The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

Imagine that you are standing before a rose garden. In front of you a series of stems rise from the earth and reach towards the heavens above. Some are tall; some short.  Some are straighter than others, and a select few carry more thorns than the rest. Their petals are in various stages of bloom too. Whereas some are wrapped up tightly in sepals, others have opened and allowed their oils to warm in the sun, emitting a fragrance that smells divine.

Imagine kicking off your shoes and stepping into garden. If you have a partner, or a child, or just a friend that you wish to take with you, then grab their hand and ask them to follow. Feel the dirt between your toes, and the heavenly scent on your tastebuds as you carefully weave your way through the maze of stems and thorns. Now imagine finding the perfect rose; a flower so striking that you sink to your knees and stare at its beauty. Its blood red petals are fanned wide to soak up the sun; it’s tantalising scent is unlike anything you have ever smelled before.

To the left of this perfect rose is a smaller flower; not quite in bloom. To the right of it stands a withered flower with petals falling towards the soil below. As you shift your gaze from left to right, you can’t help but feel as though the perfect rose in the middle is made even more magical by the two surrounding it. It’s as though you’re seeing it at the pinnacle of its existence. Had you arrived a day earlier, it may have looked more like the flower to the left. Had you of arrived a day later, it may have begun to wilt and die.

Alright. Enough with the visuals. You’re probably wondering why I’m asking you to conjure up images of blood red roses and soil shifting between your toes. It’s a new year; the fifth in the history of this site, and the angry boy who started blogging is now a grown man with a deep love of analogies and flowers (one needs to only click back through previous posts to find countless images and references to roses, peonies, etc.), and for the first time in my life I feel as though I understand what it means to be in bloom.

Yep. You heard that right. The writer who has spent years calling himself a wolf and tearing apart anything in his wake just mixed things up and labelled himself as a flower. Confused? Well, I can explain. But first we need to go backwards so that we can then go forwards…

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Every year between Christmas and New Year a group of friends and I return to our home town and host an annual cricket tournament. The event has been running for over a decade, with two teams of twenty men chosen based on the suburbs we lived in as children. In our younger years, the tournament was merely a way to bring together friends that had been separated by time, geography and walks of life. But nowadays both teams have lost members to mental illness and suicide, and the day is used as a means of touching base and talking openly about issues in our lives that we may never have been brave enough to discuss in our youth.

At the 2016 event, I found myself standing alone with a friend when he looked at me and asked me about a few of the darker days that I have faced in recent months. We talked openly for a while about loss, change, and what it is that we value in life. I told him that I had shed a lot of tears in previous months; but that I was happy, I just wished I hadn’t had to lose so much in order to find myself. When I finished speaking he smiled at me and said:

“I’m proud of you Chris. You’ve been through some shit. And a lot of your friends have worried about you over the years. But we love you. You’re family.  And it’s good to finally see you coming into yourself.”

“Thanks,” I said, feeling my heart break at the realisation that I had been so lost in life that my friends had been concerned. “I guess that sometimes we just need to go through a little bit of shit before we can grow.”

In the days since the event I have replayed the conversation over inside my head on numerous occassions, casting a look back at the evolution of who I am, and the metamorphosis that has taken place inside of my heart and mind. As a boy I was fuelled by anger, a fear of death, and a deep jealousy of anyone who achieved more than I did. I wanted to pen a best seller and become the greatest writer of my generation so badly that I turned myself into a horribly bitter person in my quest to succeed. I worried my family, bared my fangs, said terrible things about others, and lost my own happiness and smile.

But as a man I have learned that just because someone else is achieving, it doesn’t mean that I can’t; or won’t. I have learned that anger and jealousy breed anxiety and depression, and that neither I, or anyone else is defined by their faults and failures. We are however, defined by our friends and family, and the impact that we have on the lives of those around us. Our successes are measured not through making a best sellers list, or through earning a million dollars. They’re measured through the smiles we leave on the faces of strangers and those we care about.

Sometimes we just need to go through a little bit of shit before we can grow…

And we grow at different rates. We bloom in different seasons. And some of us experience more shit in our lives than the people around us. But just because that perfect flower in the rose garden isn’t you today, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be you tomorrow. Life isn’t a race. No one is born as a rose in full bloom; and every flower is as unique as our fingerprints, or a snowflake. We grow in the dirt and we’re shaped by the unique realities and experiences of our lives as we reach towards the heavens above, making us perfectly imperfect and beautiful in our own idiosyncratic ways. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to anyone but ourselves, because no one else has experienced the world as we have.

Sometimes it can be easy to focus on the negatives in our lives. For me it would be easy to fall into my old thought patterns and to say that after a decade of writing I’m still not the best seller that I thought I would be. Or that I became so bitter that I drove away the love of my life and lost a publishing deal. But for every darker experience that I have lived through, feeling as though life was pushing me into the dirt, I have also had some amazing moments of sunshine. I published a book at the age of twenty-six; I fell in love with a beautiful woman who made me genuinely happy, and who I was ready to give my life to; and I still have a family that supports me, and loves me unconditionally. Together that combination of soil and sunlight, along with a little rain has allowed me to grow, and will continue to do so for as long as I live.

I am still waiting for my moment to come into bloom and flower into the best version of Chris Nicholas that I can possibly be. And even though I have been fortunate enough to watch so many people around me blossom, the time just hasn’t been right for me to do so just yet. But it will come. Each of us will eventually become the most beautiful flower in the rose garden; sometimes it just takes longer than we anticipate for us to bloom. But just because you aren’t that breathtakingly beautiful flower today, or just because you’re going through some shit; it doesn’t mean that you can’t, or won’t bloom brighter than ever tomorrow.

If you ever feel as though you’re not the person you thought you would be, or that life has pushed you down into the dirt. Just remember that you’re not alone; you’re with me, and millions of other people across the globe. Our time to be in bloom will come. And when yours arrives I promise that you will be breathtaking in your beauty, and that you will blossom into someone so incredible that your friends and family will fall in love with you all over again. Sometimes we just need to go through a little bit of shit before we can grow. And sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and remember that one day we will blossom. One day it’ll be our turn to be in bloom.

“It doesn’t matter if you fall down; get the fuck back up.”

