If only you complained less

There are things that just stick to you, so much so that anybody who tells you to move on looks plainly irrational.

A decade ago or so, someone whose writing I looked up to - past tense, because she has since shifted towards a more, er, functional form of writing, and while it works for some it doesn't for me - told me that, well, I write well. I remind her of a favorite author of hers, in a way. But I'll never be as good as him. "If only you complained less," she told me.

Well, before she told me about the similarities I didn't really know about said decorated author. I now own some of his books, and yes, I agree we do write a similar way, but as I cringe whenever I try to be whimsical, I have long conceded that there's not much else to compare. Also, I am not funny, but it's not like I set out to be just that.

She's right. I do complain a lot. I've been writing here for thirteen years - almost fourteen - and for the most part I have been complaining. It was about school. It was about work. It was about not having friends. I know that makes for some painful reading - and quick, because people surely swear to not give me one more chance afterwards. But then, I didn't begin blogging to show myself off as a writer. Yes, I did those hand-written newspapers from folded pieces of bond paper as a kid, but outside of those few years when I dreamed of being a journalist, I never really considered myself a good writer. These days I just impress myself, but all this time I envy a lot of other people who I believe write better. They'll have these turns of phrase that I'll never have. I've always put it down to how I don't generally read fiction. You can only do so much with newspaper articles, after all.

With that out of the way, I began writing to just let it all out. It made sense when I was in college, when I considered myself an outcast. You'll say outsider, I'll say outcast. I had company but I never really had close friends, the sort that you'd go to when you have problems you can't just flesh out instantaneously. I figured I could do that with the blog. I pretended to be a good writer and I got to talk about what's bothering me, which, at the time, was everything. I merely pretended. Even I am annoyed by the stuff I wrote then.

Looking back, that approach was not a good fit when I moved to the labor force. You're not supposed to bad mouth anyone there, even if they're ultimately terrible to you. What's personal must stay personal, even if it's your memories of being bullied in high school resurfacing because you're being bullied at work.

That said, I did try shifting towards more anecdotal writing. I can only dwell on my troubles so much without turning anybody else off. "If only you complained less," she said, and it would ringing in my head whenever I feel like pouring things out. Well, I complain about the state of affairs in national politics. There's really not much you can do about that but complain.

I've been thinking about why I'm writing less these past few years. (Again, the caveats: I'm actually writing more, but elsewhere.) I can count four reasons. One, I'm starting to run out of anecdotes to write. Two, the anecdotes that I do write take much longer to write, because I now tend to write long opuses that, if you think about it, nobody will really read. Three, I'm really wary of airing dirty laundry now - I've been in the labor force for ten years, and more eyes are on me, and a part of me is very sure that what I've written before is stopping me from ever progressing in my career.

Four, well, I now have a girlfriend. I'm devoted to her the way she is devoted to me, and that means a listening ear whenever one of us needs it. In the past six years I have somehow reoriented myself to talking to someone about my problems rather than writing about it. It's always what I've wanted all this time, arguably: a close friend, the sort that I'd go to when I have problems I just can't flesh out instantaneously. It's why I like long conversations, even if it's up a mountain on the outskirts of a city you don't know very well, one only accessible on the back of a motorbike at half past one in the morning.

But then, we're both not always in the best frame of mind. I don't want to talk to her about what's bothering me, especially when she's also got problems of her own. I'm afraid she would spiral because I'm spiraling. I'm afraid she would spiral further because I'm spiraling.

"If only you complained less," she said. Maybe that works. She's in a much better place - successful, accomplished, happy - but then, our feeds are warped towards being in a much better place. That said, I have every reason to believe she is where she is because she genuinely believed what she told me, because she lived by it, lives by it. It's a trivial matter, but I cannot move on from it, because it's been haunting me for the good part of the past decade, every time I sit down in front of a computer, opening up this window, letting my fingers run away with things. Know what, I've been thinking: I've run out of things to say, and nobody's interested in what I'm saying anyway. Maybe I should stop writing entirely.

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