Posted by ktbryski
It’s my birthday today. I’m twenty-three.
It’s odd. On the one hand, all of my friends are older than me. Consequently, it feels like I’m always playing catch-up. I’ve reached the stage where some of my friends were four years ago, but now they’re onto the next one. On the other, I feel like 23 is the last year of “early twenties.” 24 seems solidly into “mid-twenties” territory. I’ve been out of undergrad for a year now—life’s getting real.
Is there a little bit of anxiety around that? Maybe. Some. I’m actually quite optimistic for this twenty-third year. I have an apartment and roommates—and I like them. I love my dayjob. Writing is going well. I’ve found several wonderful communities.
But I think there’s a reason I took to the role of Peter Pan so well. I’m reminded of my first visit to Virginia, and one of the first conversations I had with Sonic Boom:
“You know,” she said, looking me up and down as we arranged stuffed animals in her room. “You’re different than I expected.”
First visit, remember, so I was already kind of nervous.
“Oh yeah?” I said. “What did you expect?”
“Well, I didn’t think you’d have glasses…”
Oh. Okay, then.
“…and I thought you’d be older.”
“Ah,” I said. “Well, I am twenty-one…”
“Yeah, but I thought you’d be a grown-up. Like, thirty.”
I thought for a moment. “It’s kind of cool,” I said, at last, “because I’m old enough to hang out with the adults, but I’m still like the kid of all the podcasters.” Then, too nervous not to ask, I said, “So, is this better than you expected?”
Sonic Boom considered that, and then nodded very solemnly. “Yes.”
So there you have it. Apparently, thirty counts as being a grown-up, but twenty-one did not. I wonder where twenty-three falls?
But all joking aside, in hindsight, I see that I subconsciously hit the nail on the head: “I’m old enough to hang out with the adults, but I’m still like the kid of all the podcasters.” The youngest in the room, but still among peers. That’s a role I know. It’s one in which I’ve spent most of my life. It feels familiar. Safe, even.
Being the bright, precocious kid may be a familiar role, but it’s not a sustainable one. I’m growing older, growing up. The day will come when I walk into a room at a con and there’s a new twenty-three-year-old with starry eyes and unbridled optimism.
There is a trade-off.
At twenty-three, there are stories that I am not ready to write. Honestly, objectively, I know: I do not yet have the emotional maturity or life experience to do them justice. Similarly, a repeated theme since starting my MFA is that I have a good writer’s toolkit. I just need to build cooler, more complex things with it. During this first semester, there was a lot of talk about “developing” and “maturing” my craft, finding my voice and who I am as a writer.
I don’t know who I am. Of course I don’t, I’m twenty-three. Writing is one of those disciplines in which takes years, if not decades, to fully mature. I got very lucky, very early—but I’ve still got a lot of growing up to do. Asynchronous development hasn’t bitten me this hard since grade three. I can see where I want to be. I want to be there now.
But I have to wait. You can’t rush time. You can’t rush maturation, or experience, or practice.
You can only keep writing.
And there’s an upside to this whole “I don’t know who I am/what sort of author I am” conundrum: I get to find out. Ideally, I think you should always be learning, always growing, always discovering and rediscovering both yourself and your art—at the same time, this is the stage of life when a huge amount of that work takes place.
I know a few things.
I know that my best works have always been love songs. I know that there is something in the air lately, in this golden sunlight falling through the leaves, and these ripening raspberries and first tiny proto-apples, which makes me stop and think, “Is this not wonderful?” I know that “faith over fear” is a theme running not just through Hapax, but several works since.
So, I’m twenty-three. Young enough to power through on grit and coffee; old enough to know I can’t do that for much longer. Too young to know myself completely; old enough to be aware of that. Too young to be grown up; old enough to be growing.
Let’s see how this goes.
Cool Thing of the Week
There’s something in this poem that touches me very deeply. This is the sort of thing that sings to my own creativity:
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.
– Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877.