The manner in which I left my mother and father was one of my major fears regarding my current journey; the other is the very public promise of writing that I made myself. It’s been my tormenter for as long as I can remember. Whether I name this beast Scriptophobia or Graphophobia or keep it unnamed, my subconscious breathes life into it with each passing day I choose not to enrich myself by writing. Strengthening its underbelly with scales forged from my self-doubt; growing stronger by effortlessly snapping my bones in its powerful jaws to gnaw and suck on the marrow of my self-diagnosed Imposter Syndrome.
I, now thirty-one years old in (mostly) perfect health, begin this dragon battle. The Art of War tells me that in knowing myself and my enemy, I need not fear the outcome of a hundred battles. This enemy I know — it dwells in a cave supported by two pillars. One pillar is the fear that I’m a fraud and everyone is about to find out; the second, more complex, is that whether it be fiction or non-fiction, an epic poem or a haiku, one of my fellow travelers will see themselves in my poetry or prose and be hurt by what is explicit or inferred.
I’ve been inconsistent in my writing, but I did manage to jot down this journal entry on the 7th of July preceding a passage in which I lovingly eviscerated a dear companion. “In the spirit of the promises I’ve made regarding my writing, I will be as bare naked honest as I can be; habitually stepping on and over the line of what might be considered petty or even cruel. If that is how my words come to be thought of, then so be it, but please know I wrote them in earnest.” After all, Hemingway taught us long ago that “all you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” This is my reality and I will deal with the consequences of how it changes yours.
During my time as an educator, I fielded the same questions over and over again. Often times doing so immediately after having just answered it. One of the more common, non-literary, inquiries was always something to the effect of, “Sosa, how did so-and-so become that? Like, how did they get that job? How come, like, they get to do that for a living?” After a didactic response about hard work, dedication, innate talent mixed with the right timing (read: luck), I’d conclude with, “…and I suppose that one fine morning, so-and-so who is currently this or that, woke up and decided to just be.” Obviously, there’s exceedingly more to it than just the power of thought, there’s the practice and execution, but I happen to think this step is paramount and it’s also the one that most seem to skip or simply stumble over — never to recover.
Upon deciding to be, you begin surrounding yourself with the right people, opening yourself up to those life-changing opportunities and experiences, and even welcoming failure.
Case in point, this narrative (a hundred visions and revisions) has been composed entirely, over several visits and multiple cups of Phoenix coffee (coffee spoons and all), on the second floor of Stop 17 Cafe and Bar — the Writers Room. Perhaps this dedicated space for creatives is just a placebo, but my words are loosed within these sturdy walls as the window to my left, overlooking Smith Street, judders against the eddies of the frigid antipodean wind. I feel welcomed by the genuine smile belonging to the shopkeep, Tyler, and by the daunting faces of the literary greats that adorn the brick walls of my newfound sanctuary. All are welcome, and I see many of the same faces with each visit, they read, they scribble in well-worn journals, they type both tenderly and furiously on their laptops. There’s no need to show documentation proving membership to a writers guild, no secret handshakes, no grandiose rings with occult symbols adorn our fingers, no pay-stubs needed to prove that our writing provides us with an income that affords us a comfortable life. My brothers and sisters are writers because they write; whether it was yesterday or decades ago, they chose to be.
Society often conflates success with income, promotions, and resume bullet-points, while those of us that choose to pursue a passion for the arts are met with skeptical scoffs and condescending questions; curiosities that the inquisitor poses to the fledgeling artist but in reality, the question travels through space and time to a grey area in that person’s consciousness where their road diverged in a wood and they chose the material over the spiritual.
I consider my mother (an Elementary school teacher), my father (a retired college professor), those handful of wonderful souls that shaped me in my prepubescence, my adolescence, and early twenties, my closest colleagues at G. Holmes Braddock, and even myself — educators. But if the most recent published numbers or MIT’s Living Wage Calculator are to be believed, none of us make enough money to live comfortably in Miami yet teachers and mentors are we — differences are what we make. Our reach is immeasurable. The social stigma of being a teacher never bothered me, so I’ve come to the realization that this idea of considering myself a writer (or any other sort of creative) only if and when I could solely support myself by it, was just another manifestation of the self-doubt festering in the cave I feared to enter.
I, foolhardy and drunk off the words of Whitman, arouse and declare myself — Peacetime Warrior Poet.
I, answer Whitman’s challenge to justify him, to prove and define it, and in doing so emerge paradoxical.
"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)" - Walt Whitman
And so I enter the cave, weapons ready, my soul and body braced to bear the brunt of danger. I sound my barbaric yawp and the unnamed beast rises, looking with side-curved head —
curious of what will come next.
So now it begins and so now it ends.