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.