writing, screenwriting, for its potential money and glamor. I have a degree in film. I wrote around fifteen screenplays, but never broke through. Finally, I had enough. Although I later realized I had chosen the wrong form for the wrong reasons, it felt daunting to sit at a keyboard to produce a work that is difficult to gain feedback outside the industry.
Writing a screenplay can take months or even years, but in the end it’s a diagram of what it will become. Imagine looking at a detailed blueprint for a skyscraper. You’ll understand, I think, that it represents a building with floors and doors, but will have difficulty envisioning the finished structure, Screenplays are similar to blueprints. Though I wrote as well as many, I lacked the final two percent to take me to the next level in this endeavor.
All another lifetime now. I stopped writing for about five years. Day-to-day life had become challenging. Closing companies led to changing jobs and the consequent tension and insecurity that inspires. After a decade of this, I landed in a new company and new industry, without one ounce of kind. Spending three years in hell led to once again being unemployed. Unemployed, for the next two and a half years. I became what was known as a ninety-niner. That refers to weeks and falls just short of two years. That many weeks of unemployment benefits and then nothing. This led to seven months of no work and no money coming in for my part. This becomes germane, because during that nearly three-year period, I discovered oil painting. I felt I’d been hit by a bolt of lightning. It opened my eyes and revealed something I’d been searching for most of my life.
I suppose I should thank that horrid company for putting me in fate’s way, but I don’t think I will. The timing revealed my métier and gave me the time to produce a small but respectable body of work. That was seven years ago as I type these words. No work and no benefits ended with a physically demanding job with minimal wages. Subsequent injuries and surgeries limited my output over the next five years. This pushed me to create digital art and to find my writing voice again. This time, I found forms of writing that suited me better and in the process rediscovered my creative passion.
So, do you know your pattern? My pattern is trying and failing, trying again and ultimately succeeding. As the old bromide says: it’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get up. Believe me, if my current direction doesn’t yield results, I’ll regroup and try again until I succeed. This is my pattern. Having recognized it again and reflected on its history and meaning, I believe I’m at the successful end of my cycle. If not, I will continue trying until I succeed. After all, this not only my cycle for the past seven years, it’s the pattern of my life.