Sunday, December 6, 2015

Unrecognized Genius

My writing career began in a blandly straightforward manner. In 6th grade I wrote a short story for an assignment and got an A+. I even kind of enjoyed writing it, as much as a writer can ever truly enjoy the writing process. I had a good feeling about what I was writing as I wrote it, and my teacher’s validation confirmed my suspicions. Then and there I decided that I would be a writer when I grew up.

Clearly, I was born to write and, being a gift from God, it wouldn’t require much work to maintain my talent, which was lucky for me, because I wasn’t too interested in working at it. I was far more interested in accepting the plaudits of teachers, parents and other authority figures, the people who knew what was good.

However, the following year I was plunged into a cauldron of torment when I started middle school. In his comic book, School is Hell, Matt Groening calls middle school “the deepest pit in hell.” Groening’s description of middle school proved prophetic. My friends drifted away, in the case of my best friend, to find cooler companionship.

I unilaterally ended social relations with my parents and younger sister. They seemed partly responsible for my predicament, and, in retaliation, I downgraded our interactions to nonverbal or monosyllabic, and always invested with a heavy dose of sullen hostility.

My diary became my primary confidante. It was a series of school notebooks left over from various classes. In a fit of eco-consciousness, I filled the empty pages with tiny writing. I could put two lines of text in each college-ruled line. I’m not sure why I wrote so small. Maybe I wanted to “waste” as little paper as possible on my random musings.

As a writer, my confidence has been worn down over time by feedback and failure. But, at the dawn of my career, I was confident that becoming a professional writer who could at least support himself was a pretty easy goal. If anything, I was mainly worried that my genius might not be recognized in my own time. 

That became a compelling argument for my exhaustive diary. It would serve as a window into my formative years. Future scholars would pore over these notebooks, fascinated by the new light they shed on my groundbreaking body of work as an adult. It would give them fresh insight into my troubled relationship with my parents and the many indignities I suffered at the hands of my peers.
On the surface, my life was hell, just as Matt Groening had said it would be. I was bullied at school and essentially friendless the rest of the time. My free time was mostly spent watching TV, trying to forget my misery. 

But it was all just grist for the mill of my genius. As we all know, every great artist has to suffer, and these were my trials and tribulations, the pain I had to endure in order to join the pantheon of great writers. Shakespeare, Hemingway, Groening: I bet they were all picked on in their school days. (Well, obviously Groening was, since he wrote a book about it.)

All the pain would be worth it once I got the recognition I deserved. The world would know how I had suffered, and, through the power of my prose, they would sympathize with me and condemn my tormentors as the assholes they were. The kids flying high in middle school would be brought low, and those of us at the bottom of the pecking order, well, maybe not all of us, but certainly I, would be exalted. Just as the Bible prophesies, the meek would inherit the earth and the assholes would burn forever in the Lake of Fire. 

I had to believe this, otherwise there would’ve been no enduring the torment and loneliness. Even if I didn’t achieve worldwide fame during my lifetime, I was still at the very least guaranteed a posthumous exhumation of my oeuvre followed by the inevitable, global avalanche of accolades. 

It actually took years for the whole world-conquering genius narrative to take shape in my mind. I didn’t make the leap directly from well-adjusted child to megalomaniacal teenager. But it’s taken much longer to dispense with that delusion than it did to concoct it. By now I’ve at least gotten to the point that I have serious doubts whether my genius will ever be fully appreciated, although I remain cautiously optimistic.

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