On Writing

I try to convince myself that when I stare at a blank page and can’t find the words to fill it with that I am romanticizing the ideas I can fill it with and not fumbling over my own insecurities as a writer.

Hello, I am Michael O’Hara. I am an aspiring failed novelist, a manic depressive floundering teacher, all around lost individual, and current student in the Writing Studies master’s program at Kean University.

Originally, I joined the writing program at Kean University as I was looking to transition my career from pharmaceuticals to education. I had spent nearly a decade as a pharmacy technician with various organization, with my last position being during the pandemic. It was during this time that I felt I needed a change. My role with that final company had me numb to myself; I was less hands on with patients and more in touch with an electronic prescription management system than I would have ever preferred.

I’ve always wanted to matter, or at least to feel like I matter, and losing my connection to my patients made me feel like I didn’t. I was a cog in a machine, pushing a pumping oil through tubes to motors running conveyer belts and assembly lines, and I lost bits of myself with each passing day. The idea had been floated to me before that I would be an excellent high school teacher, and so I decide I would become one.

The pandemic changed the world in countless ways, and I have no doubt that it changed the course of the education system for decades to come. My first year teaching, I met some gifted and incredible kids, some of which with their own brilliance lost to them, yet… it was a struggle from the very beginning, and it never stopped being one for me. I wanted my student to share my love of novels, poetry, thought, expression, and very few did. Despite the fact that I became a mentor to many, the things I taught them became much more about life and much less about content. I wanted to treat my students like young adults, but that proved to be a mistake in many ways. My thoughts on becoming a teacher have soured over time.

So now, I am what many might call “a little lost”. I have no desire to go back to pharmaceuticals, am worried I will lose my passion for literature and the art of writing, do not find much interest in returning to working at assisted living facilities, making promotional videos, or retracing my steps back to any of the other positions I’ve held over my working career. The only thing that I want to do, the only thing I think is for me, is writing.

I want to write because I have road-tripped America five times, living out of my car in mountains and deserts, slept under stars in a Kansas winter, and walked across the Golden Gate of the Golden State. I’ve met some of the most beautiful people with stories that humbled me, reduced my ego to porcelain and shattered it under the weight of what they had experienced, lives I’d never lived, and all the while I was looking for something, a story that would put my life into context, rectify who I was with who I am so desperately trying to be.

I have more questions than I will ever have answers to, but the questions that linger fester, writhing with me. I don’t know who I am, and sometimes I rely on the characters in my head to shed some light on those pieces of me that I need to reacquaint myself with. Currently, I am writing a novel about a heartbroken man searching for answers, I see myself in him, and see those I love in everyone that he loves. The novels I hope to release to the world, the ones filled with grit, piss, vinegar, bile, and the horrors of the world, are love letters all the same.