The Death of Belief

Jim Ryan

This I Believe, 2013

 

Some of the other folks up here tonight are likely to be discussing that moment of epiphany where a concept came into being, an idea coalesced, and a belief was born.

Well,  I’m going tonight with the death of belief, where a concept got shattered and an idea got splattered like a cat under a moving car’s tires at highway speed.

About five years ago I had different  ideas about how the universe was supposed to unfold and in what order.   There was a plan.  It all made sense: first, you concentrate on setting yourself up so that you can sustain yourself; get the first job or three, build a credit history, maybe decide on a career.  Next, you decide if you’re going to build a relationship into a family, and then devote your time into supporting that family while you chug at your job-slash-career.  Then, once you’ve done enough of that and built a little security, then you can do what you’ve wanted to do for years:  Pick up that hobby, or passion, you really wanted to do all along before this whole responsibility thing got ahold of you.

Then five years ago  I was being honored at my job, marking ten years there alongside a co-worker.  She was also doing her time, supporting her family, waiting for the moment when she too could follow her heart.  We chatted about our families, and how much we were both doing to keep the embers of our passions ignited just a little longer.  Someday soon I was going to concentrate full time on the writing, and she was going to dive deeply into her acting and dancing.

I was aware that evening that she was going through some tough times.  Her husband had started his fight against lung cancer, and the bad days seemed more frequent than the good ones.  A few months later, he lost the fight.

The last time I saw her, just before the end came, I promised her that whatever she needed, I was there, any help whatsoever, no matter what.  She appreciated the offer, although there was this sadness in her eyes, something more, though I didn’t realize it then, than mourning. Five weeks later, a memo was circulated around the company announcing her death.  In the midst of meeting her husband’s cancer at his side, she either did not get a timely diagnosis of her own malignant growths until it was too late or ignored them to be with him.

What the hell?   This wasn’t what either of us expected.  This wasn’t what anyone, deferring their own pursuits to put others first, was supposed to have happen to them.  You do your time, you help out everyone else, and before it’s your turn this occurs?

Well screw that!

Are we really supposed to hold ourselves back and live lives of woulda-shoulda, only to be remembered for something we aren’t?  She was an actress and a dancer, and no one was going to remember her for that because there was nothing to point to.

And then I got desperate, like a rat in a corner facing an angry old lady with a broom.  I wanted to be remembered as a writer, and I sure as hell was not going to wait a few years before I lost that chance.  I lost my belief that there was always going to be time down the road to pursue what I love, once I got the rest out of the way first.  I believe we shouldn’t wait to follow our dreams; carpe f’n’ diem!

Sure, I don’t sleep at night anymore, and sometimes it gets as loud around the house as the second act of one of those tortured artist pics MGM used to do in the 50s and 60s, but at least when the end comes (at this rate sooner rather than later), they’ll at least be able to point to my corpse and say, “Yeah, he was that writer, wasn’t he?”