The second step seems pretty hard, too

Where to begin? I know not, except to just begin, some­thing I am incred­i­bly inept at doing. But I real­ize with great clar­i­ty and force that idly wait­ing to begin is some­thing I no longer have the lux­u­ry to indulge in, and the soon­er that I, like Saint Denis, take that first, hard­est step, the soon­er my jour­ney may turn away from the indo­lence of self-reproach toward some­thing resem­bling a future. For too long, lit­er­al­ly years now, I have kept my future, and with it the futures of my wife and fam­i­ly, at bay, fear­ful of change, too craven to make any sig­nif­i­cant move toward a dream, any dream, and away from the soul-dead­en­ing life that I have set­tled into.

What is dif­fer­ent now, that I talk of change in this tone, as if it might actu­al­ly hap­pen now? I am dif­fer­ent, because, only because I have final­ly decid­ed to be dif­fer­ent, decid­ed to not just pro­fess repeat­ed­ly and fee­bly that I am ‘open to change’ but to act, to take stock and then take risks, to move for­ward to find and meet my fate, rather than sit won­der­ing if it might per­haps hap­pen across me before the end. So long afraid to dream, I am just now remem­ber­ing what it was like to dream, to look for­ward to a bright excit­ing future that I might strive toward and reach.

For I used to dream. I spent much of the past week­end look­ing dark­ly into my shut­tered soul and observ­ing that in all my life (and that is a longer stretch of time than it once was) I had nev­er set my sights upon a goal, ded­i­cat­ed my gifts and ener­gies to its pur­suit, and striv­en and sac­ri­ficed until it was attained. In a slight­ly brighter place emo­tion­al­ly, I can now con­cede that this is not quite true; my young self was often dri­ven to focus on, and attain, real and exhil­a­rat­ing per­son­al goals, and his efforts and suc­cess­es were a source of inspi­ra­tion to him­self, and even to oth­ers. For some rea­son, which I am sure we will hunt for at some lat­er date, that earnest moti­va­tion did not sur­vive the end of my adolescence.

But I no longer believe that it is too late to bring that pas­sion and dri­ve back into my life. I refuse any longer to con­spire in my own defeat, to be the skulk­ing jail­er of my own spir­it. I have a dream or two smol­der­ing with­in me, and now I fan those sparks with hope and pride, and will them to flare up into a fiery pas­sion for a life lived ful­ly and well, a life that serves oth­ers, glo­ri­fies my God, and makes me a per­son bet­ter than I am today. It is no longer enough, can nev­er again be suf­fi­cient, to bide my time, to coast along, wait­ing for an easy tran­si­tion, a deus ex machi­na to lift me out of my rut into some ready-made dream ful­filled with­out my hav­ing to even both­er to wish it.

But enough man­i­festo. What are these dreams? To write, for one. After long years of mixed dor­man­cy and indo­lence I have put pen to paper in the first steps of a great task: a book-length mem­oir of my expe­ri­ence as a col­lege sem­i­nar­i­an. An ear­ly draft of this, real­ly a book pro­pos­al mas­querad­ing as an essay, earned me a spot as a final­ist in the Loft Writ­ing Cen­ter’s Men­tor Series com­pe­ti­tion, and while I was not lucky enough to be select­ed as one of the win­ning par­tic­i­pants in that excel­lent pro­gram, as a result of that expo­sure I have been per­son­al­ly invit­ed to be part of an MFA-lev­el work­shop in Cre­ative Non-Fic­tion this com­ing spring semes­ter, a recog­ni­tion of my poten­tial and excel­lence as a writer that I have up until now man­aged to obfus­cate from my own self-appraisal. So after more than a decade of pro­fess­ing to be a writer, includ­ing eight post-col­lege years char­ac­ter­ized pri­mar­i­ly by cre­ative sloth, I am going to be in a room­ful of gift­ed, ded­i­cat­ed MFA can­di­dates, dri­ven to work at a lev­el that, while I am cer­tain I am capa­ble of, I have nev­er yet had the focus to push myself to achieve.

And after that, on to grad­u­ate school prop­er, not as a writer, but as a stu­dent of Canon Law, the inter­nal judi­cial code of the Catholic Church. Anoth­er dream by turns cher­ished and neglect­ed over the years since col­lege, this will be a grand adven­ture involv­ing the relo­ca­tion of my entire young fam­i­ly to Ottawa, Ontario (yes, in Cana­da) for at least three years of study to attain a Licen­ti­ate degree, and after that, who knows? My dream does­n’t extend that far yet, but I know that I dare not rest until I achieve how­ev­er much of it is clear to me, and trust that the hori­zon will clear as I approach it.

So busy times ahead, full of flux and change and ter­ror and uncer­tain­ty and, I believe, joy and ful­fill­ment and pride in a life lived well and fully.

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