  • James ‘Buddy’ Nielsen

I have always viewed each post on this site as a chapter in my life. Once a piece is written and published, I move on to the next, making a conscious effort not to look back at the works that I have already completed. But over the past five months I have been moving through a period of introspection, confronting myself with the darker aspects of my personality, and forcing myself to read through the chapters of my life that I have transcribed and shared with the world.

During my readings, I stumbled across a post called Bellicose; a piece in which I likened my own life and creative evolution to boxing. At the time, I thought that I had been through some shit; I believed that life had knocked me down and that I had learned what it took to get back up. But I was wrong. I had never even stepped into the goddamn ring. I was just a mouthy boy who thought that revelling in pain would ultimately make me a stronger man. I was forcing myself to be bitter and angry for the sake of art, and in doing so I altered my reality by opening my heart to hate and shutting out the opinions, thoughts and feelings of others.

But a few months ago, life really did knock me out. In the space of a month I split from the woman I want to marry, and learned that the sophomore novel I had spent over a year creating would no longer be put into print via the publishing house that produced Midas. At the time, I was a mess. I have never felt as low as a did when my lover walked out on me; I cried myself to sleep for weeks, and felt a pain inside of my chest that hurt worse than anything I had ever felt.

Losing my lover was a right hook that blurred my vision and saw my knees buckle; losing the publishing deal was the left jab that sent me crashing to the floor where I lay dazed and confused, staring at the ceiling wondering how the hell my entire world had just fallen apart.

At first the answers to the questions I asked of myself were difficult to come by. Self-analysis can be a horribly confronting experience, and something had broken inside of me. But as I lay motionless on the floor of my bedroom staring at the ceiling through teary eyes, I began to realise that despite spending years forcing myself to feel pain, I had never allowed myself the opportunity to learn from my experiences. I was still the same emotionally fragile boy that began writing in his room at the age of seventeen, I was just hiding behind a moniker of a wolf because I was afraid of becoming the man that I should have always been.

I used anger to shield myself from the world, and in doing so I lost the most important person in mine. When she left, my heart fractured into a million pieces and I fell harder than I ever thought possible. But I eventually picked myself up off the floor, stared at my reflection in the mirror, opened my heart and mind, and allowed myself to learn from the pain of loss. When I did so I realised that for 27 years I had ignored my own wellbeing and left my soul to wander on its own in search of fulfilment while filling my head with anger, angst and bullshit.

Alright. Let’s take a quick interlude and allow the self-pity that seems to be bubbling to the surface to fade. Because this post isn’t about me. It’s about you, and the people around you; and it’s about a metamorphosis of the mind that will prevent you from feeling the pain that I had to endure in order to discover who I really am. When my lover left me, my heart wasn’t the only thing that broke; my ego did too, and while the first hurts like hell, the liberation that has come from losing the later has changed my life.

This post is about not allowing your soul to wander searching for fulfilment. It’s about taking a moment to slow down and ask yourself what it is that your soul is yearning for, what your heart desires, and what your dreams in their purest forms consist of. This post is a means of saying that only fools wait until life knocks them flat on their back to realise what it is that truly matters to them.

For me personally, my soul has wandered for 27 years in search of happiness. Sadly, that happiness has always been right in front of me; I was just too caught up in my own self-loathing to see it. But after losing everything and having to rise to my feet once again, I can say that from this moment forward there are only three things in this world that matter to me; and I vow to never allow my soul to wander in search of them again. Those three things are my happiness, my family, and the woman who taught me what it means to fall hopelessly in love.

Expressing gratitude for the first two is simple. Happiness is a choice; life is a gift that should be celebrated every goddamn day, and even the darker moments that we experience are opportunities to grow. If I hadn’t of hit rock bottom, I might never have learned what it is to be a man, or how to pick myself up off the ground when life knocked me down.

My family have stood by me and loved me since the day I was born, and now that I’m becoming a man, I can be there to help them when they fall, just as they have with me. I’m making a conscious effort to show them that I love them at every opportunity, because as wonderful as life is, it can change in a heartbeat, and I don’t want to them to ever doubt that I care.

And then there’s the girl… I don’t know if I’ll get my happily ever after with her. I probably won’t. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t love her unconditionally and cherish the wonderful moments that we spent together. I gave my heart to my her the very first time that we met, and it’s hers to keep until we both grow old and wrinkly. I would love to become her husband one day, and be the man who cares for her when she is sick, holds her hand, or kisses her head while she falls asleep. But even if I never get the opportunity to be that man, I know that a small piece of our souls will be intertwined for the rest of our lives.

OK. Here we go… Here comes the part that’s all about you and those you care about. I’ve shared my vulnerability with the world, and now it’s your turn to do the same. 

Are you ready?

Every holiday season people across the globe usher in the new year by creating resolutions: promises to themselves and their friends to focus on self-improvement in some small way. But those resolutions are quickly forgotten as the reality of our daily lives makes us forget what it is that we are trying to improve within ourselves. So, this year I want you to try something different. I want you to abandon the notion of a resolution, and make a promise to yourself, and to your loved ones instead. Promise that you will no longer allow your soul to wander in search of whatever it is that it yearns for. It doesn’t matter whether you are searching for a partner, a career, a family, an experience, or just to rediscover the smile that you’ve misplaced. Promise yourself, and those around you that you’ll discover what it is that makes your heart beat, and your soul complete, and chase it down with everything that you have got.

At the bottom of this post you’ll find an image that I urge you to take and share with the people you care about. Complete the sentence and tell them what it is that your soul desires. Open your heart and tell them what matters to you, and share your aspirations with them. And then ask them to share their hopes and dreams with you. Help each other strive towards your dreams and become the change you wish to see in the world. Don’t waste another holiday season creating a resolution that fades; create a conversation and a goal to make your dreams your reality instead.

And if you are someone who has been knocked down by life, and haven’t figured out how to get back up; consider this post a helping hand reaching out to you. Get up off the floor and figure out what your soul is searching to find, and then start building a life that is worth fighting for.

Life is a beautiful gift. Celebrate it, and cherish every single day.

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“A true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.”

