Mario Villalobos


  • Journal

Writing found me when I was at my darkest. As a teenager, I suffered from dark thoughts and violent outbursts. I would punch walls and scream into pillows, and I would listen to music that intentionally plunged the hole in my chest deeper into the abyss. For a long time the abyss was my home, and part of me fears that I’m still living in it. When I was sixteen, I noticed that this darkness ebbed when I expressed myself in words. I wrote stories about men who had things under control, who epitomized the type of person I wanted to be but didn’t know how to become. My 11th grade English teacher told me that she enjoyed reading my stories very much, and for the first time in my life I felt like someone cared not only about who I was but about what I created.

I’ve been feeling directionless lately, and the question of my own mortality has been front of mind in a way it hasn’t been since I was sixteen, and I wonder what, if any, meaning this has to me and my life. For a long time I’ve felt like the best of my art has needed and depended on anger and depression, even though I know without a shred of doubt that this way of creating art would never and can never be sustainable. The last novel I worked on was about a man who watched his friend lose everything, and to write it, I needed to be in a dark place, but this darkness was all-consuming, and without a break, I feared I would lose whatever battle it was that kept me alive. So I took breaks until I eventually stopped writing that story. Paradoxically, whenever I stopped writing, I would be consumed by feelings of anger and depression anyway that writing was the only salve to those emotions.

Photography has saved my life, and I’m grateful for everything it has given me, but I fear it isn’t enough. I can feel those ghosts lurking in my periphery, and without some form of release, I fear I won’t be strong enough to fight them off anymore. I fear of falling deeper and deeper into the abyss and of never seeing the light again. I need strength, and the only thing I know for sure that gives it to me is my art. I’m a writer and a photographer, and I like to draw and play the guitar, and these art forms have made my life worth living. So far, they have kept those ghosts away, but life seems to be a constant battle between these angels and demons, and sometimes I feel like I’m winning and other times I feel like I’m losing. I don’t feel like losing yet, so I won’t.

One thing that has been missing in my life has been my fiction. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a writer anymore, but those doubts are now gone. I went to school to write movies, but it took me a few years after I graduated to realize what I really wanted to do was write books. I’ve been writing books for ten years, and I feel like I’m finally ready to accept this role in my life.

I hope I’m not too late to dig myself out of the abyss. Here’s to a new mountain to climb.