Something very sad happened to me today. One of my professional colleagues surprised me by telling me of a decision. Because of my recent pivot to this new role as Jackson Allen the Author, he didn’t feel he and I could be friends anymore. I’m shocked and saddened, but of course I respect his decision.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about what happened. I decided that I wanted to blog some thoughts out and share this with you. Blogging gives me a platform for ideas that wouldn’t fit anywhere else. Maybe this is something you’ve already experienced and you have an answer for what I haven’t figured out yet.
As I said in the beginning, this is … like … the third act of my career. My real name isn’t Jackson, I’ve got some baggage and I’m just moving forward with my life now that the previously-planned ‘happily ever after’ became ‘not a hope in Hades.’ There’s some stigma attached to that decision and it sucks. As I travel that path, and circumstances change, all I can really hope to do is roll with the punches while remaining true to the goal.
I want to tell stories that people enjoy and hopefully get paid for it. It’s that simple, but circumstances dictate that I find my own way. Because I’m innovating, I have to be okay with being misunderstood. That’s the thing nobody tells you about the creative life: there are moments of genuine heartbreak. It’s bad enough that the public at large doesn’t understand what you’re doing. But when a fellow creative who is also traveling your path rejects you well, part of you dies. After that conversation, I had to take a few circuits around the block and try to clear my head.
I have to have conviction that this is the right path for me. Just like Sheryl Crow says: “No one said it would be easy, but no one said it’d be this hard.” Make no mistake: Being misunderstood by the public is just part of the game. Being misunderstood by other authors is a rusty knife in the gut.
In the grand scheme of life, though, this is a minor issue. I could be talking about life with a disabled child, or I could be facing cancer. Right now, I’m just talking about life as a creative person with special needs. It’s just messy and frustrating, as are many other parts of adult life as we go into 2017. Life has ups and downs I never thought possible. Writing keeps me sane in an insane world. I’ve pivoted and pivoted again so that I could find a way to keep writing as a part of my life along with everything else that’s important to me.
I may also be a victim of my own success. I’m pivoting, I’m dealing, and I think it gives people the wrong impression. It’s like … ‘you’re really good at this, so you must enjoy it. You must be causing it somehow.’ Outsiders see maliciousness in ambiguous decisions, when the reality is that I’m a weird naked ape trying to get through my day with the minimum level of drama, just like you.
That’s frustrating. Inside the community of creativity and sci-fi, there’s an expectation of understanding. The unspoken acceptance of ‘Your life is weird, and that’s okay. You dress up and go to Cons every weekend, or you play D&D for hours at a time. Good for you.’ There’s nothing wrong with that. What bothers me is when I see an expectation of understanding without reciprocity. Maybe I’m wrong for expecting to be understood after working to understand. Human emotions aren’t logically consistent.
So yeah, I’m bummed, but the main thing is this: I didn’t choose my life. I just chose to deal with it. Very little of what has happened to me has been the result of a direct choice on my part. I suspect many others deal with this frustrating scenario, where they are forced to deal with the stigma of impossible choices; surviving circumstances they never dreamed of having to encounter. I’m not sure where it comes from, but it’s one of the great social fallacies of our time and I’m hoping that one day we’ll find an answer for it.
In closing, I’m reminded of this quote by Dr. Seuss. It isn’t the first time I’ve come to a fork in the road of my life and it probably won’t be the last. It’s frustrating and saddening when you find out that the persons you think know you best really don’t know you at all. However, this isn’t an uncommon problem for those who tread their own path. It’s also not the end of the world.