-Elizabeth Gilbert

I used to believe that I was a man who had been blessed with the gift of intellect. I spent years convinced that I was the smartest person in any room; often closing myself off from the opinions of others. I would gnash my teeth at the slightest hint of conflict, and reveled in my ability to push my own agendas onto others, whilst belittling theirs. Yet while I thought that I was a magnificent mind perpetually on the cusp of achieving great things, the truth is that I was a bit of a dick. I bruised egos, hurt feelings, and let down the people closest to me.

During these volatile years, I was tolerable at best, and a horribly bitter person at my worst. I convinced myself that I was the most important individual in the world, and I forced myself to suffer through a fear of death, anxiety and self-loathing because I believed I would become a stronger writer and a better man through doing so. I repeatedly told myself that I deserved everything, and that the people around me, who had never walked through the hells that I had, deserved nothing.

I was so angry at everything, and everyone. And I was so afraid of asking myself why that I never confronted the bitterness festering inside of me. I was afraid of death, and petrified of failing. I didn’t have a place in the world; I merely existed in my own reality of anger and unjustified resentment. So, while I pushed myself as hard as I could to chase my dreams of becoming an author, I tore other people apart so that I wasn’t the only one hurting.

I was so lost in my own sickening reality that not even the girl of my dreams was spared from my bitterness. There were times when I was so proud of who she was, and all I wanted to do was tell her I loved her; but when I opened my mouth all the wrong words came tumbling out. I broke her heart. And eventually she broke mine back; walking out of my life and forcing me to look introspectively at the monster that I had become.

When she left, I realized that I wasn’t a man of intellect after all; nor was I ever the smartest person in any room. In fact, it turns out that I’m the furthest thing from intelligent, because I knew that she was my soulmate from the very first time that I saw her; and yet I was so goddamn stupid that I pushed her way.  Blinded by my own illogical quest to make her love me, I could never see that she already did, and that she spent our entire relationship holding my hand and asking me to stare into the mirror of her soul so that I could see and become the man that she saw hidden inside of me.

She could see the man that was buried beneath the anger and loathing; the man that still loves her unconditionally, and with such intensity that a smile still spreads across his face at the faintest thought of her.

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She is the first person who ever made me realise that I am not as intelligent as they are, and the only person in this world that I would give up everything I have just to spend one more day with. She is the woman that I want to travel the world, create beautiful memories, and grow old and wrinkly with. But because I was too afraid to look into the mirror that she held before me, I’m no longer the man who gets to tell her how much he loves her when she succeeds; or kiss her forehead and tell her everything will be alright when she is feeling down.

Agh. Alright. Let’s take a break for a moment. Because this is starting to sound a little depressing and my eyes filling with tears. This isn’t supposed to be a post about sadness or loss. It’s supposed to something positive. I fucked up. I fucked up really badly and I lost the woman I want to spend my life with. But one man’s loss can be another’s gain, and the whole point of writing this is so that people can learn from my mistakes. 

It took losing everything that I have ever wanted to finally become a man capable of looking at himself in the mirror. I had to give my heart away to a woman who left before I could find the strength to acknowledge my fractures and flaws. But by learning how to be open with myself I have come to realise that while I spent years believing that I had overcome depression and was healthy; the truth is that I was on a downward spiral of poor mental health caused by my own incessant desires to become the greatest author of all time, to make my partner proud, and to bury my own heartache regarding issues such as the death of friends and my crippling fear of being unable to provide a beautiful life for the girl of my dreams.

I had to pay a terrible price to find the courage to confront myself, but by facing my own reflection I have learned how to lay to rest the demons of my past, and how to be happy. Shit, I’m even starting to love the man that I see staring back at me with grin spread across his face, making me wish that I had of found the nerve to face my own demons years ago, rather than waiting until I lost my soulmate to do so. Because as great as it feels to be staring at the man that I should have always been, there’s still an element of heartbreak in seeing your reflection in a mirror that was once held by your soulmate, but now sits dusty and alone in the corner of a room you once shared together.

Since finding myself I have just one regret left in my life; and that is that I can’t go back in time and start over with my former lover. I can’t take back all my screw ups and my flaws and sweep her off her feet. If I could, I wouldn’t be the angry, bitter man that I was. I would be the version of me that I have become since she left; the man that she always saw hidden beneath a veneer of angst. And instead of saying all the wrong things I would simply say this:

Hi. My name is Chris Nicholas. And you don’t know it just yet; but I fell in love with you from the moment that I saw you. And if you give me a chance I promise that I will spend my life doing everything that I can to make you smile. If you want me… I am yours now and forever; because you have stolen my heart, and I hope to God that you hold onto it for the rest of our lives.

But I can’t go back in time, and I can’t tell her just how much I miss her. There are so many wonderful moments happening in my life every single day that I wish I could share with her, but I can’t. Nor can I share in the great moments happening in her life either. And while that breaks my heart, I can say this to my readers: find your soulmate; hold their hand, and stare into the mirrors of each other’s souls so that together you can change your lives.

If you have already found that person, give them a hug and a kiss and tell them that you love them dearly every single day. Let them know that they mean the world to you, because no matter your circumstance; the cost of love is priceless and there is no greater feeling in this world than being told that you are loved, and that you are beautiful. Just as there is nothing more wonderful, or fulfilling than finding that one person who you value, and adore more than anything else in the world.

Don’t do what I did. Don’t wait until you have lost the woman (or man) of your dreams to become the person you should have always been. Find your soulmate and stare into their mirror and become the very best version of you; then take their hand and make one hell of a life, jam-packed with wonderful memories together.

To the woman with the little blue hearts… If you ever read this: I miss you. More than you’ll ever know. I’m nothing without you.

“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I used to be really afraid of death. For as long as I can remember I have been petrified by the knowledge that life is finite, and that each passing year brings me closer to the inevitable moment when I pass away, drifting into a state of eternal nothingness as my body turns to dust. Throughout my teenage years and early twenties, I would lay awake at night crippled by fear as I contemplated my own morality and questioned what kind of legacy I would leave behind when I died. I suffered panic attacks, cried a lot, and often felt isolated and alone.

At times my anxiety was so great that I was afraid of my own birthday. The annual event marked another step towards my death, and as I grew from a boy, into a teen, and finally into a man, the fear that I felt towards aging grew with me. I became afraid of the world, and petrified of leaving it. I was so fearful of being forgotten that I turned to writing as a means of creating a legacy that would allow me to be remembered long after I was gone.

