Monday, September 17, 2012

A Merman I Should Turn to Be

I wrote this when I was 18. Though a lot of the specifics have changed, I still agree with a lot of it.

And I'm not sure whether that's good, bad, or if it really even matters, but I am proud of it.

A Merman I Should Turn to Be
“They say it’s impossible for a man to live and breathe underwater forever...”
-Jimi Hendrix

In 1968 the Jimi Hendrix Experience released its second longest song to date about a man turning away from a war-torn world to become a merman. Facing many doubters, the protagonist of the song turns away from a world of destruction proclaiming a transformation into a merman while the public stares him down telling him it is impossible. Whether Hendrix believed he could transform does not matter. The merman is an apotheosis of doing what one believes; it is the symbol of defeating the odds and doing what you dream and believe no matter how many obstacles stand in your way. And this is the new story of my life. My merman is writing; my opposition is a society that allows a person to dream until he develops hair under his arms, but then it is time to get serious.

Getting serious, for me, meant being a pre-med major to become a Physician’s assistant. “Zack, my boss said if you graduate he will hire you as soon as you’re out of school,” my grandma told me many times. “You’ll start off with a base salary of $75,000,” she said. What position was I in to argue? And there I thought I knew what I wanted.

My first semester of school I went through hell, studying, going to labs, and trying to make up for my lack of chemistry knowledge. The only thing I had to look forward to was inserting witty interjections into my lab reports (usually causing me to lose points). I missed writing essays and I could not believe it. I was miserable. But then things began to change after a book purchase, I Hope they Serve Beer in Hell (IHTSBIH). I spent a whole day reading to finish the book, seeing through the tales of debauchery and misogyny Tucker recalled from his college days, and realized I was doing something wrong just as Tucker Max, the author and main character of the book, had been. Only he endured seven more years of hell before realizing he was headed in the wrong direction.

In college kids go out to party, pull all nighters to study, and watch television to kill down time. After reading IHTSBIH, on nights I should have been studying chemistry in my first semester, I found Catch-22 in my hands until 4 a.m. Class was in four hours and I had not studied. The nights my friends went downtown I stayed in to read the Rudius Media writing forum and to practice my short stories. Ok, I lied--I did not always stay in, but you get my point. And these are the sacrifices I will continue to make.

People start to look at you different when your dreams are still intact and you refuse to let go, like you are still living in the fantasy world of your pre-pubescent years. I’m sure Jimi Hendrix heard the cynics many times, the ones who already gave up their dreams. “A musician? Why don’t you get a real job?” Instead, he became a merman through six strings. I often hear, “An author? How do you even become that?” There may not be a designated way to become an author, but writing is my path to becoming a merman.

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