I can remember it like yesterday. She sat there batting her eyelashes while I rambled on about jiu-jitsu and the adventures of my job hauling junk out of people's homes. It was the coolest introduction I had to my life story. I felt like the protagonist of The Great American Trash Novel. And my confidence about my situation got me there.
We dated for some time after that but just as our relationship faded, so did my blue-collar identity. Because, of course, it's a bit more complicated than that.
For a while it felt right even when it felt a bit wrong - when I was god-awful tired. Or I was working overtime. Or I couldn't afford to move out of my parent's house. Again.
And, sometimes, still I find myself wondering about that first date. It all felt so right and put together. Today I'm more surrounded by computers than torn-up couches and garbage bags. I can sit at my desk and help customers build websites for their creative ventures all day long. The benefits are great and the community is even better. I find myself staying at the office more than my apartment just to hang out. How could I have been so confident about the kind of lifestyle most people would scratch their heads over?
And I think I've fallen on the answer. Identity.
What I was doing became me. I had a clear sense of the things I wanted to fill my day with and it felt great to share that with someone who didn't already have a glimpse into my world. It was a proud sense of accomplishment, challenging myself with physically demanding tasks that most people don't dream of doing. It was easy to nail everything down with labels too. Fighter. Junk Hauler. Writer.
Life informed writing and writing informed life.
It wasn't just reading things to regurgitate them on my own page, it was putting things into practice.
And I see the difference now. Jiu-jitsu and hauling junk forced me to be part of communities with disciplined practice. I talked and wrestled with people all day long. I read books about human interaction, goal-setting, and the paralysis of choice. And I practiced it every day with my hobby, my job, and my love life.
With my current job I find myself typing more than talking. I'm chatting with customers to build their sites. My teenage self couldn't have dreamed of a way to get paid to instant message people all day long.
And there is the challenge. Seth Godin (sort of) jokes that no one has talker's block. There is barely hesitation, we just do it. With writing, we get in our own heads about it.
I find myself doing the opposite - having the courage and discipline to write without the ability or opportunity to talk all that much. Don't get me wrong - I have friends, I hang out, and I don't have laryngitis. I just need to find a way to make my life more than writing and put more of my life into it.