Writing became an act of solace, and a means to combat my anxieties and fears…

…At least initially anyway. But as the years progressed and my creative skillset improved, I allowed myself to be driven by my fears and wrote with a maniacal obsession that became all consuming. Before too long I wasn’t just writing to fight fear; I was actively seeking to create anarchy inside of my own head because I believed that in doing so I could push myself to become a greater writer, and a stronger man. In my desire to outlive myself through my works I sacrificed friendships, destroyed careers, lost the love of my life, and became so closed off to the world that my own family questioned whether or not I loved them.

Eventually I became so caught up in this cyclic state of fear and anxiety that I pushed myself too far. In an effort to overcome the demons I was actively creating and allowing to live inside of my head, I lost sight of who I really am. I became angry and bitter, and while I wasted years believing that I was becoming a man; the truth is that I have spent my life hiding behind masks of wolves and world eaters while trying to convince those around me that I am strong. But I have been weak; and the only person that I ever fooled was myself.

Since The Renegade Press began four years ago I have received an endless stream of correspondence from readers who have been genuinely concerned for my health and wellbeing. I have always written from a place of pain because I thought that to be a great writer I needed to accentuate and exacerbate the fractures within me. But my loved ones and my audience saw that I was capable of being so much more than a bitterly angry little boy with a quick wit and a tendency to lash out at anyone and anything that he feared, or didn’t understand. When they looked at me they never saw the strength of a wolf that I envisioned they did. They saw a man who was hiding from his own insecurities and lying to himself.

They were right. And I was wrong.

Anyone who has been following this site for a little while will know that a few months ago the woman that I want to grow old with walked out of my life. She left because the man that she fell in love with had become so caught up in a frenzied desire to become a wolf and a world eater, and to fight away his fears that he let her down. Despite loving Sofie with an endless depth, I was so driven by fear and fuelled by a horrid desire to become more that I made her feel alone and question just how much I actually cared.

I cared more than she ever really knew. The proudest moment of my life was when I published my debut novel in February 2015 and she gave me a hand written letter telling me how proud she was, and how much she loved me. It wasn’t until she left that I realised I had spent almost two years pushing myself relentlessly to produce another manuscript just so that we could experience that moment together again. In doing so I destroyed everything that we had, and everything that she had expressed within that letter. I thought that in order to make her love me I needed to continue to allow my fears to drive me to become better. But I didn’t. I had my entire world in front of me, and she already loved me. I was just too stupid to realise it. I still have that letter; and I still read it from time to time.

Since she left I have walked through my own version of hell; taking time away from writing to rediscover myself and put to rest the horrible traits that I had allowed to fester within my heart for far too long. In doing so I have discovered an inner strength that I never knew I was capable of possessing. It hasn’t been easy, and I still think about her every day, but I have had to let go of the person that I’m going to love until the day that I die. At the same time, I have learned that despite best efforts from both parties, my sophomore novel War will no longer be released by Meizius Publishing.

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At first I crumbled, and I cried. I have spent years wanting nothing more than to marry the girl who stole my heart from the very first moment that I saw her, and fought desperately to recapture that moment we shared together by producing another book. But losing her and learning that I will be parting ways with my publisher has made me stop for the first time in almost twenty-eight years and actually question just what the fuck I am actually doing with my life. In doing so I have come to realise that I’m no longer afraid of death; I’m afraid of experiencing an un-lived life.

As I walked through the hell inside of me and experienced the cacophony of disharmony that had consumed my mind, I realised that I was allowing myself to be driven by fear, rather than being led by my dreams.

I know that sounds like a bunch of bullshit written by a man trying to open up himself and be vulnerable with the world he lives in. But what I am trying to say is that I have finally figured out the answers to those harrowing questions we all ask ourselves, and which until just recently have eluded me: What is the purpose of my life? And what is my endgame?

The first question was actually surprisingly easy to answer. The purpose of my life, and yours, and everyone else’s is this: to be happy; no matter what happiness looks or feels like to you. The objective of the entire human existence is to be happy; and to be led by your dreams, rather than pushed by your fears. Since realising this and letting go of my fear of death I have learned how to smile again, and the importance of slowing down to enjoy life for what it is. I have come to the realisation that I don’t need to pen a best seller in order to consider myself a successful writer; by having just one person read this blog, or pick up my book, I have already exceeded my own wildest dreams.

The desire to drive myself to the dark places I once longed for is gone. Because of this I’m not the man I was a few years, or even a few months ago. I’m not a wolf or an eater of worlds, nor am I ever angry anymore. I’m happy; and for the first time in my life I can say that I am genuinely proud of the man that I have become, and will continue to become from here on out.

As far as my endgame is concerned… She first appeared on this website as the inspiration behind a post titled Landscape, and is the only woman that I will ever write about. She will continue to be the most exquisitely beautiful person in my life until the day that I die, and although I don’t know if I’ll ever see Sofie again, I still consider myself the luckiest man in the world. Because of her I know how it feels to fall madly in love with another human being, and to want to spend every day of the rest of your life making their world just a little bit brighter.

I would throw away everything for that girl. I would give up writing, pass up all my earthly possessions and walk through hell every single day from now until eternity, just to see her smile.

The eater of worlds is dead; killed off by his own fears and insecurities. But in his place stands the real Chris Nicholas; the one who became lost inside of his own head for a period of time and forgot what matters most in his life. That man is a writer, a lover, a brother, a son, and a friend. And most importantly, he is happy.

I don’t fear death anymore; I fear looking back on my time here on this earth and realising that I missed out on so many wonderful opportunities because of such a naïve notion of allowing apprehension of the inevitable to destroy the wonderful gift of life that I have been presented. I don’t want to grow old having squandered my time, or having lived an un-lived life.  No matter what happens from this moment onwards; whether I ever publish another book, or have the opportunity to grow old with the woman with the little blue hearts; I can say that I am happy, I am proud of the man that I am becoming, and that I know just how wonderful it feels to experience true love.

After my time walking through the hell in me I have learned not to be driven by fear, and that my dreams are as simple as they are powerful. At just twenty eight years of age I have my happiness and I know my endgame. What else could a man ever want?

