I was talking to my mom, who had called to wish me a happy birthday. I thanked her and said, “37 is a nice, sharp number.”
Birthday year celebrations are wonderful little social markers. A way the entire community, born-into or chosen, circles a person and says, “We are glad you are here.” The community says hello to the birthday-er and the celebrant spends most of the day trying not to focus too much on the number or its sharpness.
But, I do focus on the sharpness of the thing.
James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter (made into an incredible television production starring the indelible Peter O’Toole. ) has a powerful moment provided by King Henry II (the chief character). He says:
“My life when it is written will read better than it lived. Henry Fitz-Empress, first Plantagenet,a king at 21, the ablest soldier in an able time. He led men well, he cared for justice when could and ruled, for 30 years, a state as great as Charlemange’s.”
The rest of the monologue is excellent, but the section that has always stuck with me is, “…the ablest soldier in an able time.”
I am not a soldier. Not a king or an actor playing a king.
I am a writer. Or at the very least, a man who plays a writer in real life.
I live in a time of tremendously capable writers; and greater writers still have lived and died in my 37 years. I have been fortunate to know many of them. Learn from people like Rob Bass, Brad Ellison, Laird Barron, Orrin Grey. I’ve gotten professional advice from Joe R. Lansdale, Molly Tanzer. Paul Tremblay once looked over a short piece for me out of sheer professional kindness. In that way, I am incredibly fortunate.
I sought them out, all of them, out of a personal affliction of andreia. Andreia is an old Greek philosophical position which when properly used leads a person into a self-directed, constructive anger. It is a mean between the extremes of cowardice and rashness. It is a belief that one should master their own foolishness, vices, and ignorance. When misused it manifests itself as anger, aggression and vainglory.
In short, andreia,is as sharp a word as 37 is a number. Those who know me best know that I am a person of sharp edges. I am hyperbolic, prone to anger, staunchly opinionated and unapologetically ruthless in the virtues I hold dear. Hot-hearted. I am a person who rises every day to be the ablest writer in an able time. I believe that talent is a vessel and that Will is rocket fuel. No matter the size of your ship, it is the fuel that takes you from terra firma into realms far beyond. I believe that Will is what transports a writer beyond the Icarus Point. The place where a person can soar above the critic’s lightning storm and the consumer’s fickle heat.
The Icarus Point is my only destination, and very, very few authors ever reach it.
For me, nothing else will do. To be the ablest author in an able time.
The odds are that I will never be that person. Never be that author I am striving every day to be. The odds are painfully stacked against me, and I am a white male living in the United States of America, meaning that I was born on Third Base with our clean-up hitter standing in the box. 99.9% of the people who have lived or are living my time do not have it as good or as easy as I have it.
I have to acknowledge that privilege. It is essential to the modern American life and my own self-respect that I do.
And while this all may read as morose; I assure that it isn’t.
I know where I am at in my life as a writer. And I know where I want to be. I know myself. Most importantly, I know just how much I have to grow in order to reach the Icarus Point. Some people might read that as a defeatist statement. But it isn’t.
I am not where I want to be. But, I am flying. The view from even this low, professional elevation gives me a heightened view that gives scope to where I started; and when I look up, as I often do, I can see where I am trying to go. And just to see that point is an immeasurably heart-warming thing. To know your purpose in the world, even at 37, is a treasure that many people never find.
And so, I’m going to keep flying. It is my ultimate goal to prove that these wings aren’t made of wax.
These wings are crafted from hope, will, and unshakable belief. And I know that when the heat rises and the altimeter lilts into the red that these wings will endure. I know they will endure because I didn’t build them by myself. They are crafted by supportive friends, mentors, and family.
With you, I can do anything.
Thank you all for your support and the well-wishes.