Pushing the rock up the hill – Beau North

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By Beau North

When I was a kid, I loved telling stories. I invented tales of extravagant inner lives for my family, for every stranger I met, even for my toys. My mom used to ask me every day what I wanted to be when I grew up, and every day I had a different answer. Artist, writer, teacher, nurse, astronaut, all of them seemed not only plausible in my eyes, but attainable. I think mom knew what the cards held for me, but she’d always smile and say “You’ll be great at that.” ♥

Of course as I got older, the list became more fanciful. I wanted to be a rock star, a computer genius, an international gadabout. The problem was, I couldn’t sing or play any instruments, I couldn’t write computer script if my life depended on it, and I didn’t even have a passport. I couldn’t be any of those things. But I could tell stories about them.

It wasn’t until well into my thirties that I decided maybe people might want to actually read my stories. So when I wasn’t working unglamourous day jobs, I was writing stories about first love, about war, about self-discovery. The last theme was the one that truly stuck, as I was discovering things about myself I’d only suspected. Maybe I was okay at this. Maybe I’d finally found what I wanted to do. And so I wrote, I tinkered, and after six years I decided I had nothing to lose in sending my work out. My first book was published, followed quickly by a short story. Another book followed. Then I was invited by my long-time editor to contribute another short story in an anthology. My confidence grew.

And then it all fell apart.

I’ve had a lifelong companion in depression. When I was younger, it was ascribed as ‘moodiness.’ I thought it made me see the world differently. I thought it made me a better storyteller. As an adult, a succession of tragedies both large and small caused me to sink into the familiar comfort of depression until I realized that I couldn’t finish the book I’d been writing on and off for a year. Those two words became a litany of my days. I couldn’t, I couldn’t.

Depression will lie to you. It will tell you that you can’t, you shouldn’t, and what is the point? One friend, who had a book published by one of the big publishers, said: “When I get depressed, I can’t write, and then I feel bad about the fact that I can’t write, which makes me more depressed. My depression cost me a book contract.”

As I was sitting at home I remembered all those things I wanted to be when I grew up, and how I always told myself I couldn’t. But through all of that, I always knew I could tell stories. So I sat down and looked at my half-finished work. I added a few lines, feeling like Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill. By the end of it, I felt tired and sick, but I felt the first stirrings of something else — a small rebellion happening in my mind.

The next day, I wrote a little more. I won’t lie, it was frustrating and awful. But the day after that I went back and wrote a little more still. The story was still there. It was working its way out of me like a splinter being pushed out. And now, seven months later, I get to share the fruits of that labor with Modern Love. I’m not saying the experience has cured me, or given me more confidence. I am saying that it has made me realize my own limitations. I sometimes need help, and that’s okay. I will sometimes hear that voice saying you can’t, and it still freezes me. I push the rock back up the hill. I tell my stories. Because now I finally know what I want to be when I grow up.

Beau North is the author of Longbourn’s Songbird, The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy, and her latest novel, Modern Love, as well as a contributor to the anthology Then Comes Winter. Beau is a native southerner who now calls Portland, Oregon home with her husband and two cats. She attended the University of South Carolina where she began a lifelong obsession with Literature. In her spare time, Beau is the brains behind Rhymes With Nerdy, a pop culture podcast and website, and a contributor at the San Francisco Book Review.


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