Psyche Dumpster Dive: Seeking 17-Year-Old Me

There was a time.

It’s 6:45.

No. I didn’t ask for the time, I said: There was a time. Take Lily LeFevre over there. Pretty fucking with it, right?


Not now. But there was a time.

Believe it or not, there was a time I had my time under control. In high school I was overinvolved – athlete, full honors schedule (some years as many as 7 of my 8 classes), various academic clubs. I ran 20 miles a week in the off-season, cooked dinner for my family 5+ nights a week, and graduated with a GPA of 106. I had friends that I actually did hang out with outside of school. I was skinny and watched what I ate with the fanatical obsession that only a teenage girl can generate–if I had an eating disorder it was only what health nuts in general have. I handled all this by a strictly regimented life. Up at 6:05. Driving to school by 7:05. As soon as I got home, homework until 6, then a 2-4 mile run, then cooking dinner, then finishing my homework, then bed by 9:30 sharp. Repeat. The only variance during soccer season was practice after school, come home and cook, and cram all my homework in the hours between dinner and bed, putting off till the weekend anything that could be put off. I did not watch TV. I hardly ever read for pleasure (when I did it was on the weekends and summer vacations), didn’t write much besides filthy poems and emails to the pen pal I was in love with at the time, didn’t cosplay, didn’t have hobbies. Achieving and regimenting my life were my hobbies.

College was a lesser version the same – full academic course load every semester, various extra-curricular involvements, much more active social life, worked part-time, graduated cum laude from my university with special honors from my liberal arts honors program. Still no TV, but once I met my husband (sophomore year) I started seeing a lot of movies and, in the falls, football games, and lots of live music. Again, I rarely wrote except during the summers. My hobbies were my friends, drinking, and achieving as high as I could with as little effort as possible.

And then The Great Decade of Failing began.

Oh, I suppose, my life is not a failure, exactly: I’m happily married, living in a house we own, maintaining a full-time job I don’t hate in a city I love. But I am not doing what I want to be doing with my life, other than in an existential sense. I don’t love my job enough to give up writing. I don’t love my job enough to keep it if I could make the same money from writing (or less, so long as it was a livable wage, if by the time I get there with writing I am making a lot more at my current job). I am also failing my potential in an academic sense (but no one cares about that except my family who didn’t have anything to brag on me for until they figured out how to spin my job), and when I look at the amount of time I waste just…existing, I get a little bit wound up or despairing.

I don’t know how I used to do what I did back then in the sense of making myself do it. I think I had an end goal in mind (getting out of my country town with a scholarship to university) that was more important than the inherently lazy, self-indulgent, drifter that I was as a child and that I let myself return to after college. I remember the military precision of my schedule. I remember that not doing the things I had set for myself was simply not an option. Now when I feel that, it’s generally because I have procrastinated something I want to have or said I would do, that does have a deadline, and then I have to spend every second on it and be frantic the whole time and make compromises.

I need to find the old NCO who used to run such a tight ship in my brain and bring her out of retirement. I need to set goals that need to be met and make myself believe that not meeting them is not an option.

I need 17-year-old psycho Lily to re-po my mind and body for about a year. Maybe two. If I could kick this day job I’d have all the time I need for both achievement AND indulgence. I wrote my first novel during the summer when I had nothing to do except indulge my passions – reading, writing, watermelon. I wrote my first novella that I might let someone else read over spring break – same song, different season. I can be fantastically, unswaveringly devoted to achieving my goals when I have the time to do it “naturally” – but until I get there, what I need instead is the fraulein who ran her life like an 18th-century automaton. I need Robot Lily.



Filed under Ramblings

4 responses to “Psyche Dumpster Dive: Seeking 17-Year-Old Me

  1. ABE

    Yesterday I managed to pull three small patches of poison ivy out of the very back of the yard. It has been on my to do list for a year and a half.

    The problem is that, as we grow older, there are simply too many things on the list, and we spend too much of our time considering what’s on the list and trying to prioritize (also known as ‘going around in circles’), without actually getting things done.

    Be truthful: if you assigned a realistic number of hours to all the things you SHOULD do, it would take several lifetimes.

    I’m about to go do a better job with mine. Everything will have to wait because I choose to spend time writing right now.

    Because, if I have to choose, I’d rather have done that than anything else.

    Besides, the poison ivy removal should grant me immunity for years.

    • I think you have a beautiful priorities list. 🙂 I try to excuse things not being done bc i was writing. It’s a little harder when they don’t happen bc I was vegging out after work. What I have lost is the willingness to exhaust myself for indefinite periods of time. A boon and a curse in one….

  2. “…when I look at the amount of time I waste just…existing, I get a little bit wound up or despairing.”

    See my blog post today. Okay, and the one before that.

    I’ve often said you have to be at a certain place in your life to sit down and decide, “This is it! I’m going to write. I’m good, I’m settled, I have time now.”

    (That’s what I did two years ago. *pause for hysterical laughter*)

    Which is why, I think, we see so many writers produce their first manuscript after age thirty or more, and why so many of us, after having made that decision, wonder what the hell we were thinking about having time. But if there’s so many of us with ISBN in hand, it obviously can work. Some days, though, figuring out how it can is a real pain when the roof leaks, the dog is sick, you’re sick, the day-job starts at 7am, and oh-em-gee, how did I become the busiest person in the world with so little to show for it? I end up with lists written on the inside of my wrist, and nothing on those lists say anything about writing. Shame, that, but it’s the way it is.

    I have faith in you, though, because I can turn on my Kindle and see titles that have your name across the cover. You can do it–you HAVE done it. Just… breathe. And quit beating yourself up.

    (Yes, I am aware I just gave you advice you’ve given me before.)

    • What’s funny? This post was actually less about writing than it probably sounds in context. I have finally settled into a groove of steady production over the past 6 months. Even if doesn’t go as fast as I want, I am still steadily working, at a level I was not until November of 2012.

      There was a lost period between starting the very long novel Labor Day weekend of 2011 and abandoning it 15 months later to write the Nano Christmas story, a year in which I was really pulled down by of work stuff. Bullshit at my old job that kept me from working (being internet-stalked and monitored by your entire dept and terrified every day that you will walk in and get fired because the bullies finally found dirt is quite the creative buzzkill!), then taking a new job and having to adjust to new (longer and more demanding) hours and then a big company expansion that meant even longer and even more demanding hours. So for basically a year, starting just a little while after I started that book, writing was waaaaay in the back of my energy priorites. By November I was fed up and tried to make writing more of a priority. For the past month (since getting back from our trip) I feel like I am finally in a groove with my job and that the company has settled into its new skin at long last, so it’s not draining me as much.

      But I still only have room for one priority, and I have a lot of other things I want to do! I have other hobbies that want some of my time (sewing…such epic cosplay plans for the next year!) and film festival screening is upon me again, and I have been trying to keep a better house just on general principle. I should have time to do all of it, and still write, if only I could not spend time doing brainless shit like watching TV or staring into space pretending to myself that I brainstorming on a story when really my head is in a hundred other places.

      So I should have said it, but this post was really the “OK, I have writing time down but now I need to find time for all this other stuff!” post. Even though I still actually do want to find more writing time, as well. My head’s a mess. lol

      Anyway, thank you for the vote of confidence and the reminder that yes, I HAVE managed to keep at it and get something to show for it. Even if it only ever stays a hobby in the twilight of 5-630 a.m., I have proven to myself that I can, at the very least, maintain an old-school trad-pub production schedule of 1 novel per year. 🙂

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