On Making Plans
I don't make plans.
The soft, human urge to look toward the future with expectation in mind was beaten out of me sometime ago. That sounds profoundly melodramatic, I know. Such is the nature of mental illness and emotional abuse. When the voices that surround you make it clear that you don't have a future and you have nothing to look forward to -- because what you want simply doesn't figure into the big picture -- the voices inside you begin to concoct a similar narrative.
Then one day, you find yourself in your late 20s. You were pretty sure you weren't supposed to survive this long, but here you are, anyway. Suddenly, and quite rudely, everybody wants to know the answer to the biggest question of all: "What's the future look like for Magen?"
Of course, the only answer you can muster is a befuddled: "I get to have one of those?"
Oh, I write. I'm in school. I'm working on novels. I'm in therapy. I'm in a long-term, long-distance relationship with my girlfriend of five years. These things sound they're all working toward a future, like a picture on a dart board. They coalesce into some fuzzy Polaroid picture of a plan, foxed around the edges, and maybe a little out of focus. At least I'm pretty sure they do. That's what people tell me when they fondly punch me on the shoulder, like people do to kids in movies, and say, "Aw, you'll be fine. You've got this figured out."
Yeah, I, like, super-duper don't, though. Most of the time I feel like I'm talking with glass in my mouth, and my insides are threatening to spill over onto my outsides. I'm just standing there, holding it all in, because I've gotten really good at that. I'm assured that nobody else has it figured out, either. Somehow that doesn't really make me feel any more put-together, though.
If I allow myself the space to think about the future, I don't quite know what to imagine. I'm so used to drifting from one thing, one job, one day to the next. Doing what I have to in order to survive and forgetting about everything else. What I want, what I need -- those things aren't important, because they were never important to other people.
But when I think about the future -- when I really think about it -- I know I will be writing books. I know I will be in therapy, trying to figure out how to put my insides back in where they belong. I know I will stay in school to continue my education, because I love academia and it's the only thing that makes me feel like my life has a direction. I know I will be with my girlfriend, even if we're still separated by space and financial hardship.
It isn't the answer people want to hear. They want to hear about big plans, big moves, impressive incomes. Living fast, dying beautiful, and leaving an accomplished corpse behind for people to resent. I don't have plans for anything like that. It isn't real, and I don't have time to entertain other people's fantasies.
I just have to allow myself to have this -- to learn that I'm allowed to have it, and to keep it for myself.