For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a published author. I have scribbled down stories, which started as copyright nightmares rehashing various films I’d watched, and eventually evolved into original pieces. My reasons for writing have changed over the years, from a way to express creativity to a way to capture daydreams to a way to survive my mental illness.
Throughout it all, that desire to be published remained, but it’s only in recent years that I recognised the full extent of my ambition.
Firstly, through noticing that many around me did not share such intense feelings about their job or passions. They had many different sources of joy in their life, while I refused to take my hands off the wheel.
Secondly, through realising that I did not want the same things others did. When they spoke of a perfect future, I only imagined being an author and getting to work on books every single day. But they were thinking about finding their soulmate, getting married, buying a house, having children, and/or seeing the world.
I found that I didn’t desire these things in the same way, and that scared me. Was I broken not to be excited at the prospect of a partner? Was I foolish not to think about home ownership?
I knew that if I had to choose between all those wonderful things on a platter, and getting to be an author, I wouldn’t hesitate in snatching the latter. It would be worth it to me. I couldn’t admit that to people in my life. I couldn’t tell them that I’d sooner be alone for all my days if I could live through my novels.
I know that many get to have both, that it doesn’t have to be a choice, and yet my thoughts remain the same. I finally realised the extent of my own ambition, and it disgusted even me. I can’t even think about those other things while I chase my ambition.
I wish I wanted more than this. I wish that I dreamed of a partner, a family, a home. But all of that comes second to my ambition.
Let me clarify, it’s not a matter of money. Of course, I wish to live comfortably and with financial security, as many do. It’s not a matter of money, but of having this personal place in the world.
A friend once said to me that he wanted to be an expert in his field. He wanted to be the person that they turn to on a subject. I think, despite our very different professions, that’s what I’m looking for. All the markers of it, like bestseller lists or royalties, are just milestones in that expertise. It’s not a matter of having those, but rather what they would signify: that I am successful at what I do.
I want to write the kind of stories that leave the page and cling to your heart. I want someone to cry over words I once typed on a screen. I want someone to make Tiktok edits of my characters, maybe comparing them to Taylor Swift songs. I want people to feel changed for having read something by me.
More than anything, I want them to feel seen. I remember those books that made me feel less alone, and that felt like a companion on lonely nights when my mind tried to win. I want to be that for someone. I want to give them that moment of relief where they think, “Ah, I guess I’m not the only one who feels this way.”
I had that moment reading Girls Under Pressure by Jacqueline Wilson, where I got to see a character develop an eating disorder. In The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes, I got to feel seen in my depression. Normal People by Sally Rooney allowed my friends to understand my struggles with depression better.
There is so much power in the written word, and it’s a power I am desperate to wield. I have so many stories within me, so many thoughts fighting for the top spot, and I need to put these down to paper.
Is it enough to just write them and have no one see them? No, I’m sorry, but it isn’t for me. I know that’s enough for others, and I applaud them for it. It should be enough. But despite the shame this brings me, I have to be honest and confess that I need more than that. I need to be read, by people who aren’t related to me or even know what my face looks like. I need the acknowledgement of others, I need the chance to share with strangers, and I need it so badly that it feels like I might explode.
I wonder if this ambition would feel so foreign and uncomfortable if I weren’t a woman. I like to think I’m evolved past regarding a wedding as my highest hopes, but maybe I’m not past feeling strange for that absent feeling. I wonder if I could wear this ambition with pride if I weren’t raised to be smaller in the world. I wonder if my lack of interest in those personal milestones would be seen as dedication rather than obsession.
Writing this all brings me no pleasure, but there is relief in admitting it. There is the hope that other people live with this overwhelming ambitions, that is unrealistic and knows no limits. I am an ambitious person, perhaps to a fault. I want one thing so badly and won’t accept the various consolation prizes. The fact that I see them as this says enough. I’m not saying it’s right or healthy or fair, I’m just saying that I feel this way, and even I’m disgusted by my own ambition.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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