When I was 5, I was obsessed with Michael Jackson–I taped my fingers so my snapping would be more effective. I had knuckle-less, fingerless leather gloves with his signature smeared across them. I had a white glove covered in rhinestones and glitter. My Velcro wallet with the outline of his face was always in my purse. BAD was my first record, and I made my father play it constantly. My parents taped his concert at Budapest on a VHS, and it was the only thing that would calm me from my tantrums. And although the “Thriller” video scared the living daylights out of me (what the hell does that even mean? What are my daylights? And why are they living?), I watched it every Halloween as I cowered behind my father, secretly wishing that I could go on that date with Michael–as long as he didn’t turn into a werewolf.
When I was a teenager, I obsessed over the Backstreet Boys, spending thousands in posters, t-shirts, concert tickets, videos, and other useless paraphernalia. I wrote about them, daydreamed about them, listened to them constantly.
Between the ages of 18 and 20, I became obsessed with 80’s rock concerts. I went to over 25 concerts one summer while I was working at the factory. I have this jean jacket to make you understand:
In my early 20’s, I became obsessed with diamonds, and with breaking away.
For most of college, I was obsessed with hippy-esque things. I climbed trees. I wore jean skirts and peace signs.
When I went to grad school, I was obsessed with leaving North Carolina and holding onto my Ohio roots.
When I lived with Mike, I was obsessed with finding a job.
Now I’m back in my beloved Ohio. I have a job. But I have nothing to be obsessed with. My friends (who are writers) tell me to write, or at the very least to try to publish the book I’ve already written (Mike is convinced this should happen, as well). I see a few problems with this.
1) Writing gives me no pleasure. It still feels like homework. Like a requirement. Like a forced act that someone is staring down upon. I write (wrote) simply with a blue collar draped loosely across my neck. I did not write about pretentious things. And because of that, I think that simple writing is often looked down upon. I get so sick of people trying to do the new hip thing. This is why I can’t stand lyric essays. It’s not right. Just write the story and quit relying on the gimmicks. When I realized that there was no market for that kind of writing, I quit.
2) I do not want to publish Leaving Winesburg because I have exposed my little hometown for everything it is–regardless of how dirty or unflattering. I told it all, because that’s what a good nonfiction writer does. We tell the truth. And the truth is that I’m not ready to not be able to go back to my hometown. If you’ve seen October Road, you understand. “You can’t go home again.” My parents are still there. Some of my friends. And while I may have exposed some ugly truths to my classmates and professors at Ashland and UNCW, I do not have to expose them to the world.
3) I fear that my memoir about working in a factory is, in fact, my only story. I’m not ready to let it go yet, because in all honesty, I’ve done nothing extraordinary since then.
So I need an obsession. That doesn’t cost a lot of money, because lately, I’ve been a bit of a miser. I need an obsession that will take up some time, allow me to meet new people. I do not think this combination exists, but I am open to suggestions.