We all know the classic rags to riches story. We all know the stories of successful people who had to overcome numerous obstacles in order to get to where they’re at.
And the truth is that we all kind of like to romanticize the hustle and the struggle. We like to romanticize hitting rock bottom as this place where you finally realize what is it that you want to do with your life, and it all clicks, and you somehow manage to connect all the dots, and then it’s all rainbows and sunshine…
Well, it’s not like that. Not like that at all.
I remember when I first started writing my first novel. Crazy Romanian kid, dirt poor, living on some $25 a week, decides to take part in NaNoWriMo and write a novel in English. Due to medical conditions, I had no teeth so to speak. Couldn’t chew solid food. Couldn’t look people in the eyes, couldn’t keep my head high. I walked kinda funny. Weighed in at 121 pounds. Strong winds were quite dangerous.
I felt invisible. I felt as if the world went on by without me. As if I was not apart of this world. I had my words and my thoughts and my stories, and we often try to diminish these things that we imagine into existence, but they are powerful. Believe me. Yes, we know deep down that our stories will never come true, and this breaks our hearts every single time we sit at our desks to write, but we also hope that our stories might, just might, some day come true.
The only thing stronger than fear.
I wrote my novel, and I’d dream of all these things. Selling lots of books, and being able to eat what I wanted, and…
My first novel sold two copies of the paperback and two copies of the Kindle version. That was it. I had a blog I gave up on after 3 days or so. I had a Facebook page with some twenty-something likes.
I quit. I didn’t know what to do.
Do you know how that feels? To have a dream that you nurtured for eight or so years, and you give it your all, and you do all that you possibly can, and you fail nonetheless?
And it wasn’t that people hated my writing.
No one cared.
It was just so bad that no one even bothered to read my stuff.
If you give up on your dreams, what do you have left?
That was it. I’d cry myself to sleep each and every night. I tried to get a job, yet no one would hire me because I couldn’t look people in the eye, I couldn’t express myself verbally in a satisfactory manner. I think back, and I’m quite certain people thought I was not very intelligent. It feels like a dream from another lifetime now.
When I started this blog, when I decided to self-publish novels again, to write my stories, to share my thoughts with the world, everyone told me to quit. My parents don’t speak English. They never read my stuff. My family, they all told me to give up. They all laughed at my dream.
My friends? Well… kind of the same. Few ever bought my books. Few ever cared enough to read even one of my blog posts.
So much for having a support system. Or connections. Or anything…
We are all self-made. Whether we like it or not. No one can ever write my stories for me, so it does not matter. It never did.
But I kept on writing. Living on those $25 a week. Had two friends, no girlfriend, no nothing. Still afraid to look people in the eye, still afraid of so many things.
Does this sound like a romantic view of failure, hitting rock bottom?
I suffered in ways that words cannot express. No one could ever invent the words that I need to define the hell I went through during my early twenties.
There’s this moment in my life. Me on the street with my mother. We were arguing. We had no food. No money. And I desperately needed some cash to buy some food. That was it. Just to survive. And she threw me some money on the pavement. I think of that as the lowest moment of my life.
Went home and wrote some more.
Life is kind of funny sometimes, because next month, I started to earn from this blog. From my books. Quite a bit. Twenty-three years, I was averaging some $100-150 a day. A really nice income for Romania.
I fell in love. It was good for a while. I was happy. And then my grandfather died. A week later, my girlfriend broke up with me.
Here’s the thing about suffering that few will ever admit. Not only do words cannot translate it in a manner that someone else can understand, but I am sure that most of those who go through extreme suffering and pain would drag each and every single one of us to hell if that would mean having the broken pieces of their hearts put together.
I think it is the kids that the world breaks who try to burn it to the ground, in hopes that would heal their souls.
I spent years not liking what I saw in the mirror. Years getting rejected, ridiculed, criticized, mocked, bullied. I spent years working, working out, working on myself. I spent years getting my heart broken.
This is not the usual positive personal development stuff. I did not go from one failed relationship to another with a smile on my face, nor did I go to the gym feeling overconfident in my ability to create the kind of body I’d be proud of.
Why would you ever think it is supposed to be anything but extremely difficult and painful? Why would you ever think you can avoid suffering by wishing for comfort?
You either do what is hard and suffer in order to grow, or you cling to moments of comfort and suffer for the rest of your life because of regret.
I am suffering right now. My muscles are sore. I am tired, having written post after post since 5 AM. I am fighting to become who I have always wanted to be. Yet, thinking back, when I gave up on my dream, when I gave up on my hopes of being happy, when I was this skinny dude who no one wanted to be friends with, who ate stuff that no human in the twenty first century should have to survive on, that was real suffering.
Because I was nobody. I had nothing. I just suffered. And I kept asking life, why? Why me? Why this? Why does nobody love me? Where do I find someone to care about me?
Life gave me this answer: why not, dude? What makes you think you deserve anything?
See, I was quite entitled. I thought I deserved something just for being alive. Just for being a human being.
You either choose a dream and suffer for it, or suffer the regret of not going after it, losing respect for yourself.
The world changes its opinion of you the day after you do. The world cherishes you the day after you do. The world admires and respects you the day after you do. The world loves you the day after you decide to love yourself.
Rock-bottom is not a place that breeds success. The desire to never hit rock-bottom again does. The hunger to achieve, to overcome, to grow, to conquer oneself.
Never give up on your dreams. I know I will never give up on mine.