September 30, 2011


Question mark by Marco Bellucci
Question mark, a photo by Marco Bellucci on Flickr.

So, as most of you know, I'm in Mombasa writing a book.  If you want to read a description of all that Kenya has to offer, I encourage you to wikipedia it because I've spent ninety percent of my time here holed up in a coffee shop.  Five percent of my time is spent clapping at monkeys that have infiltrated Jared and Ilea's apartment in order to dissuade them from jumping on me and ripping off my face like that woman who had to have a face transplant when the chimpanzee attacked her.  The other five percent of the time is spent gnawing on leftover Swiss Chocolate and persuading Ilea to give me massages. She wants to a be masseuse so she needs to practice, right?

Anyway, the writing process has been challenging.  I just can't figure out which direction I want this book to go.  As I write, I keep switching the narrative.  Then I get confused and frustrated, take a break, and read facebook for inspiration.  (Don't do that, you'll be disappointed and start to wonder why you're friends with people.)  Desperately seeking wisdom, I then usually pick up a self-help book and wonder why I don't write as good (ahem, well) as the famous author.  That's a typical day here.  If I'm feeling really wild, I may run into the Indian Ocean in my bathing suit screaming "don't look at me" as I dive between crowds of Kenyans in black inner tubes. 

Yesterday I had one of those days. After one of my "what the hell am I doing moments," I quit writing and checked my gmail.  Usually I'm invisible on gchat because I like to have control over who I talk to, but considering I hadn't spoken to anyone in twelve hours save for the few swear words I yelled at the monkeys, I decided to put my status as "busy." (ha!)

Seconds later, I received a gchat from Christy.  She's the girl that lived below me my first year in New York City.  We didn't see each other that often.  One time we ate oatmeal with peanutbutter on her fire escape, and another time we went to a comedy show in a gym, met up with a girl who is a nude model, and then danced in an empty bar before getting a shitty taco from San Loco. Besides these random exchanges, I always liked her.  She was honest and whimsical and would hop on a train to the Hudson Valley to find moss to bring home to hang in her kitchen. How can you not like someone who does something like that?

Since moving into new apartments, we hadn't spoken in over a year. After exchanging pleasantries, she asked about the book.  "I'd love to hear your insights," I told her upon concluding my spiel. (It's such a spiel at this point it's borderline nauseating.)

"I'm vicious," she warned, before offering any opinions.

"Hit me," I responded. 

Things quickly spiraled out of control from there. I can't rehash exactly what happened, but it went something like: 

"don't use the word power-it's a buzzword"

"don't use 'in-enoughness' it's too hard to pronounce"

"don't be Elizabeth Gilbert, the self indulgent white woman book type who could afford to go explore the world for reasons not discussed" (Side note, I loved Eat, Pray, Love. Other side note, she was able to travel because she received an advancement on her book.)

"don't take yourself too seriously because your personal journey is probably deluded."  She stopped to breathe.  "What books are you reading?" she asked.

"Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdoms by Christiane Northup and Return to Love by Marianne Williamson."

"Ok, cut that out right now," she responded. "Stop reading other people's ideas about how to live life and start grounding in reality.  Go buy an economics or a pottery book."

"Can I read Thoreau?" I asked meekly.

"No, but Kerouac will do. Ok, I gotta get back to work. Good luck, keep me posted!"

I closed gchat and sat on my yoga mat in an empty room in silence. Ilea and Jared are still moving into their place, so the minimalism engulfed me. 

I closed my eyes for a moment. My face felt like it had been slapped with a five pound wet fish. 

 But I felt . .  .  free. 

She was right. She was one hundred percent right.  Somewhere down the line, amidst my piles of self-help books and podcasts and journals, I had begun believing that in order to write something people would want to hear I had to be Elizabeth Gilbert or Marianne Williamson or Eckhart Tolle.

I'm not them. 

I have not had a life-altering experience that made me understand the universe. I don't believe that I have any profound answers to share.  I am a twenty-something year old ridden with self-doubt.  I've spent my whole life asking questions and now I don't even trust the questions I'm asking.  Screw the answers, how do I figure out what questions to ask? What is it I even want in this life? Is it peace, power, passion? Or, as Christy phrased it, are the questions more like "how do I accept who I am? How do I live a life that inspires me?"

I have a hundred pages of wrong answers, now I need to start figuring out the right questions.


  1. I saw Larry David and Jeff Garlin a few weeks ago riffing onstage. Garlin told a story of them eating lunch and sitting near an Eat, Pray, Love billboard and asking Larry how much would it cost to get him to go see the movie. Larry grew quiet and retreated into thought before he announced with honest certainty, "$3,000." Then Garlin asked how much to read the book. Larry said, "Ah, now that is a much deeper commitment!" On stage he grew embarrassed and didn't want to reveal his price amount he came up with.

  2. I still like this post a lot, and not just because of my part in it. Your voice came out in exasperation, confusion, and fed-upness. I think it's a pretty honest place for a 20-something to be. "Insecure" is also a pretty honest place. So is "exuberant." Go ahead and be naive and embattled, dude. That's sure as hell where I live.