My friend Peter Gonnella said that to me many years ago. Twenty? Thirty? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I never forgot it and occasionally remember it. My only recollection besides the words is that he said with a wink, but there’s always some sincerity in sarcasm, and all the sons of Tony and Barbara had a bias for action. They always seemed to get the summer job. Get the loose ball. Get the girl. I remember as a kid, my mom saying, “I wish you’d be more aggressive like the Gonnella’s.” Even within the past few years, she sent me a birthday instant message echoing the same theme:
“I wish your dreams come true and the drive to go after them.”
On Sunday I attended a writer’s workshop, “Plotting the Novel,” courtesy of a gift certificate from Joyce. The day was intended for those working on a novel, a working class I currently do not belong to. So as we explored the protagonist, their flaw and the cause of it, their wound, I used the exercise to analyze the protagonist of my life story. What’s my flaw? As I’ve endulged before, it’s fear. I’ll leave it at that for now. While it’s easy to identify the flaw of my character and the “incremental perbutations” (John Barth) that have, and continue to emanate from it, it’s not easy to fix. It’s not like I can just get big steel balls implanted, it’s more about everyday choices in handling adversity, regardless of scope.
It’s a blessing to have choices. Should I spend the money to finish my “mancave” project? Should I write a book? Should I lay it on the line? Should I fight for what I want? Taking action on any of these choices involves risk. Spending money means less financial security for my family. What if my book sucks? What if I’m rejected or lose? What if?
I wanted to attend “Planning Your Book,” but procrastination (see “incremental perbutations” above) delayed taking the step and the gift expired. The good folks at Grub Street in Boston reanimated the gift until the end of January, so I had to choose. I was up against it. “Plotting the Novel” was the best course not already sold out. I took it and learned something about myself.
For all of us, our gift will expire. No need to fear that. It’s a certainty. It’s all the little decisions we make between now and then that will determine whether we’ll have regrets when the clock runs out. So don’t hold back. Don’t be afraid. I wish your dreams come true and the drive to go after them. Or as my friend Peter said, “Just do something, even if it’s wrong.” I hope he’s lived his life that way and will have no regrets.