A few months ago my partner and I bought a puzzle. We were in a bookstore stocking up on novels and she turned to me and said that she’d love to buy a puzzle and spend some time sitting down as a couple and putting it together. Ecstatic just to be spending time with her, I agreed, and we brought home one thousand little cardboard shapes that when aligned together in the correct sequence would show a view of the Amalfi coastline. I thought it would be easy. And that it would be fun. But while she could effortlessly match pieces together and allow the picture to take shape, I struggled horribly just to find two interconnected pieces, swore a lot, and eventually gave up.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but that puzzle wasn’t just a way for us to spend time together, it was a symbol that represented my life, who I was, who I am supposed to be, and just how much I love the girl who sat patiently with me while I steamed with frustration at my inability to perform the most simplistic of tasks.

Agh. I need to stop for a second, and just get something off of my chest… Before I go any further I just want to acknowledge that what I am about to say is going to hurt so fucking much. By the end of this post I’ll be an emotional wreck. I’m about to tell you that I screwed up. Bad. And that I’m a fake. Because despite all of the pretentious bullshit that I post on this site, I’ve only just figured out who it is that I really am, and it took losing the woman that I want to spend my life with to realise that.

For twenty-seven years I have been trying to piece together the puzzle of Chris Nicholas. During that time I have been sitting in the darkness of my bedroom staring down at thousands of little cardboard shapes spread across the floor that define who I am, struggling to make sense of how they all fit together. I have been a son, a brother, a writer, a friend, a student, work colleague, and so much else. Yet I have never really understood how one piece of my life was supposed to fit into the next.

And then I met Sofie. I met this beautiful woman who was so much smarter than I could ever be. And before I even asked for her help, she came into my bedroom, switched on the light and sat down opposite me and helped me to start sorting through the little pieces of me that were scattered across the floor. I watched in amazement as she found pieces of who I am that were connected, and slotted them together, slowly allowing a picture of my life to take shape.

It took a long time; two years in fact for her and I to work together and take the little cardboard shapes and put them together, but as each piece fell into place I began to recognize the picture that was taking shape. It wasn’t really the image that I had imagined, but who was I to question the universe and the way that my life was destined to unfold?

I saw a wolf, bearing its fangs, with what looked like the world clutched between its paws. It looked strong; fearsome even, and I saw Sofie standing beside him with a look of astonishment on her face. As I looked at the picture positioned between us on the floor, something inside of me changed and I became the beast that I saw staring up at me from the half completed puzzle. I saw a monster, and I became him. And I have never fucked up so badly in my life.

I started to call myself a wolf; and I became headstrong and stubborn. I saw the world held within the paws of the beast inside the puzzle, and I tried to follow suit. I pursued my writing with reckless abandon, amassing an audience and producing a lot of self-indulgent bullshit. And all the while, Sofie watched me with a slightly bemused look, and kept putting together pieces of my puzzle as though she didn’t understand what I had become, or why I seemed so angry.

Then, just over a month ago she left. She told me that she was tired, and that I had let her down. So she stood up, and walked out of my life, taking a single piece of the puzzle we had worked so hard to create with her. I cried a lot that day. And I’ve cried every day since. Because when she left I stood up and I shifted myself into her place, and looked down at the puzzle of my life from where she had been sitting and realized that we had created an ambigram; an image that when looked upon from different angles shows an entirely different picture.

Sofie wasn’t putting together a puzzle of a wolf, or a world eater, and we were never putting together my puzzle; it was ours. From where she had been sitting the image that stared up at her wasn’t of a vicious beast bearing its fangs; it was me: Chris Nicholas, down on one knee with a smile of pure joy spread across my face. In my hands was a box, not the world, and inside of that box was a piece of jewelry designed to be worn on her finger that said “I want to spend my life with you.” From this angle she didn’t look bemused, astonished, or afraid.  She was happy, and her lips were pursed together as though she was about to make this version of me the happiest man in the world by uttering one simple word.

From where she had been sitting, our puzzle was complete; except for the final piece that she had taken with her. I had spent two years looking at what we were creating from the wrong angle, and while she was piecing together an image of a future filled with happiness, my own stupidity made me believe that in order to provide for her I needed to embrace the devil inside of me.

For the past month I have spent my time sitting in the spot where Sofie used to sit, staring down at the image of her and I with a huge smile spread across my face, and tears streaming down my cheeks. It’s a beautiful image, and one that makes my heart flutter. When I close my eyes and imagine the future it looks just like the image in the puzzle of us, and knowing that is so bitter-sweet. Sofie is the only woman I will ever write about; the only woman whose achievements I will ever celebrate as greater than my own; and the only woman that I would ever want to love and spend my entire life with.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get a chance to see her again, but I hope and I pray every day that eventually our worlds will collide one more time and she can come and sit down on the floor beside me and place the final piece of our puzzle; the one that represents my heart, into the image of her and I. If that day never arrives… Well, at least I can say that I spent two wonderful years with the woman that I love more than anything. The memories that we created together will last a lifetime, and the love that I have for her will continue long after she has forgotten about the time we spent piecing together the puzzle of our lives.

Now that I have seen life from the other side of the ambigram, I know that I don’t want to be the devil anymore. I want to be the man in the picture that Sofie has always been able to see. The hopelessly devoted romantic, down on his knee, allowing himself to be totally vulnerable in front of the woman that he loves more than he has ever loved writing, or anything else. I screwed up because my perspectives were all wrong; I was never meant to be a wolf, I was only ever meant to be a man, and a lover to the most incredible woman that I have ever met.

I’m writing this to say that I’m letting go of the love of my life for a little while. Because as cliche as it sounds, sometimes when you love something (or someone) you have to set it free. But there will not be a day that passes where I don’t look at the almost completed puzzle of us and whisper a silent prayer that she comes back and we finish what we started together. I have never wanted anything like I want a life with her; and I have never been so willing to be vulnerable and unafraid to embrace who I am. In the past month I have realised how wonderful my life is, and how hopelessly in love I am. For the first time in my life I know exactly who I am, and exactly who I want to devote my life to. And while letting go hurts like hell, I have never been more proud the man that I have become, or more determined to be the person that I should have always been. 

