I remember being about 23 years old and I had just finished recording a song with a friend of mine. She sat there at the end of my bed, disassembling her clarinet and explaining to me how she always got depressed after she created something great. I wasn’t sure I entirely understood what she meant, so I asked her to elaborate. Near as I can remember, she said it was very much like what she imagined post-partum depression would be like.
“You work so hard to make a thing perfect and once it’s in the can, that’s it. It’s over.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “But then you’ve got this sick song to listen to.”
I used the word “sick” a lot in those days.
I have come around recently to understand what she was trying to convey a little bit better. Last Christmas I sat in my apartment and wrote the first chapter of a non-fiction book I had dreamed up in the recesses of my imagination. I was lucky enough to have sent it over to a friend of mine — a woman who I have known since she was a girl — and who has been writing professionally since she was that young. Looking at it one year later, I couldn’t help noticing how terrible the writing was. After a few minutes, I decided to go a little easier on myself. It wasn’t that awful, really — I had just gotten a lot better from sheer repetition. So much so, that my writing from that long ago is difficult for me to endure.
All that aside, here I am.
I had a dream. I applied 100% of my resources to make it come true. I worked. I sweated. I cried. I dusted myself off numerous times. I got up again. I got myself hypnotized. Twice. I employed editors. I ignored national holidays. And, as is usually the case with these things, about four seconds before I was ready to give up the idea, I got the book deal.
As you can imagine, elation ensued. For three or four days, I woke up and just said those words to myself at the moment I opened my eyes. I got the book deal. What an exquisite bunch of words to string together. I was validated. Not just as a writer, but as a human being. For every person who has ever made me feel “less than,” for every woman who has looked at me like I was a used car she had no intention of buying; for every guy who glanced over my head dismissively; for every slight — perceived and otherwise — I have been validated. I am now Billy Manas, author.
After about eight or nine days went by and I found myself waking up with a different group of words in my head — something like “how come there isn’t a beautiful woman sleeping next to me?” — I had to really look at myself in an existential way. Is this how I was going to treat self-actualization? Last time I remember seeing Maslow’s Hierarchy, I did not see a beach ball teetering on the pyramid that was labeled “naked woman.” I mean, I gave it no more than a cursory glance, mind you — but I think I’d remember.
I’m okay with my shortcomings though. As a man who sees myself getting into coaching in the near future, it’s probably a good omen that I am straddling the fence between destructive thought patterns and simply knowing better. I think when people get so emotionally healthy that they forget what it was like to be plagued by the noise in their own head, they could possibly lose the ability to be empathetic. A coach without empathy is of little use.
If you are following me, if you’ve read my stuff in the past or even if this is the first article of mine you’ve read, I feel it’s only proper for me to thank you and wish you the compliments of the season. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I heard it on an old Sherlock Holmes movie and it’s kind of fun to write. Even more fun to say.