By people who don’t matter,
Who will never matter—
Because they’re just like you:
Wanting to be loved,
Wanting to be valued.
Their approval can’t make you whole.
Yours can’t make them whole, either.
No, the only way to keep that fire burning is with the right fuel.
The fuel has to be a purpose
A vision—a vision for the way the world ought to be
With less pain
Less wasted time, effort, resources:
A vision you can’t stop seeing.
Even when you close your eyes,
Even when you are out with your friends,
Even when you are sleeping.
It has to haunt your dreams
It has to be both your utopia
And your nightmare.
It has to chase you, not the other way around.
You have to want to put out that fire
And not be able to.
You have to try to put it out.
If it comes roaring back hotter, and brighter—
If every attempt to quench those flames makes them spread,
If every solution leads to more sparks that catch other people on fire,
Then, maybe then you have the fuel.
Maybe then you can leave everything you have
And give yourself over to the fire.
Maybe then you can leave mother, father, brother, sister,
Stability, normalcy, balance
And abandon respectability
Ruin your credit
Go into debt
Lose your hair
Keep being lonely.
Until somebody comes along and says
“I have the same fire. I can’t put it out either.”
Who assures you:
“I’ve ruined my credit,
Gone into debt,
Lost my hair
For a long time.
Let me join you.
We’ll go through it together.”
And then another comes and says
“I don’t know what I have, but it doesn’t feel normal,
I can’t do what my friends are doing
What my parents expect of me
What the world wants of me.
I can’t give it to them
Because there’s something wrong with me.
Can you tell me what it is?”
Only to diagnose that poor soul with the disease.
“You have it too.
I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do for you.
You have a fire that can’t be put out.
It’s going to torture you every day for the rest of your life.
The only relief you’ll get is to try to put it out every day.
Pour the water of your soul on it every morning
Liquefy all of your hopes and dreams
And douse the fire with them.
It’ll only give you with a few minutes of relief.
And it will just make the fire stronger in the end.
But even though the fire gets bigger
You get more heat resistant.
It doesn’t mean you don’t feel it anymore
You still feel it.
It doesn’t mean it won’t keep hurting
You’ll still hurt.
But you see that it’s making you stronger.
The temperature goes up
But you can take it.
You start to appreciate the pain.
You fear what happens if it ever leaves you.
You begin to be more afraid of numbness than pain.
And that is when you are free.
That’s when you can give yourself fully to your fire.”
Then maybe he says
“Can I join you?
Can we go through this together?”
Your heart will smile.
You will see that your fire added something to the world.
It made somebody’s pain easier to bear.
Or maybe he says
“Thank you for your time,
I need to think about it.”
And you know that it will just chase him
And torment him
Until eventually he gives himself over to that fire,
Just like you did—
After years of running from it,
After years of denying it,
After losing everything anyway.
Because that’s the only way your fire could get your attention.
And you mourn for him.
But you know he’ll get there, one day.
He’ll remember what you said.
He’ll be glad you said it,
He’ll be glad you left those footprints.
Then one day you’ll have nothing left to burn.
Your energy will be gone.
Your body will break down,
Your will softened to nothing.
Your fire will have taken everything from you.
But you won’t see it that way.
By then you will have grown so used to that burning plague
It will have become your friend.
You will think of it differently.
You’ll see yourself as having given everything freely
Not taken from you.
You’ll see it as having given everything to your friend—
To your best friend.
And he will keep you warm
As you pass into the night.
Then, even after your night has dawned
When the world’s morning has faded its memory of you the person,
Your statues and mansions but mere ruins,
Your fire will still be burning—
Right where you left it.
It will ignite another’s fire,
Until one day the whole Earth burns as hot as the sun—
And brightens the universe,
Who smiles back in gratitude.