Two years ago I met Sofie. She was so beautiful, and I knew that I loved her from the very first time that I saw her. She had this smile that was just infectious, and the most intoxicating love of life that I had ever seen. I used to make up excuses just to talk to her, and somehow, in some way, she fell in love with me. Not long after we met she went to Europe, and we spoke almost every day that she was gone. She’d get home after a day of travelling and text me as soon as she could, and I would wait in eager anticipation to hear from her, and know that she was safe.

When she came home, we started dating. It wasn’t easy. She was so loving and kind, and I was the angry boy that I had always been. I let her down; over and over again. I would prioritise my writing over the woman that I loved, and when she asked me about the future I would try to play down just how much I thought about it. I never told her that the reason I would kiss her tummy in the middle of the night was because I dreamed of having a family with her. And I never told her that I loved her so much that if I ever had to choose between writing and her, she would win every single time.

I always assumed that Sofie would know how much she means to me. I just expected her to realise and understand that I would do anything for her. But I was so bitter about my past that when I opened my mouth to tell her that I was proud of her, I would screw it up and say the opposite. She made my heart swell with joy so much so that I began pushing myself harder than ever to become a writer that she would be proud of; but I was so foolish that I never even realised that she was already proud and loved me with the kind of love that lasts a lifetime.

rose

I recently had an epiphany in which I realised how much I had taken the woman that I love for granted, and how willing I am to devote my life to her. But before I had a chance to tell this wonderful woman that I wanted to spend my life with her, and move in together, and help her reach her dreams, we parted ways. I broke my soulmate’s heart, and I took her for granted for so long that she eventually pushed me away forever.

Many readers may be asking why I am writing this. It’s far from my usual style. But there are two reasons why I needed to do this. The first is that I want to take a short hiatus from blogging. I have been pushing myself so hard to become someone that the woman I love can be proud of, that I have devoted far too much time to delusions of grandeur, rather than to her. I want to take some time out to stop and smell the roses in my life, and appreciate just how much I have to be grateful for.

The second reason is that I want to acknowledge just how much I have let down my soulmate and my best friend. When I think about the future, there is only one thing in the world that I want; and that is the girl who has given me the two greatest years of my life.

I don’t know if I will ever get another chance to be a part of Sofie’s life, and I fear that I won’t. But I do know that the love that we have for one another is more than a passing fancy. It’s the kind of love that lasts a lifetime and never diminishes with age. It took me twenty-five years to find the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with, and it took me another two to finally tell her how I feel.

If I have to wait a lifetime for her to let me make amends for all of my mistakes, then so be it. Some things are worth waiting for, and I know in my heart that I want to make Sofie smile every single day for as long as we both shall live. I am so sorry that I ever pained her, or made her feel alone; she is and always will be, the apple of my eye.

I never really thought that I would understand what it felt like to be happy. When I first started blogging I was a broken man who believed that my time on this earth would be spent wallowing in self-pity as I created manuscripts riddled with despair. But two years ago everything changed. I met you. And you became the best thing that has ever happened to me. You are the love of my life: the person that I would fall onto my own sword a thousand times over to protect. You are the woman with the matching little blue hearts tattooed on her ankles; a soul of beauty, compassion and intellect that leaves me weak at the knees.

When we met I was fractured; a horrible man hell bent on his own self-destruction. But from the very first time I placed my hands on your hips and watched as you smiled at me and tucked your hair behind your ears, I knew that you had stolen my heart. I should never have treated you so poorly. I should never have brought tears to your eyes.  I was a fool, but you helped me to become a man. You have always been so patient with me; even when I fucked things up over and over again.

I can never repay you for the kindness that you have given me. You have stood by me through the passing of friends, the chasing of dreams, and those horrible months when I thought that I was dying.  People often say that in their darkest days their loved ones walk beside them. But you never have. In my lowest moments you have carried me; you have been the blood that courses through my veins, and the sun that lights up my world.

You have suffered in silence for so long while I searched for happiness in all the wrong places, and for that I am sorry. I thought that becoming a literary superstar, or landing a new job would make me feel complete. But everything that I have ever needed has been right in front of me since the very first day we met. All I have ever needed is you: the woman with the little blue hearts tattooed on her ankles. You complete me. You make me smile, and you are the most important thing in my world. I would give up everything that I have, throw away my successes, and lay down my pen, just to hold your hand, kiss your lips, and hear you say that you love me.

I want to grow old with you. I want to become your fiancé, your husband, and eventually the father of your children. I want to watch as those little blue hearts fade over time as our years together pass. I want to devote my life to you, and spend the next eighty years repaying you for all the love and kindness that you have given me. I want to kiss you before you roll over and drift off into slumber, or hear you tell me that I chew too loud, or that my clothes don’t match, or that I need to start cleaning up after myself.

I want to give to you the happiness that you have given me. I’m tired of being a wolf. I’m weary of being an eater of worlds. I want to be the apple of your eye, and the man who stands proudly beside you while you achieve your dreams.

But talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words. I have told you all of this before. So let me sink to my knees, or fall on my sword and swallow my pride. Let me show you that I want to be yours. Let me prove to you that for the rest of my life, I want to be the man hopelessly in love with the woman with the little blue hearts tattooed on her ankles.

“We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all the contradictions flow together.”

-Terence McKenna

It’s no secret that I have been struggling to write lately. Over the past few months the aggressive creativity that usually floods my mind has dissipated and become more of a slow leak than a torrent. Despite my absence of inspiration I have persevered as best as I can, producing a handful of blog entries, and fleshing out the admittedly shaky blueprints for two separate novels. At first I thought that this writer’s block was stemming from a sense of nostalgia as I finalised one manuscript and began to transition into the next. But it turns out that I was wrong. My inability to write had nothing to do with nostalgia; I have been suffering from writer’s block because at some point in the editing process of War I lost sight of who I was, and why I was writing in the first place.

It happened far easier than it should have too. See, I have always had this theory that there are two types of people in this world. There are those who want to be famous for nothing; and those who want to be remembered for something. Despite devoting my life, and my career to becoming the later, I have increasingly found myself slipping into the idiotic mindset of longing to be renowned and celebrated for what I do.

The humbleness that keeps this wolf grounded vanished, only to be replaced with an insatiable desire to fuel my own self worth. I sold out and became a fucking fake who was more concerned with the idea of being famous than being true to who I really am.  

