Selling Illusion

Saturday, May 07, 2005

[Igniting the Fuse]

Tonight, like any other, I power up my laptop to the sight of a wallpaper that has greeted me for the last five months. I’m quite fickle in my ways, and, like my musical tastes, single images are not stationary for any great length of time, and so are not prone to lengthy stays on my LCD screen. This one is an exception. The image is bordered by jet black lines, the kind you get watching cinema presentations on a 16:9 ratio on your television set. Within those walls are two things. To the left, a logo, emblazoned in a unique font, fading into the stark white background. To the right, a single figure, from waist up, eyes closed, head angled down to the left. It is a character I know well, having made her acquaintance at the start of a new summer. It is not the physicality of her that light’s a fire in the core of my mind, but something more insubstantial, something stronger.

As a slight pain emerges across my optic nerves, I glance away from the screen to rest my eyes for a brief respite. Swerving away, they cannot fail to take in the sheet of A4 paper that is tacked against my wall. On it is sketched seven figures, holding together for a group shot. Most, if not all, have been part of my life for over fourteen years in some incarnation or another. Along one frayed edge is a simple statement. It reads ‘For us’. Somewhere below that is a signature: my own.

Both images are simplistic. Yet merged into the fabric of both of these visuals is that of a promise, made a long time ago. The promise was made by me, and it was to myself. It reflected two different sides of my life, both important, and both, equally, sadly, unfulfilled. And I only can blame myself. Chances come and go, but some exist indefinitely, created and fulfilled by the person who made them. Personal, private choices that linger on through conscious thought and dream. The basic premise for their embellishment from fantasy to reality is only guaranteed by the wielder. I have sat, and felt the weight of empty promises upon my shoulders. In their eyes, I see hopes and aspirations that are of my creation. And I have seen those hopes and aspirations turn from flame to ember, from embers to ash.

It was something I did not even understand until recently. With taking stock of the last few years of my life, and where I am now, I’ve come to realise that I haven’t succeeded in shaping the dreams I once had, dreams I thought I always had. The ability to produce them has never been outside my grasp, but I’d allowed the background noise that is generated in anyone’s life to become prominent. The fires have been blanketed, dulled. All by my own hand. Passion had been steadily replaced with apathy, ideas generated and then stock piled on a scrap heap of discarded memory. My path through life seemed to have degenerated into a mass of cul-de-sacs. Regular readers of my column will remember a few weeks back my article describing a fruitless meeting I had with a long serving journalist, in which it seemed my aspirations were dashed and my future career was better envisioned as pulling randomly out of hat. I stated then that this was the saddle that broke the horse’s back. Hence apathy set in, and much of my work has suffered as a result.

The life that I desired, the life that I wanted, seemed to be quickly evaporating. And I seemed complacent enough to sit and watch it slip from my grasp.

Last week I decided to stop being a whining arsehole and actually do something about it.

I had come to the realisation that there was such a thing as being too late, and the last thing I wanted was, in twenty years from now, to look back at the possibilities and freedom that I had right here, right now, and to feel the bitter taste of regret in every aspect of my life, as I let it all pass me by. I had been at the crossroads before, and quite frankly, I was becoming sick of thinking of my life like that. That all I saw was the road less travelled, and felt a sense of unexplored possibilities on the path I had decide on. Sometimes it’s incredibly easy to be an asshole and wallow. I didn’t wish for it to be my forte. I do it badly and half heartily. I’m better at being me, and that’s exactly who I decided to be. Realisation formed into resolution.

“Warm, witty and fundamentally happy individual who isn’t that far up his own ass to admit he’s got faults as well. Seeks to achieve dreams as a matter of principle, rather than distant fantasy. Will travel (a lot), and seek the answer to unnamed feeling within.”

Well, it was a start, an internal log for starting a new chapter of my life. That feeling of grasping life by the balls and doing exactly what I want to be doing. No compromise: a choice, simple and true, to do what I want to do with passion and love, the path being straight and narrow, the horizon wide. I was not painting over the ugly parts, but more an understanding that I could not find any future by fixing my past, but it allowed me a greater appreciation of what I did have, and the lessons learnt.

So tonight, as any other night, I see her face staring at me from the computer screen. But now I can match the weight behind that gaze. For sitting, not two feet away from me, are two complete application forms, ready to be hand delivered to two companies, both for journalist positions. The requirements for the positions and my experience in the field are separated by a canyon of my own making. But I am ready and willing to prove myself to these people. A belief that passion and determination can go a long way in showing potential employers how good I can be in fulfilling these roles. In the mean time, I’ve had two offers for temporary employment. One is a step back into old territory. The other is the representation of an old dream once thought buried forever. Isn’t it funny how your luck can change? The latter will mean realising an ambition, whilst the former will at least mean I’d be employed for the first time in five months, earning a steady pay packet, getting myself back onto the circuit once more.

