I have a secret. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing with my life – not my career, romantic relationships, my workout and diet erraticism or the box of mismatched socks that has been sitting in the corner of my room for approximately 74 months. If you asked people who know me, they would tell you that I might even have it together more than most. This is because I am good at putting on a face, though my childhood fantasy of becoming an actor stayed inside the confines of my diary once upon a time. This is my case for trying, despite the fear that can sometimes rattle me into inaction. A manifesto to pull myself up by the bootstraps, if you will.
Here is what I know: I want a successful creative career. Currently that means as a writer and/or director, but sometimes the mountain to recognition and fulfillment seems so big I don’t know where to begin and therefore do not. It is easier to not start an Indiegogo campaign for your short film than potentially deal with raising a total or $3.47 or even submitting a piece to a website you read every day in case no one ever reads it. Or worse so, tells you that you aren’t any good.
When I watch Kathryn Bigelow accept her Oscar for Hurt Locker and the priceless strained smile plastered on her megalomaniac of an ex-husband James Cameron’s face, who slow claps behind behind the back of her thirty something hot piece of a screenwriter boyfriend, I have a flash of beautiful clarity. That’s it. That’s the moment I want. I want to be standing there, maybe wearing a beautiful dress (something restrained and inconspicuous as I’m the “artist”, after all) staring at the faces of those who love me and have offered me their backs to carry me from A to B. I am also giving the implied middle finger to those who got in the way. I succeeded despite and because of.
I want to be loved wholly and honestly and to reciprocate without fear or reservation in a way that perhaps will one day end up in long-term commitment. I don’t know about the whole white dress idea (I am prone to stains of all kinds), but I could be warmed to the word “husband” if he makes me snort laugh and tells me he likes my hair better curly than straight enough times. Yet, at this moment in my confused, selfish 27-year-old state, I worry that I love everyone and no one. I fall in love too quickly, and then am easily distracted. I end up feeling perpetually alone despite being surrounded. Am I a flake? Am I shallow? I want to wear that once in a lifetime Holt Renfrew outfit and declare my commitment at city hall, followed by an intimate dinner at a chic, but understated top ten restaurant, but then what? What is a Tuesday in February like when you are fifty-two and married? I do not know.
I can bury my energy in a relationship and avoid what is hard. It is easier to drink a bottle of wine with someone that tells you are smart and attractive and full of promise than say, “I can’t tonight, I’m busy” and actually fill the promise of what you are capable of being. It is easier to go out on a Tuesday for a dinner that someone buys you than one you have to make yourself. An activity that may involve chopping onions that could makes you tear up. Guess what? Get a pair of sunglasses on and chop those damn things up. Things taste better with some work put into them. Even if you cry a little bit.
The road to all of what I want is very far from where I am right now; a warm but haphazardly decorated an apartment in Toronto, Ontario, sitting in my ex-boyfriend’s tapered black sweatpants, picking at my undercooked gluten free noodles and slightly overcooked chicken dish, listening to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and wondering if she’ll ever take off her crazy pants and get back to her glory days. Perhaps I should focus less on Lauryn’s long gone glory days and focus on making my own.
I’ve been living in a bed of fear for the past several years that has prevented me from ripping the covers off, getting out of the bed I’ve made myself, putting on my favourite matching leopard socks and busting out the front door. There are certain narratives we tell ourselves to keep us in the warm, comfortable bed of avoidance. It can take the form of past hurt, loss, food, sex, alcohol, drugs, Honey Boo Boo marathons, whatever. Change the story you’ve been reading to yourself.
I have used several instances of deep loss that have gone on in my life as impetus to tell myself that the world owed me something. I felt that I deserved something for a tremendous amount of pain I went through. Horrifyingly, I felt both entitled to talent and terrified of it. Maybe I was even lazy. Because things and people were taken from me, somehow, in some form, they would be returned, right? Maybe I wouldn’t even have to try as hard. Guess what, asshole? The only thing you deserve in this life is the chance to prove to yourself that you did all you could to actualize the best possible version of yourself. Even if to others, it may just seems mediocre. But you’ve got to work even for the well-earned mediocrity that comes with attempts.
So, I’ve made the promise myself to try at all costs. I have no idea what is going to happen to me. Maybe I’ll win an Oscar, but more likely I’ll make a few films or write a few stories that someone says “hey, this is good” and sends it to their friend. I feel raw and exposed and more unsure than ever, but here is what I know: if I do everything I possibly can to better my life or achieve my goals and I fail miserably or succeed wildly, it is entirely mine. It is not something that has been “done to me”. I am in control of my own outcome, for better or for worse.
When you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while and they ask you how you’ve been, what do you say? It’s usually a game to elevate the details about your accomplishments, socially, professional, romantically, financially, materialistically or otherwise. What if you say, “I have no idea, but I’m trying to figure it out?” You may entirely disarm the person who asked you the question enough to say they don’t know either. And then there you’ll be, two people staring at each other in the truth of uncertainty. There is nothing more human than that.
None of us may end up where we thought, but we deserve to give ourselves the chance to try to end up where we should be.
And this concludes my manifesto. There is a box of socks in my room that I have to deal with. They may not all match, but if not, I have the perfect opportunity to do what I’ve always wanted to know how to do – make a pair of sock monkeys.
Image via ShutterStock.