It’s been years since I felt the desire to write. I can’t really tell you why, or pinpoint a legitimate explanation. I’ve experienced writer’s block before – that’s more having the desire to write but feeling no inspiration or feeling like the words aren’t coming to you even though you know what you want to say. 2 years in, and the constant absence of desire to write is really bumming me out. I miss it. I want to want it. But I opted not to force it. I opted to just live life and see what happens. And here I find myself, back at a keyboard after a solid 8 months and 11 days since my last post.
It’s not just writing about racecars for me, even though that’s how most of you probably found me. It’s writing in general. I discovered my love of the written word at the age of 8 when I won a city-wide essay contest as a second-grader. But for the past 14 years specifically, I’ve written constantly – it started with personal blog entries in college (thanks MySpace), then film reviews for the Cleveland International Film Fest over 6 seasons, and then as a correspondent for a motorosport site which led me to do my own thing on this little site of mine… writing about racing, music, technology, etc… it always felt like the sky was the limit.
Sadly at some point in 2017, the fire that always lit me up and drove me to grab my laptop, or run back to the media center, or even pull over on the side of the road and get all my thoughts and opinions out via my fingertips before they overwhelmed my mind… just faded.
Maybe it was the feeling that something I have loved my entire life started to feel like a requirement, instead of a creative outlet for my sanity. Maybe it was feeling like I HAD to write about a certain topic, that was sucking the creativity from my mind – whether or not that was true. Maybe it was the self-consciousness that consumed me upon realizing that people were actually reading my words. Maybe it was the stress of being in front of a screen for 10-12 hours at the paycheck job, and then staring at my phone or laptop for another 8-10 hours at home. Maybe it was the feeling that my love of writing had been smudged by it becoming my “pass” to enjoying a race weekend in the newly discovered, and now only way, that I want to experience it.
It’s a funny thing, when something you love and something you find freedom in, grows around you like a cage.
Let me tell you a little something about me: I don’t like roots. No, I’m not talking about my blonde hair, which yes, can also get annoying. I mean feeling tied down to, or trapped by something – a contractual job, a marriage, a house… none of it is appealing to me. I don’t like the feeling that I HAVE to do something or the feeling that something or someone is in control of me, my life, my freedom, or my choices. In fact, I find it about as comfortable as breaking out in hives. Just talking about it makes me want to hit the damn road with the windows down, ALONE. (To be clear, for me, being rooted down is different than being committed to something. I am fiercely loyal to my family, my friends, my happiness, etc.)
You might be sitting there right now, smirking, like… ‘Shay, do you really think we don’t know that about you?’ You may be right to shake your head and laugh at me. Wouldn’t be the first time!
I remember my final Theory course in college when our professor had us write down our OWN senior superlative. We folded them up, put them in a hat, and one by one she pulled them out and read them out loud. We had a blast, laughing and trying to decide who wrote what about themselves. We had all been in courses together for 2-4 years because of our specified major, so we were pretty good at this game and would have it down to 2-3 people for each one before the writer of said superlative would say, “yeah, that’s me!”
Except for mine, which read: “Most likely to never put down roots.” I kid you not, the moment the sentence was out of my professor’s mouth, every single student in that classroom turned and pointed their finger at my face and said, “Shay!”
In that moment, I thought: ‘WOW. How cool that that comes across, even when I haven’t had that particular conversation with a lot of these folks.’ It was kind of neat to find out that those things that are so deeply rooted (ironic, huh?) in my personality… come across very clearly to others.
That was back in 2006 – the dawning of social media, even though social media wasn’t a term in our vocabulary yet. Social media allows us to show whatever sides of ourselves, and aspects of our lives, we want. We can precisely configure our “online self” however we choose. At some point, I think I got tired of feeling like so much of me was OUT there. I got tired of feeling like I had to transition from living in the moment to reporting about the moment, while I was still, ya know, living it. The social media creators call it something less intrusive: sharing. That’s a fair assessment. But sometimes sharing everything in the moment, means that you miss experiencing it.
