Burning the past, Predicting the future



I am going to write a book. I’m going to write a best selling autobiography. It’s the next “Eat Pray Love.” It’s “Growing Up” by Russel Banks. It’s an Indian “Wonder Years”. I’m going to stun the world with my quixotic turns of fate, heart ache and ultimate transcendence. I am just waiting for that transcendence.  But when it comes, I will be ready. Because I’ve chronicled my life you see. I’ve written in pain staking prose, day after day, what I wish for and hope for. I’ve cried and wept over hundreds of thick grained, acid free, bound by resin and stamped with a moleskin logo black leather bound notebooks. Because I’m a writer damn it. And one day, I’ll get to write my story. And I’ll have all these captured moments to help me tell it.  And most probably one to two poorly paid, dreaming they too will be writers, graduate school assistants to go through said notebooks for me to pick out the good parts.

These note books stand about two feet high. The take up a shelf in my closet. They are filled with tightly packed prose. With thought exercises and detailed descriptions of the life I would like to have versus the life I did have in that moment.  I could write my own Judy Blume novel, as every other entry contains a beseeching letter to the divine, demanding to know why I have not gotten what I want. There are a lot about what I don’t have versus what I want. Because I can be very demanding and very whiny.  Sometimes the letters are thanking God. Lots of times they are asking him what the hell is wrong with me or my family or my friends or my boss or the world around.

Sometimes they tell stories. The stories are often sad. The good ones (in retrospect) are those of me being acting out and doing things that you should not do to succeed and get what you want. Like telling my boss at BuzzFeed that I had just called the head of North American Media at Facebook who said I could attend the publishers’ executives meeting and I was coming with her whether she wanted me to or not. (This is why I can no longer work in corporations.)

The happy ones are written in a mad dash, the letters are nearly flat on the page, racing to get out. Because happy moments then felt fleeting, and I needed to try to capture it and cement the feeling  of a memory  as it gusted through me.

And there are sad ones.  Ones where I am fighting with my parents. And ones where I am mourning lost love. Or wondering when a new one will come by.  I write about loneliness, and I still cried reading through it because that is one companion I have not been able to leave behind.

The journals start in 2009 right after my job covering the Obama campaign for NBC and take me through wondering what’s next, the decision to go to business school and the year at Cambridge.  They talk about friends and relationships that I’ve lost touch with and who are now simply memories.  The notebooks follow me back home to the States and a painful period of depression and confusion, wondering if I had made the right choices. One notable entry that struck me. In August of 2011, my goals were: “get up on time in the morning, bathe, get to work on time and be in a calm and positive state of mind as I start work.”  Talk about low bars.

It chronicles the effort I put in to pull myself out of that depression; to buy an apartment and living with my sister in a cramped basement studio in Hells Kitchen determined to save money.  I tell the story of finding my job at BuzzFeed and establishing myself in the publishing industry, building my reputation, ecstatically chronically the moments of success with wildly scrawled “thank you, thank you, THANK YOUS” all over the page.  I assume I was thanking fate, and God and all that is good that leads to ecstatic success.  It begins to tell the story of feeling a tiny spark to do something on my own and you can see it alight and get brighter on each page.  I shed friendships and gain new ones. I go through guy after guy, never finding the right one.  And I keep writing.

They tell a story.

And so today, I burned them.

Actually I burned a page from each one, and I took the ashes and let Jonas sweep them away from me into the blustery streets of Bushwick.  I then carried two armfuls of notebooks to the garbage chute and dumped them in there.  Not pausing, looking back or worrying about what I’d left behind.  I let myself keep only two. One that tells the story of the first year of trying to start Social Data Collective. And a second which had two things that surprised me.

  • An entry dated March 20th, 2016 (weird huh) describing one of the best and most successful days I had at BuzzFeed. But the way the entry is written it could be describing almost any major event or day — because it describes the feelings of celebrating and success. And reading it, I felt successful and exhilarated.
  • The message in the photo below: “The Universe Rewards Speed” and “Action + Speed = Manifestation”  — a message I need to hear NOW.


As for the rest, I would like to write the Indian “Wonder Years.” But then I wouldn’t really be writing about my own life. I would be mixing and recreating memory to write an idealized version of what life could have been. Just like all those notebooks spent so much time describing what they wanted life to become.