As we near the end of our journey with JDZappa's letter, it is fitting to take a look at where we've been. We've explored inner caves and climbed mountains. If we traced our course on a map, it would wind around, even double back on itself at times. But every step is a step forward.
A wild letter reappears!
3. How do I deal with regret from not pursuing a creative career at an earlier age? I could have gone the fiction-writing path after college but chose a more steady career. Now, I’m envious of published writers in their 20s and 30s who gambled and won, while I live a somewhat-boring suburban life.
John, aka JDZappa
At the center of the map is our destination, "finding joy in the creative process." Surrounding that destination are a myriad of biomes. There is a desert of despair, a lush forest of creative abundance, and even a plateau of boredom. Each biome contains a set of trails; some are direct, some follow a roundabout route. Some trails pass near countless beautiful vistas, others seem only to circle the same mundane brush. But eventually, every trail leads to the same destination.
You cannot control where you start this journey. Some people begin close to the center of the map, take a direct path, and meet little resistance. Others start closer to the edge and run into dead-end paths, difficult terrain, and various obstacles to overcome or bypass.
You might regret not joining your friends who "gambled" on bandit-filled roads; they seem to be at the center of the map while you are still finding your way. It is easy to feel envious, easy to compare our own bramble-filled badlands to others' beautiful forests. But we do not know of the spiders, the swamps, and the darkness at the center of the forest. We do not know of their struggle to remain with joy after finding it. Even the most successful people can still wander back into the wilderness and lose their passion and joy.
Envy is natural when we do not have a complete picture of someone else's experience, when we only see their success. Comparison is natural, and it's okay to feel bored or regretful about your journey. In fact, regret is one of the few certain companions on this journey; everyone feels regret, no matter their course, their speed, or their distance from the center. But remember that it is your path, the experience of your journey, that shapes who you are when you arrive.
Like I've been saying throughout this journey, if you fixate on anywhere other than where you are, you are going to run into some amount of pain. You are here. Be here. Be present here. Take what you can from this place as you move to the next place. Remember this place. Not everyone got to be here. I think you will find your "somewhat boring" suburban life is richer and more exciting than you know. And you will be a better writer for it, even if you don't quite see it yet.
I’d love to hear about what each of you are working on right now. Tell us about your projects, take a moment to share how your journey has shaped it. I look forward to hearing from you.
If you have a question or quandary that you’d like to hear the Joyconjurer’s perspective on, email me at [email protected]. Please note: published letters may be edited for length and/or clarity.