If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably noticed that most photos I’ve posted this year, have been accompanied by the hashtag “latergram”. And that I’m usually a month behind in posting. It’s not something I’m going to apologize for, and while the Type A part of me would REALLY like to get caught up-to-date and stay that way, I’m not confident in saying that will happen. I’m legitimately enjoying just living in my moments. I feel like the past 5 years, I was living as “Shay: The Brand”, not Shay, the person. Or Shay, the self-conscious goofball. Or Shay, the total introvert that has selectively-social moments where everyone thinks she’s a total extrovert but she gets burned out from that really fast (sometimes before she starts) and then she just wants to be alone in a posh hotel suite or on the side of a mountain somewhere and not tell anyone about any of it.
The stuff you see on social media is absolutely ME. It’s who I am. But it’s not ALL of who I am. It’s fragments of my beautiful life. It’s puzzle pieces that I opt to share with the world. Some of my favorite moments in life are trips and experiences I’ve never told another soul about. They weren’t photographed. They weren’t tweeted or blogged about. No being knows about them except my heart, and the occasional other heart (or hearts) that shared them with me in the moment. And I LOVE that. And I want more of that. Which brings me to that announcement I’ve been so elusive about on the aforementioned social media for the past year.
If you saw me at one of the three races I attended this year, you know I was there just as a fan. I needed to take a year off from the media work, for a multitude of reasons. One of them, and maybe the only explanation I feel the public should be privy to, is that I needed to know if I missed it so much that it re-sparked that fire in me to want to write… or… if I was okay being away in that capacity and it was time to turn the page. As it turns out, having the year to allow my savings to rebuild, my stress-level to go down, my enjoyment of IndyCar to return to a more pure form of fandom, was very positive. The realizations I came to pushed me to end some other, uh… situations… in my life, as well. Life is short, and if I am not enjoying something, why continue dedicating my precious time to it? And while I still feel like I can’t close the door on the IndyCar-media part of my life entirely… because who knows what the future will hold… I feel like right now, it’s time to try something new.
You likely won’t see me back at a racetrack for a while. Don’t get me wrong, my love for IndyCar and racing is as strong, if not stronger, than ever! This decision isn’t about that, it’s quite simply about this: There is so much world to see and I don’t want to wait to see it anymore.
For years, all of my vacation time, and a good chunk of my income, has gone towards traveling to race weekends and writing about the IndyCar Series… and I will tell you right now, I wouldn’t have traded a SECOND of it, for ANYTHING. The people I’ve met, friendships I’ve formed, writing I’ve done, places I’ve been, and experiences I’ve had, have been beyond anything I could have ever imagined. So for any and every role you have played in that – you have my sincerest gratitude.
That all brought me to this revelation: I have the time, income, and ability to travel and take legitimate trips that DON’T require me to work 12-15 hours a day DURING said trip. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s kind of the dream. At least for me. And here I am… wasting it away when I should be enjoying the fruits of my labor!
I have a bit of a productivity complex, so allowing myself to relax or even just enjoy a day without accomplishing something significant brings on an overwhelming sense of guilt. To be honest, I really don’t know where that comes from – but I’ve always felt better about myself when I’m working and achieving something. Relaxing for more than an hour (if I can make it that long) makes me feel like a bum. And who wants to feel like that?
So this next chapter of my life is going to be about training myself to purely enjoy life, and learning to bask in the relaxation that I have rightfully earned between the health struggles I’ve faced, and working so gahdamn hard all these years. I have about three more decades of hard work in front of me but I don’t want to wait until I retire to start living my dream… especially since retirement, and a healthy life in general, are not guaranteed.
I’m going to travel to see the world, not to work on my vacation time. I’m going to relax for more than 60 minutes, reveling in it instead of regretting it. And I’m going to teach myself that part of living full throttle is pausing to appreciate the quiet time for more than a quick break in the midst of a chaotic schedule.
Am I still going to schedule a billion things and make my friends go cross-eyed whenever they get a glimpse of my calendar? You betcha. Am I going to continue to sleep 3-5 hours a night, like I have since 2003? Duh. But is my time away from the paycheck job going to be mine and mine alone from here on out? Abso-freakin’-lutely.
Hey, look at that. I wrote a thing.