My anxiety has been through the roof for a myriad of reasons.
I don’t drive to Hollywood for work. I have a home office. My dog has been sick. The days run together. I can’t fit into my old clothes. There are rats in the vent of my apartment. My allergies are so bad I can’t tell one smell from another. I’m still not sure what to do with full weekends. Soon I’ll be sending LAST SONG #1 to the printer.
I’m 36. When I first wrote LAST SONG I was 19, and I made one of the supporting characters 36 because it was the oldest I could imagine being. Like you reach some cliff of existence and suddenly, that’s all there is. You’re not supposed to get excited about anything past your 30s, right? That kind of wide-eyed adoration is for teenagers.
So where does the passion go?
I’m writing and editing full time these days. No more Meltdown. It hurts, because Meltdown gave me that sense of autonomy, of real value, of curating an entire store’s stock and then some. I got a sense of belonging, which was something I never had. Not in high school, not in college, not in normal vocations. But I did at Meltdown. I held my own. I decided exactly what books we would have. It was all up to me.
Holding that up meant more than so much hollow corporate praise, even when my position was readily looked over. Meltdown was always wedded to comedy, after all, and I am not a comedian. I often struggled to connect to the Nerdmelt regulars and podcasters. If good comedy is making something sound loud and important enough to be absurdly funny, well, I guess I excel at the opposite of comedy: talking myself out of things until the only real option is plain old boring common sense.
I’d find people in the crowd, though. Others like me, who needed Meltdown for different reasons. We’d make eye contact with each other and sort of nod across the masses like secret agents trying to apprehend a suicide bomber in a sea of substitute teachers. And it was enough.
It felt big. I liked it. I don’t like losing it. But I’m getting older, my coworkers were getting younger, and I had to fall down and face the music.
I need a mainstay. Something to keep me sane. I’m drifting into nebulous creativity, that hazy space of half-assed support, scratching at stability, at some semblance of justification for my existence.
I love writing for FM and creating comic books and telling people why their sentences aren’t long enough. But the truth is that everything’s running together now, and I spend a lot of time in my head, wondering what to get excited about.
At my age, marriage and babies are where you’re supposed to go, and I respect that, I guess. But pardon me for asking what the fuck the rest of us are supposed to do with this whole “getting older” bullshit. Leave a legacy? Found a charity? Have the proverbial midlife crisis and get piercings in all kinds of weird places? Of course I’m a writer, but what the fuck am I supposed to write about now? Even my writing heroes have babies and write about them, and I’m just… ugh. I’d rather give my uterus to science.
It helps to think about the people who changed me growing up, to think of what they gave to me that had nothing to do with DNA.
Gus Gillette, for example. My high school theater director. Making a wallflower like me into some kind of stage presence. Check your posture, he would always say. Stand like you belong there! This is your scene. You have to milk it!
He believed in me when I didn’t. When I didn’t get Guinevere and wanted to quit, he gave me Morgan Le Fey in confidence. I have a tattoo of her now.
Then Gus died of heart failure last month, and it felt a lot like that part of my life being vacuumed out, made irrelevant. Death can feel like that.
I mean, the world lost a lot of gender-bending musical icons recently, and for this nonbinary queer person, every single one of them hurt. From Bowie the glittery alien to Prince the sex symbol who grinded and flirted to George Michael, the proudly gay boybander who went through PR hell but still managed to somehow emerge as a human being.
At the time, I kept pointing to Harry Styles in his glitter boots and gender neutral pronouns and rockstar moves and saying, man, thank the gods for this guy, cause he’s going to inherent all that. It’s not just him, of course. But he was the symbol I needed to deal with that loss. A big, achy balladeer of countering the posture of heteronormative bullshit.
His incredible song “Sign of the Times” dropped last month around exactly when I left my job at Meltdown and began to write from home.
It’s one of those songs, y’know, that just captures exactly what you need to say at a particular time. One that seems to encapsulate what the world is going through, what the scent in the air is, what generations have been trying to say. You look pretty good down here, but you ain’t really good. Just need the time, need the encouragement, need something to steer me somewhere.
Appropriately enough, it’s sort of about history repeating itself. We’ve been here before. It’s just what we know.
Now that things are aging and changing and I need that something to hold onto, I find myself celebrating those younger generations, the baby icons and prodigies, the ones who will still be here when I leave. I’ve spent my life finding young bands and teenagers and goofy kids who clearly have talent but aren’t sure how to channel it. Maybe because there’s something satisfying in seeing them grow up and grab the world by the throat. Because they just keep fucking doing it. Generation after generation. Bands I’ve had to get used to being younger than me by a decade. I find them so they can tell their stories to me again and again.
All these musicians bleeding through my life, mapping it, smoking a joint on the way out… it’s all the fucking same, and it will all come back. Because the year after we lost all those colorful icons, we got a baby Bowie stepping up to the plate with his own kind of flourish. Harry Styles just dropped a rock record better than anything I’ve heard in years. It’s like he catapulted into this century straight from the 70s to save us from our boring ass existence.
This is more or less what LAST SONG is about. It’s all the same damn story, in the end. Just a different soundtrack and maybe a slightly different set of circumstances. But it keeps going.
We can meet again somewhere, somewhere far away from here.
So here I go. Another job, another lifestyle change, another influencer from my past taken the elevator to the sky (here’s to you, Gus). I don’t know if I’ll be here in another six years or if I’ll be so absorbed in my incredible career that it doesn’t even occur to me to reflect. But what do I know.
For now, I’ll secure my future by keeping my ear to the ground.