I’ve periodically beaten myself with the same stick - feeling unable to compete against my peers who published their first novels in their twenties, but on reflection mine were the gathering they needed to be. Our twenties are easily mistaken for being a time we should already know ourselves. I did not. It took me so much longer. Enjoyed this piece. Thanks for writing.
A very moving reflection. I see much of myself in it -- minus the redemptive turn to productivity!
A whole decade late, but I'm going through that isolation phase now.
You're right. It's miserable.
Wasted life is always a sad thing to hear from anybody, although I do like the Stiff Little Fingers who have a song by that name. Hope you feel like you've left that bit of life far behind. Even so, I think it's a common enough experience for people in our generation. Part financial crisis, part us not being like Boomers and wanting to live it up a bit first before slaving away for a career. Among other things. When I think about how I could have a bunch of novels published by now, or at least poetry collections - having set out to be a writer and poet around 2012 - it feels like I wasted a lot of time as well.
In reality I worked on a lot of novel ideas, some of which will be self-published very soon. And I could say I got a lot of poetry out there. Even so, there is a real powerful sense of vindication that comes with finally getting something out in a grander sense. It's not only about being happy to get the novel out there: it's a conquest of the seeming futility of those times. Studying Philip K. Dick, I start to finally understand how he felt when he finally got some fame in the 70s after being ignored by everybody for as long as he was.
I don't know how similar that is to how you feel. But I can definitely relate.