My Crying Problem Essay

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You know how Rebecca West says that half of us wants to be in the house, surrounded by our contented offspring and grandchildren—but the other half wants to burn that house to the ground? Well, Casanova just fully burned the house to the ground. Still, as an old man, he cranked out these memoirs. In one of his letters, he wrote a line explaining the experience and what it meant to him: "I am writing my life to laugh at myself, and I am succeeding." I like the word “succeeding,” here, because it suggests a new maturity in Casanova. You might think he’d have a worldly definition of success—he was obsessed with status in a status-obsessed time. He was from a humble background, an actor’s child, and for most of his life he badly wanted to be viewed on equal footing with the nobility and the ruling class. To me, this line shows he actually grew as person—in a way that the memoirs don’t, quite. It shows that, by the end, he could finally laugh at his gambling and his social striving and his endless affairs. Something about this line deepens the whole project for me. I also think this line contains crucial insight about the process of writing one’s own life. Writing memoir, after all, is usually a decision to engage with the most painful, fraught, or embarrassing portions of your experience. Memoirs, like most narratives, are about conflict and drama and pain. When life is good—or even more than good, when life makes sense—I really don’t feel any desire to write about it. Only when life becomes painful, when I’m suffering, do I feel like I’ve got the material to work on the page. But just writing down one’s troubles isn’t enough. You have to bring new perspective and insight to your suffering. For me, there’s a sure sign I’ll be able to muster the maturity to it takes to make art out of my life: When I’m finally able to laugh at a younger version of myself.

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