Letting Go is Hard

I’ve tried to write this blog twice already–the post Alex blog.

I know I only just posted the blog introducing him, but he and the Pen boys were novels I started while this blog was still private and primarily about Mason, and thus never really got to show the beginning.  Although, like I said in his intro post, Alex really began several years ago.

This is not about his beginning, though.  This is about his ending, something I’ve never written before.  Yes, this is technically his third draft, but I never actually wrote the first two all the way to his end.  And honestly?  I’m not sure how I feel about it.

When I finished Pen boys, I had an actual dance party.  I put on Miley Cyrus’s new song (because hell yes, Harrison would have it on repeat), and I boogied through a few sun salutations.  When I finished Alex the Destroyer, I–went to bed.  I’m not even lying.  Granted, I had to be up early the next day, and I finished writing around 9:30PM, but still, I just went to sleep.

I woke up, hiked a mountain, and went about my daily life.

I worked 9-5, I taught yoga on Tuesday, and I just–did my thing.

It’s been almost two weeks, and I’m still not sure how I feel.  Well, that’s a half-truth.  I know how I feel, I’m just not certain I understand why I feel the way I do.  Well.  Okay, it’s all a lie.

I’m in mourning.  I know this, and I don’t like it, particularly because I know why.  When I said Alex is me, I really meant that.  A lot of his story (minus the drugs, obviously) is based on fact.  A lot of the weird, dumbass stuff he does, I did.  There is a lot of fiction mixed in, and his story in no way reflects my actual life at that age, but Alex’s personality, his interests, and his passion is all mine.  He likes the same music as me, wants the same things as me, and is as wild about life as I am.  He is me.

What does that say about me right now?  Because, if I think about it like that, then I just wrote the ending to my childhood.  Which is disconcerting, to say the least.

But even if I don’t think about it like that, Alex has been with me for 13 years.  He is my oldest fictional friend, the first I ever created, and the one that, really, I spend most of my time thinking about.

How do I do this?  How do I let go of him?  There is no second book.  His story is over.  I’ve written everything I wanted to for him.  Is this really the end?

A writing friend of mine told me to celebrate all the successes, no matter how small.  I told him I’d had a dance party for the Pen boys, but nothing for Alex.  At first, I thought maybe this was the problem.  Maybe I hadn’t celebrated the ending of his story.  The problem is, I don’t want to.  I’m not ready to.  And that’s a tricky thing with characters that you love this much.  Sometimes, they’re ready to move on, and you’re not.  But I have to find a way to.  Yes, I still have 6 additional chapters to write into the story, and yes, I still have edits to do, but I have to find a way to let go of him now.  I have to let go of this story.

Yes, I have to.  If I’m still lingering in Alex’s life forever and always, nothing I write after this will have my full concentration, my full heart.  He can still exist in my soul, but he can’t be the driving force anymore.  I did it.  I told his story.  It’s time to let go so I can move on.

But how?

I don’t have an answer for you.  I have an answer for me, but in general, answering the question on how to let go of characters and their stories is impossible.  There is no surefire way to let go.  There is no tested and proven method.  It’s different every time.  For the Pen boys, I danced.  I rejoiced.  And truthfully, I’m not really letting them go.  I have two more books with them, so we’ll see what happens at the end of the third.

I can tell you this.  For Alex, it took seeing Green Day live before I was ready to let him go.  Now, I know this sounds crazy, but remember who Alex is.  First and foremost, before the drug addiction, before the abusive home, before all of the drama, he is a musician.  The one thing in life that is his constant, that always brings him joy, that steadies him and brings him hope and helps him through everything is music.  I’ve already talked about music a few times on this blog, so it comes as no surprise to me that, for this particular character, this was what helped me finally exhale.

And the strangest part?  I’ve been writing Alex for 13 years, and I’ve been waiting to see Green Day for 13 years.  The world works in weird ways.  When American Idiot first came out, there was almost nothing I wouldn’t do to see that tour.  Almost nothing.  I was 12, which meant I definitely couldn’t afford those tickets, and I really didn’t want my first Green Day experience to be at Gillette Stadium.  So, we never went.  Over the years, my dad fell out of love with them, and this was before I could, or would, go to concerts by myself.  And so, I never thought about seeing them live again until Revolution Radio came out last year.  This was it, I thought.  I’d gone to a few concerts by myself, and I was going to this one.  And then my dad said he wanted to see them.

Fast forward several months, and two days ago, I finally, finally, saw them live.  They were on for two and a half hours, and it was the best night of my life.  It was, hands down, the best show I’ve ever been to.  It was everything my entire youth has been building up to.  Funny, isn’t it, seeing how Alex has been there for my entire youth, as well.

Disclaimer: I do not cry at non-Panic! concerts.  I’ve cried once at a concert–Josh Groban, go figure–and Panic! shows just don’t count because it’s Brendon Urie, guys.  Do you really expect me to hold it together?  Fact: I bawled my way through the entirety of Still Breathing.  The whole thing.  As soon as Billie said they were playing it, I started crying.  Done for.  What in the holy hell?  This is why:

Am I bleeding?
Am I bleeding from the storm?
Just shine a light into the wreckage
So far away, away

‘Cause I’m still breathing
‘Cause I’m still breathing on my own
My head’s above the rain and roses
Making my way away
‘Cause I’m still breathing
‘Cause I’m still breathing on my own
My head’s above the rain and roses
Making my way away
My way to you

Oh.

Okay.

Alex has a lot of songs, but this one–this one was never intended for him.  Most of his songs are pre-2007, but I should have known.  Jesus of Suburbia is THE SONG.  It inspired a lot of the material in his story, and it’s the one I turn to when I need help getting into his head.  And boy, does he love that album.  My first thought when Green Day came onstage was, oh, my little punk rock asshole would have loved this so much.  He would have, too.  He would have died to see them live.  And somehow, we saw them together.  Still Breathing was the exhale I’ve been waiting for.

He’s still breathing, and I’m still alive.

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