It had nothing to do with the debilitating back ache I had all week. Nor the fact that well, another birthday is approaching. It was just a reconfirmation of my fears in the form of an interview that K.K. watched: “Finally, at 37, George Saunders published a collection of short stories.”
I have been having this feeling any way since I was about 26. I remember a lunch with my MFA professor Howard Norman at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC where he said the one phrase that has come to haunt me since then. I explained to him how after my collection made failed rounds of publishing houses after being accepted by a pretty big agent in NYC, I felt crushed. I was working on a novel and I could not write. I was a fraud and on top of it time was slipping away. I wailed, I complained, I tried to fish for a dose of repair for my broken writer ego. He watched me slurp down my lentil salad and in that characteristic way of his, ran his hands through his hair and said “This sounds to me like the foretaste of regret.”
Foretaste? Well. the foretaste is now the taste, the bitter, lingering bite of something in the back of my throat disguised sometimes as obsession, other times as declarations of quitting. There is no way around it: Time has been awasting and I regret it.
It’s funny the things guilt will make you do.
As someone who has tried to never regret anything in life, I find each day when I have not sat down and accomplished anything writing related a regret. This is not healthy, I’m thinking. K.K. also thinks the same but I think she gets it too. She tells me we had kids and we worked and we did other things and we kept our feet in it, dammit.
But 37. That’s some marker. I can’t help thinking that means something. That time is running out faster than I can chase it. Its paralyzing.
At this point, I don’t know who is winning, Bradbury or I. But dammit, this year will not get one over on me.