And even if the Journalism positions prove to be allusive, I’ll find something else. And whilst all this goes on, I’ll be hard at work on personal projects. No longer ‘they will’ and ‘I hope’. It’s changed to ‘they are’ and ‘I am’. I’ve spent all week putting the finishing touches to a tattoo design that will in two weeks be grafted onto a very dear friend, a trust in my abilities as an artist that hopefully will never cease to amaze me. My brain will then gear up to committing to page the short story that has been forming in between tattoo sessions, started already but not finished, for completion this time next week. Printed out, it will be sent off to England for a Short Story Competition where it’s going to amaze and entertain the judges. I’m aiming for the title of ‘One to Watch’. And as soon as that’s is winging its way overseas, my fingers will start hammering the keyboard once more with not one, but two delayed writing gigs. One is a comic script for the attention of Marvel Comics, with assistance and feedback from this site’s very own Schaefer, who recommended me for the gig. The other is one very close to my heart, my first novel. Relief for those who read the first draft and clamoured for more, confusion for others: ‘Gil was writing a novel? Gil can write?’ And with every page written I’ll glance up at that A4 page and offer a face eating grin and murmur ‘I’m doing it’.

Along side this, and once a steady pay check starts coming in, I’ll be able to afford proper art supplies, and start renovating some of the older rough sketches I have lying around into full fledged art pieces. This will be supplemented by my new digital camera, also bought with influx of money. To which I will use with great effect on creating a virtual exhibition for show in my newly created website, generated through the intense study of web design and Photoshop manuals, assisted with generous advice from The Drifter and The Kitten, the Dynamic Duo. And I will enjoy every minute of this process, since I’m working in the areas were I have always been happiest.

I will re-discover my love for gaming, taking my time at each and every piece of software that graces my collection of consoles, appreciating the fine craftsmanship of the game play, and being in awe of the simplistic pleasure of these fantasy worlds being generated. I will not rush through something new, but savour it as a fine wine, and thus elongate every drop of pleasure. There will be a period of mourning when I realise that not every game is as good and rewarding as the 10% of supreme quality that is out there. But then I’ll probably be to busy leaping chasms and dancing around multiple enemies in Prince of Persia 2 to shed more than a single tear.

I will actually get round to seeing the ending sequence of Final Fantasy X, and starting Metroid Prime.

Then, with money saved and debts cleared, in a year I will be travelling across Thailand, breathing in humid air and tasting the scents of a new world. I’ll realise that after years of hoping and dreaming that travelling would see me at my happiest, that it is true. Once returned home, another trip will be immediately planned, then another, and another. I will manage to pick up hard and mind wearying work in Japan, and throughout a smile will dominate my face. After having my fill, I’ll continue on, chasing the setting sun across the world, exploring and meeting a thousand different cultures, giving me a greater appreciation of the world and as I grow and discover a greater understanding of certain unalienable facts, and become a better person through my experiences. I will find the beliefs I once held dear and then cast aside as naivety will be reconfirmed, and a foundation stone of greater resolve will be borne from the events that created them. My perceptions will remain mine, altered somewhat but strengthened in the process.

My own quest. To uncover the questions in my heart and become a better person for it.

Coming back home, I will look at the final draft of my first novel, and then completely re-write it. It will be published, and not win any awards, or any critics ‘Novel of the Year’. But for those that pick it up, it’ll be a hell of a read, and people will feel better for having been privy to the world I constructed. I will then start work on the four sequels, writing the last as I look back at my life, and find that I have no regrets at all, that I’ve lived my dreams, and am eternally grateful for the life I had, and for getting the chance to be at peace with myself.

The last novel will end with a vision of a world saved, and the chance to build a new one from the ashes of the past. It will feel to me, and any that read it, as a journey completed. Some time after I will pass away, happy and content. At my funeral, they’ll play Morecambe and Wise’s ‘Bring me Sunshine’, as my final request. And the atmosphere will be that of a party, rather than a sombre occasion, allowing people to revaluate how good life can be, to which they’ll toast and drink well into the night, until a new dawn.

Yea…wouldn’t be a bad ending for someone who decided not to be an asshole for the rest of their life.

But first steps first. I’ve realised I make a terrible asshole, and the problems are all internal. Time to show myself how to live. Better find the spark to set this all off.

As Johnny Storm would say: ‘Flame on’.


  • A very inspirational read there, Gill - I'd love to see some of your photos and sketches sometime.

    (the dork from work)

    By Blogger Andy, at 5:58 pm  

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