When I finished the first draft of my sophomore novel I sat back in my chair and looked at the rough outline of a manuscript that I had created and found myself setting benchmarks to achieve. I knew that I had created a story that left my original novel Midas for dead. I had taken my protagonist and dragged him through hell; crafting scenes that I as a consumer of literature would love to read. So I set myself a goal: I wanted this novel to outsell the first. I wanted to improve upon my first efforts as a published author and continue to establish myself within the creative industries.

The plan was solid. But my ego allowed my creative mind to manipulate my aspirations and turn them into something horrible. Within days my benchmark wasn’t merely to outdo myself; it was to outdo everyone. My humble desire to grow as a man became an urge to look down upon others from a throne of literary success. I didn’t give a shit about whether or not people enjoyed reading my novel. My only concern was that they paid for a copy and I became illustrious in my success. And in that shift of mindsets from seeking personal achievement and remembrance from my peers, to desiring fame for the purpose of fame, I created a contradiction within my own microcosm that fractured everything that I stood for as a writer and killed my creativity.

When I started blogging the idea of securing an audience as large as I have been fortunate enough to amass had never even crossed my mind. I wrote to clear my head, to fight my demons, and to try and leave the world in a better state than when I found it. And yet just four years later my minor successes had momentarily gone to my head. Armed with a freshly produced manuscript and a head full of outlandish thoughts, I started reaching out to some of the largest public relations agencies in the country requesting professional representations for my talents.

The first two companies shot me down quickly, delivering generic rejection letters and emphatically stating that they do not review their original decisions. But a representative from the third agency provided me with a much needed reality check, composing an email that read:

“You need to realise that you’re an indie author. You’re not writing to sell products or to find fame. You’re writing because you have a story that you want to tell. Unfortunately it is because of this that it doesn’t matter how well you write; to an agency like mine, you have no marketability as a writer ”

The words hit me like a fist in the pit of the stomach, causing me to gasp in horror at what I had just read. I had spent months creatively frustrated as I pursued this bullshit concept of notoriety and fame. And then this stranger took one look at my work and found the contradiction inside of me that was causing my intellectual exacerbation and clouding my judgement. I have become so used to calling myself a world eater and a wolf that I temporarily lost the ability to know when my desire to write was causing me to bare my fangs and pursue goals that ran incongruously to who I really am.

Thanks to the brutally honest words of a stranger I now realise just how easily I could have identified the place inside of my head where the inconsistencies in my rational were flowing together and causing me pain. If I had stopped focusing on chartering oceans swelling with my own delusions of grandeur, or examining the heart of my writing, I could have looked introspectively inward and found where the contradictions of who I am, and my foolish desire to be famous for nothing were causing my artistic blockage.

Today is the first time in months that I have sat down at my laptop and felt like me again. I haven’t continued blogging at The Renegade Press for the past four years because of a yearning to be revered. I have done so because I have fallen in love with sharing myself with the world and touching the lives of strangers; however briefly that may be. I blog because I would rather be remembered for something than famous for nothing.

The next time that I lose sight of who I am, I will remember to take a look inside of myself and remove the contradictions causing me pain, so that my creativity can flow once again.

I recently celebrated my fourth anniversary of blogging here at The Renegade Press. As with the three anniversaries prior to this one, the moment was a bitter-sweet affair of pride and introspection. Blogging has become a passion, and a source of endless pleasure that I approach with great reverence as I attempt to pour my heart and soul into everything that I create. But it hasn’t always been this way. This website was born out of a need to find myself, and to overcome my own internal torment. Four years ago I was emotionally shattered, creatively stunted, and questioning the validity of my own existence as I battled my own private demons. I was lost inside my head, desperately searching for a purpose amongst an endless torrent of fractured, self-depreciating thoughts.

Thankfully I found that purpose; and I found myself through my writing. With each new post that I create I learn more about myself and the world than I ever thought possible. Writing is continuously helping me to become a man of tolerance, compassion, loyalty and fierce determination. But perhaps the greatest lesson that I have learned in the past four years is that the conversations that seem the hardest to have are oftentimes the ones that are most important.

In November 2015 I lost a friend to suicide. This month I lost another. For a man as petrified of death as I am, it can be incredibly confronting to lose a friend or family member. To have to accept the fragility of their morality, as well as my own scares me. To lose them to mental illness, the very affliction that pushed me into blogging in the first place, opens a chasm of sadness inside of my soul that will forever haunt me.

Recent studies compiled by the World Health Organisation suggest that global suicide rates have risen by sixty percent over the past forty-five years. This violent spike means that suicide is now one of the three leading causes of death for males and females aged 15-44. This statistic alone is staggering. When you then take a moment to consider that ninety percent of suicides worldwide can be attributed, or associated to mental health, a picture of sadness and vulnerability begins to take shape. There is a flaw in the manner in which we approach mental health and suicide. We are losing so many friends and family members prematurely.

That flaw is startlingly simple: we as a society are not communicating effectively enough about mental health and illness. Sure, people are more open to talking about suicide and depression than ever before. There is an abundance of mental health initiatives across the globe providing people with the support to overcome their own turmoil. But as a society we’re still not communicating. If we were, those organisations that are desperately trying to help strangers find beauty and meaning in their lives, or fighting valiantly to empower the vulnerable to face one more day, wouldn’t be struggling to prevent global suicide rates from reaching epidemic proportions.

OK. I want to stop for a moment and double back over that last comment and try and break it down a little. There was a linguistic sleight of hand in the preceding paragraph that may, or may not have found its mark. But it has to. I need you to understand where this flaw in our approach to mental health and suicide stems from. People are talking; or at least they are more willing to do so. And yet no one is communicating. What we are hearing when we talk to one another is the fake sound of progress. God, I hope that makes sense.

umbrella

Talking and communication are two very different things. Talking is typically defined as the oral projection of one’s voice. Whereas communication is imparting, exchanging, and receiving information through a variety of means. Communication is listening, watching, comforting, and talking when needed. Organisations can talk to sufferers of mental illness and try to create and stimulate change. But we as individuals can communicate with them. We can hold their hand when they need a friend, or lend an ear when they want to talk.  We can tear apart the idea that mental illness is something to be ashamed of and instead create a culture of support and understanding that praises someone for having the courage to seek help.

