For a long time, happiness made creativity feel hard.
In my pre-Radley, less-secure, more-dramatic days, I filled spirals by the handful. There wasn't enough time in the day for how much I had to say — not nearly enough white space in those black-and-white composition books to hold all the words that kept coming and coming and coming. The daydreams! The musings! Oh, there was so much to muse about. Or should I say complain about? Anyway, it was a lot of the same. A lot of the same fears, same dreams, same wonders, all of it just written on a different day in a different coffee shop. Or, more likely, written late at night while sitting up in bed, too curious to sleep. Does he love me? Do I love him? Am I enough? Is this friendship enough? Does she think this friendship is enough? Did I hurt them? Why? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with them? Where will I live? What will I do? Who will I love? Will I be loved? I love, I love, I love. Love love love.
Never did I write more than while I lived abroad. During my four months' time in Oxford, I filled two entire notebooks. Two notebooks! I remember it like yesterday. Each night, I'd prop myself against two pillows in my tiny little twin bed, my sweet roommate giving me the side-eye as she wondered when, exactly, I was going to turn off the reading lamp attached to my headboard. I wrote until my hand hurt, and then I kept writing. I missed home, but I didn't miss it at all. I loved England, but I was tired of the rain. I feared for the future, but I couldn't wait for it to start. I was in love, but he didn't love be back. Or did he? Yes, and, but. Back and forth, back and forth.
Contradictions. There were a lot of contradictions back then, a lot of time spent lingering somewhere in the gray area. I wasn't sure of much, and I hadn't settled on anything — not a city, not a career, not a relationship. It was up in the air, all of it, and I both hated and reveled in the uncertainty.
And my creativity, it fed off that unpredictability. It thrived in the not knowing.
One month after I returned to America, I met Radley. Cue another creativity spike! There was so much to say. and so much to wish. I was falling in love and learning to let go at the same time, stuck in this terrifying blur between the past and the present. Again I propped myself against two pillows to sit in a twin bed, and again I wrote. And wrote. Fear — that's what drove me, mostly. Fear and something like anticipation, the twin side effects of falling in love.
I've filled exactly half a journal since Radley and I started dating. Six years, half a journal. To be fair, I've written far more fiction — and a blog, and a full portfolio of professional work. But still. Half a journal. What happened?
I've thought about this a lot. As in, nearly every day for the past six years. And although it's complicated and complex and not at all simple enough to pare down into one or five sentences, I'll try anyway. Because here's what I think: In letting some of the many pieces of my life settle, I've answered a few questions, and in some very big, satisfying ways, I've found happiness. A large slice of happiness and some lingering unhappiness with just a tiny side of blissful certainty. There are new questions, to be sure, and what if never goes away; I'll always be insatiably curious. I'll always go back and forth over something.
Here, I blog a lot about certain everyday truths that I discover, always eager to fit the pieces of my life together into some sort of narrative with a beginning, a middle, and — with any kind of luck — at least the promise of a happy ending. Optimism, in other words. Within my diary and here, as I write about my own true, everyday life, I've chosen optimism. Mostly, anyway.
Fiction, though, that's where I funnel my angst. (Fiction and telephone calls to my mom, that is.) There's something so fun and freeing about distilling fear into fiction, about filtering doubt into stories that I can create myself. Creativity — when it comes to understanding my life — isn't the same as it once was. And maybe that's okay. Maybe that's for the best, even, because maybe it's not about creativity at all, but growing up. Facing truths and choosing one dream over another.
In any case, for me, happiness has shifted the shape of creativity. And I'm actually really, deeply grateful, because there's only so long a girl can live up in the clouds before she wants to write them herself.