The very first page of Michael Heald's new book of essays features these four words: "My twenties are ending."
Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension is made up of 11 autobiographical essays. Together, they're a kind of field guide to Heald's '20s. In his telling, this is a decade of self-definition and self-discovery — a time that's both painful and thrilling. He writes about a strained relationship with his older brother and about doomed romantic entanglements. He captures the special place that music holds in those years, and what it means to be 5 foot 4:
"Five four is the average height of the American woman. Five four is taller than Paul Simon, Danny DeVito, Prince, and Danzig. Those guys turned out alright."
Above all, Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension is about dealing with disappointment, and learning how to embrace a life that doesn't fit the pattern you'd set for yourself.
The Portland-based writer and editor of Perfect Day Publishing discussed these ideas and more during an interview on Think Out Loud.
On his version of "nervous apprehension":
"I had about a year of panic attacks that I write about in the book, but it's not something I suffer from these days. But I would say 'nervous apprehension' extends beyond really intense anxiety to just kind of like sitting in your apartment waiting for someone to text you, to being at work, sort of unhappily waiting for something to change. I've spent a lot of time hoping for things like this to happen — the title is extremely optimistic, I would say. The fact is, I'm still nervous right now and I still don't know if a career in writing is really feasible. It's still a hard path.
On being 5 foot 4 inches and dating in college:
"When I got to college I wasn't really aware of how short I was in comparison to your average American dude. Five four is really short, but I think when you're in high school you have freshmen around and you have also known these people since childhood, so I didn't really feel that things had changed all that much. But early on in college I started noticing that something was really different in the college environment .. People from 18 to 22 have grown and so I noticed that I was like a foot shorter than a lot of my friends, including one of my closest friends [who] was six [feet] seven [inches] so that difference was really felt, acutely."
On why he started a publishing house:
"I think because [books] are dying, because the larger publishing houses are sort of in crisis. I felt like there was an opportunity to get notice regionally. One thing Portland's amazing at is really supporting local arts. But also having the control over the output and the timeline. We're very quick from finishing the written part of making a book to doing the design to actually getting it printed and getting it out."
Listen to Think Out Loud's full conversation with Michael Heald.
Go See Him
- Michael Heald & Dan DeWeese read from their books
- Monday, January 14, 7:30 p.m.
- Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside Street, Portland