As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety, I know how difficult it can be to admit that you are struggling. I know the crushing feeling of despair that settles into the back of your mind and pushes down on your chest until you feel as though you are drowning underneath a sea of hopelessness. But thanks to blogging, I also know the feeling of release that comes with being able to open your heart and mind and communicate with your peers. There is no shame in admitting that you are vulnerable, depressed, or alone.

Mental illness is claiming far too many lives, and for me personally, it has taken too many wonderful people away from me far too soon. While I adore and admire the hardworking organisations that fight valiantly to save lives, I believe that we as individuals can have a far greater impact. We can start having conversations that might seem uncomfortable, or difficult to broach at first. We can stop turning a blind eye when we see a friend, or stranger struggling.  We can give those in need an ear to talk to, or a hand to hold, instead of a cold shoulder and a diverted glance. And maybe in doing so we can stop people from feeling so fucking alone, or depressed, or broken that suicide becomes their only answer.

In my lowest moments it was the kindness of strangers who stopped by a shitty little blog originally called Chris Nicholas Writes that became the catalyst I needed to confront my sadness and find myself once again. To know that my friends were not so fortunate as to find the inner peace that I did brings me to tears. If my only accomplishment as a writer is to inspire someone, somewhere to communicate; to speak and to listen about mental health, anxiety and depression, I’ll die a happy man.

Agh. I hate myself for doing it. Opening a post with a title written in Latin makes me feel like such a fraud. This isn’t ancient Rome, and the fact that I write from my heart, rather than my head means that I can hardly be considered to be a scholar. So to use an adage as historically significant as I have in a vain attempt to pass myself off as some kind of well-versed academic just feels wrong. And yet I did it anyway. I chose a title written in a dialect that I will never fully understand and tried to claim it as my own. Memento vivere – Memento mori.

Remember to live. Remember to die.

Lately it feels as though I’m dying. At least from a creative standpoint anyway. I have been plagued by a writer’s block so nauseating that I haven’t actually written anything for weeks. Instead I have been opening up my laptop, or staring at a blank page in one of my many notebooks and wondering where the hell my creative impulses went.

When I finished writing my sophomore novel War, I was on a high and ready to take over the literary industry by force.  Yet at some point during the editing process I lost all confidence in my ability to create and fell into a frustrating void of nothingness where it became impossible to find my creative spark. It may not seem like much to some, but it is a pretty serious issue for a writer who defines himself as being aggressively creative to suddenly suffer from an affliction that leaves you devoid of the inspiration to write. If I take away the creative, I’m just aggressive.

Writing is my passion. It’s something that I have spent a decade struggling and striving for, living and dying by my work. During that time I have experienced success: winning competitions, curating my own website, and publishing a novel. But I also know better than most what it feels like to fail. Throughout my writing life I have been overlooked for more opportunities than I can even remember. In my formative years I was repeatedly told that I wasn’t talented enough to make it as an author; nowadays I’m continuously told that that my style isn’t palatable by industry insiders and other authors. Hell, just last week I was told that I’m not marketable as an individual, and that I fail in comparison to others because of this.

While it hurts to admit, these failures have taken their toll. There have been moments where I have suffered a crisis of confidence so grand that I have given up and walked away from my dreams. I have cried in wardrobes, set fire to manuscripts and called people horrendous names while struggling through spates of depression. At times I have I felt so emotionally shattered due to circumstances beyond my control that it has been a struggle just to crawl out of bed and face another day of feeling like I wasn’t good enough. But every single time that I have failed and fallen, I have eventually picked myself up, dusted myself off, and set out to achieve my dreams all over again.

I have always assumed that I had been blessed with an iron will. I’ve spent years believing that there was something remarkable about me that allowed me to keep striving forwards even when I felt completely hopeless. But the truth is that  I’m no different to anyone else. My ‘unwavering desire to succeed’ was merely a by-product of my life moving through a series of ebbs and flows as it unconsciously followed an idiom uttered by Roman servants to remind generals that they were fallible. Memento Vivere: Remember to live. Memento Mori: remember to die.

What that means is that for every single moment of triumph in my life, there will also be a moment of great pain. Last year I received news that a health scare that had me contemplating my own morality wasn’t as serious as I originally believed, only to discover a few months later that a close friend had taken his own life. I have seen my debut novel released, and have had my writing featured on websites run by literary geniuses; only to suddenly suffer from a lack of creativity so stifling that it feels as though there is a weight is pushing down on my chest.

These transitions from success and elation to inevitable heartbreak and failure are cycles of life and death that are occurring within my own existence. I’m not referring to death in the physical sense; I haven’t met my maker just yet. But death in the sense that opportunities, circumstances and relationships come to their natural, or sometimes premature endpoint, so that I can progress onwards to the next.

At first this can be hard to accept. I’m yet to meet a man or woman who enjoys seeing their relationships falter, or who finds solace in watching circumstances and opportunities that they have fought valiantly towards fail. But these deaths are quite possibly the most integral component of the human existence. Without them, how could we ever know the wondrous ecstasy of life and success when we experience them?

It seems ridiculous that it has taken me a decade of moving through these periods of life and death within my creativity before I actually realised the importance of suffering from writer’s block and creative lapses. Without them I would never know just how amazing it is to be blessed with the ability to write in the first place. Unfortunately, I have spent the past few weeks mentally and emotionally beating the shit out of myself for not being able to create anything; when in hindsight I should have used that time to allow the journey that was writing War to come to its natural point of closure, so that the next stage of my writing career could come to fruition.

But angst and self-regret caused by retrospection is the curse of the damned. There’s no point beating myself up all over again for failing to recognise an opportunity to reflect and refocus. All I can do is move forward from here and learn to remember to live, and to die spectacularly at whatever it is that I do.

As for the industry insiders that have told me that my style of writing isn’t palatable, or that I’m not talented, or marketable enough to make it as an author… Their words may have shaken my confidence and caused me to doubt myself at times, but I’m ultimately stronger having lived through their criticisms. At twenty-seven years of age I have a published novel and a successful website which is frequented by some of the most remarkable and passionate people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I have friends and family who are proud of the man that I am, and I’ve beaten depression and found happiness in myself.

My writing might not necessarily be palatable to some; but I’m not only talented, and marketable; I’m a fucking juggernaut too.

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