Find Phoenix at http://amazon.com/author/phoenix_rises
Enjoy the essay.
So, life has been a little bit strange, recently. I’ve been reading the essays of David Sedaris, and I am of course a little bit jealous of his writing style, but he has helped me think about my writing in an interesting way. What is narrative?
Narrative, of course, is the way that we communicate stories to each other. But narrative is also what I want to share today. I want to share my story, compose my narrative.
It has indeed been a little bit crazy, yesterday particularly, and even the past year, with the pandemic and everything going on in the world. I also don’t want to understate it: it has been crazy. Yesterday was a day that I wasn’t really particularly excited to have, but you have to do that sometimes.
My book got rejected. I woke up in the morning, hoping that I would feel better after the day before, where I was having a little bit of trouble with my mood, and life circumstance. I woke up to my e-mail inbox, communicating to me that my book The Dark Kid was rejected for publication.
The crazy thing about this book, is that part of me doesn’t want to publish it, because it is complicated. I worked really hard on that book, but it nearly broke me, and I find it to be very complicated as a narrative, because of all of the elements that it fuses together. So in some ways, not having it accepted, gives me more time to work on it. But because I was frustrated already, particularly from the rejection of my job and the frustration of finding a new job, it was a little bit harder, because it reminded me of what could be called “the good old days.”
What were the “good old days,” you are probably wondering? That was when I submitted story after story, and novel after novel, and query after query, to publishers and agents and editors, only to have all of my work rejected. Crazily enough there was finally one acceptance of a short story I had written years before, but that publication didn’t propel my career forward because at that point I was basically done and burned-out from trying to get my work published. I’ve self-published since.
So, going down memory lane, was not really expected, with getting my book rejected recently, but that was exactly what I ended up doing. It was painful. Such rejection is painful.
Of course I know that people are reading my books, because I have published my books, and my books are well done for the most part, and I’m happy about that. But who doesn’t dream of having a home for one of your books, for a book that you worked really hard on, but that is so easy to reject? I had seen myself as moving on from those cold days of rejection, but experiencing this opened up my wound fresh, and frankly, I was not ready for that. If only we could all write essays like David Sedaris!
But the day was just getting started. With that specter haunting me, I went about the day. I went for a run, and enjoyed that. It wasn’t until dinnertime where things got hectic again. With me frustrated because of my job and because of the book rejection, as well as my sensitivity with many things and my hope to one day find love (it was Valentine’s Day the day before), I was definitely a bit on edge.
Basically, I ordered a pizza, and I was beating up on myself for not getting the most sustainable food (I’m vegetarian), and because I have been obsessed with thinking about waste recently, I have been paranoid about garbage, and I haven’t really known what to do about that. Some of these thoughts were definitely self-imposed, because there isn’t really much you can do about the way that companies run their businesses, but it had seemed really difficult for me to even think about anything productively, with all of the talk about climate change and waste in the ocean, as well as eating sustainable food, and frankly, in this moment, it all drove me crazy. Because it was really cold outside, I ended up leaving a tip after my order I was completed, because I felt as though it is really shitty being a pizza delivery person, when you could be doing something else with your life. After the rejection of my own job, and starting from scratch, I feel as though I know what it is like to work thankless jobs for thankless companies, and not really end up anywhere valuable or meaningful.
But then, because the guy can’t find my apartment, he starts getting frustrated with me, in a way that I found to be very rude and not helpful, but it didn’t stop him from being this way. So I decide that I’m going to leave him a larger tip, and I parrot off something about a ten dollar tip, which is ridiculous, but I’m just trying to think of what a good tip would actually be, feeling frustrated at the way that he is making me feel like an idiot because he can’t find my apartment complex and we are having heated interactions. So such a thing is out of my control, so I go out to him, regardless of the fact that it is supposed to be a contactless delivery because of Covid, and I give him the twenty dollars that I have to break. I tell him that I am going to give him five dollars for all the trouble, and so he counts out the change, but when I get inside, I realize that he took ten dollars instead of five. So not only was my pizza cold (the icing cup of which wasn’t even with my dessert), with the inconvenience of the situation, but I also had to deal with a rude delivery guy who took more money from me and made me feel yet again like an idiot. What are these fun miserable times we live in?
Obviously the story is a story from Hell, or the story of the absurd. It is funny in some ways, because it’s so out there. I really hate dealing with companies that don’t treat their workers well enough, but this is the way that it is, and the irony was that I was trying to make this better for delivery guy, but all that ended up happening was I was taken advantage of and made to feel like a moron.
I keep hearing the idea that people are supposed to be okay with the way that the world is, because God is supposedly taking care of them. Arguments like this dismiss the day-to-day struggle that many people have, in dealing with rejection, heartache, suffering, and pain, and it doesn’t acknowledge the different experiences that people have. I don’t like arguments like this, because I don’t believe the same sorts of things that some very religious people do, even if I can respect differing views. I don’t really believe anyone is taking care of me, except for people I’m close to, people that love me. It seems irrelevant to my situation, to imply that chaos is acceptable in a difficult, indifferent world, where I am repeatedly describing that I am doing my best to be kind and to make the best of everything. Yet this obviously doesn’t stop bad things from happening to me; it doesn’t stop me from having difficult days, with my own pain and struggles. I suppose it doesn’t matter though. Most people don’t like confronting the nature of reality, and how difficult life can be sometimes, and pointlessly so. It’s easier to just say that difficulties are just part of the cosmic order. I can take an existentialist approach and laugh at the Godless, indifferent world we live in. Or at least find the comedy in the absurd.
Certainly getting taken advantage of was not what I wanted that day, nor a cold pizza, but this does seem to happen sometimes, whenever I am struggling to be the best person I can be, and I just get destroyed by the world. This happens a lot. For people that want to tell me everything is fine in the world, of course I’m grateful for the things I have, the whole reason why I’m even saying anything about is because it is still my story, and I want to share it, like David Sedaris.
I’m definitely someone who wants to talk about ideas and unique experiences, and whenever I run into the world in unprecedented and unexpected ways, I forget that I can’t predict the future, I can’t predict what my fortune will be, I don’t know what is going to happen. I have had to accept this on a large scale, because I used to think that I could manage situations if only I acted a certain way. Often in many situations I felt that I wasn’t good enough in a lot of ways, which was why things were going wrong. But now I’ve come to the opposite conclusion. The world is a place of utter chaos, and I can’t possibly anticipate every catastrophe, or at the very least, a frustrating day. So I have to be patient with myself, and just remember that I have no control over what other people do, though certainly things are very hypocritical and contradictory, and that can be really confusing to navigate.
Of course in some ways, I’m fine; I move on. Books get rejected all the time. We aren’t always met with immediate success in the world. That’s probably the moral of the story. But part of what I want to do, is to be able to accept the emotions that I feel, which are often heavy and painful, instead of trying to suppress them or act as if they don’t exist for the sake of other people. The world is a harsh place, it does not often make sense, when there is so much contradiction in the world, and so much confusion. I certainly can’t predict what happens, and while I try to do my best to be able to navigate the world, there are many things that I don’t know. But this is my story, communicated in the way that I wanted to describe it. I wanted to share my story of yesterday, of dealing with the chaos of life, and it is difficult being a writer, and realizing that people don’t always like what you have to say, and realizing that things are really crazy sometimes. But that’s a story for another day. Pizza isn’t really a big deal, nor is trying to find a decent job.
And hey. I have leftover pizza for lunch. What more could I want?