In the first part of the second chapter of “On Ordeal: Ronan,” Ronan gets lost within himself. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of anxiety.
Not a person is surprised that I found something to relate to in Ronan’s journey here. NOT A SINGLE PERSON. Y’all know I’m drawn to stories of loneliness and isolation, and that’s exactly what kind of motif that Duane drops us into here. So much of this story is deeply internalized, and it’s fascinating. We are much more in Ronan’s head than we are in the world outside of it, but that’s necessary. Now that we know that the Lone One and the One’s Champion are ramping up their battle for Ronan, we have to get a sense for his internal disarray. And lord, is he ever a mess inside.
What I related to most was the cascade: Ronan has a though, and the thought then spills outwards and turns into many different things. Along that path, Ronan continually latches on to the worst outcome, and then dread fills him as he begins to suspect that exact thing will actually happen. I DO NOT KNOW IF I COULD DESCRIBE MY OWN ANXIETY ANY BETTER. This is pretty much what I go through! I fixate on possibilities. That “what if?” moment snowballs in my mind, cascading into a perilous thread of negativity, cynicism, and doubt. It doesn’t matter how absurd this is, or that I’m aware I do this, or that the situation could never have ended up as I thought it would.
You know what? Here’s a great example of this. I’ve told bits and pieces of this story before (mostly on Patreon!), but I had one of the worst anxiety spirals of my life last year, on the eve of the day where I got my agent, DongWon Song. After an editor had expressed interest in reading Anger, I had re-sent my newly revised draft to DongWon to get some feedback before I sent it along to this specific editor. Now, I’d already made the switch to contemporary from science fiction because of DongWon, so you think my awful brain would have realized this. I LITERALLY DID WHAT HE ASKED ME TO DO. So when he emailed me late Sunday night, before I flew home from this con, to tell me that my book had made him “ugly cry” on the plane and that he wanted to talk to me, here’s my thought process:
Oh, that is probably good. It’s a pretty sad book at times.
I hope he liked it.
Maybe he didn’t like it.
Maybe he hated it.
Christ, what if he hated it so much that he was going to tell me not to send it to this editor?
What if he hated it so much that he was calling me to tell me to never send him a manuscript ever again?
Oh, gods, he hates it, why am I doing this to myself? Why did I ever think I could write a book?
Readers, I literally did not sleep that night. At. All. That’s how bad my anxiety was, even though NO AGENT IN THE HISTORY OF AGENTS WOULD EVER DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS!!! In what fucking universe was this a believable possibility!!!!!!
Welcome to anxiety, y’all. I’m surprised I wasn’t triggered reading this because Ronan’s moments of spiraling doubt felt so real to me. It’s even worse when I know the things I’m fretting over are actually bad things, and that’s definitely the case for Ronan. He’s dealing with some heavy shit, y’all! It’s reasonable for anyone to feel dread or terror over this sort of stuff! I actually love that that’s the case because it doesn’t strip away the literal causes of his anxiety. Yes, you can easily read these scenes as evidence of the Lone One’s influence, and I adore that extra layer to the story. But this anxiety is also real, and that’s important for representation purposes. Even if you wouldn’t classify Ronan as having an anxiety disorder, I still found something deeply relatable about the physical toll of his worry and his isolation. Look, it’s not easy being alone. I do enjoy it, and I’ve thrived being on my own. But I was forced into that; it wasn’t a choice to be a loner in junior high or high school. My circumstances necessitated it. I was living an experience that no one else could relate to.
And isn’t that something that Ronan feels, too? With his Nan’s health, as well as the uncomfortable marital strife between his parents, hanging over his head, Ronan can’t see how he could ever share his life with other people. And I don’t mean that in a romantic or platonic sense. It’s like… how does he even begin talking to people about this? About his compulsion to talk to himself? About how isolated he is day after day?
So he doesn’t. He goes on a long walk to isolate himself further, but also to ground himself. I love the feeling being out in nature, away from other humans, gives me, so I found the scene by the shore at the end of this section beautifully calming. I admit there’s also some nervousness on my part, but that’s because I know Ronan is about to go through something transformative. It’s imminent, isn’t he? It’s going to happen REAL soon, y’all, and I’m looking forward to it.
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