7 Things: Things I Need to Remember

About this time every year, I come to the resounding conclusion that I am, in fact, a loser.

Sandwiched as I am here between my birthday and my next great writing disappointment, it’s a perfect crossroads of self-contemplation. The kind of crossroads where you meet the devil and he’s all like “Guuurrrl, have I got proposition for you.”

Jill Sobule’s “Freshman” starts running through my head, a home that isn’t attached to someone else’s home sounds pretty good, and I realize that my office looks like the office of a 12-year-old who wants to make it to Hollywood one day and become a big star!

I start thinking existential thoughts. Like –

Why am I here?

Am I doing the right thing?

Is there something else I should be doing instead?

Will I ever be truly happy?

Why did I love the “Just Imagine” song from Barney’s Imagination Island so much as a teenager? What does that say about me now?

Oddly, my annual crisis of self has been weaker this year than in years past. I am still contemplative, but, for a reason I can’t quite explain, this year I am contemplating how to get to where I want to be, instead of how to settle for where I am.

It’s a good place to be. Because, if I’m honest with myself, there have been many times in the past that I have let people make me feel bad about who I am, what I’m doing, and the choices that I make. I have often let them get the better of me.

It is easier said than held to, but I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to move beyond the point when an intentional jab from someone can hurt me. I want to armor up. I even want to be more confrontational. Because no one has the right to poke at my life choices if I don’t poke at theirs.

Plus, they’re wrong anyway.

So, in honor of this new perspective – that I do hope I can keep in my sights for at least the next year – here are seven things I need to remember about myself and my life.

7 – I am not made for a “real job”.

I was once told that you have to find something outside of your job that makes you happy. By a person who loved her job.

Those are easy words from someone whose career is satisfying, who gets joy out of going to the movies or to church or coaching Little League or hanging with the in-laws.

I’m not saying that liking your job, being content in your life, or getting joy from simple pleasures is wrong. In fact, I wish that I could be more content a large portion of the time.

But I’m not.

I will say, however, that I don’t care if people live “normal lives.” If they get up and go to work in the morning, come home to the family, drop into bed, and get up the next morning to do the same. It seems satisfying for many people, and I think satisfaction is all that we can hope to find.

The idea of that life does not satisfy me, though.

So, I wish that people would stop making comments that imply that “I am lazy” since I don’t have a 9 to 5 job, that “I am lucky” because I don’t have to adhere to their schedules, or that I am working on something salacious, because that’s the only way you can make money without a real job.

I work harder than almost anyone I know. I do it so that I don’t have to live a life I can barely pull myself through. I work to make money and I work to make no money. The only difference between other people and me is that I am willing to work for the love of what I do – or for the hope of a better, freer future – and they expect every minute they spend doing something other than chillaxing to be stamped with a dollar sign.

6 – Nothing will ever be as perfect as I want it to be.

A while ago, I threw a fic up on my website. It was written on a whim in a few hours, simply because I wanted to participate. I won’t read it again. I will hate it if I read it. I hated it as I wrote it. It had a few worthwhile zingers, as I recall, but the writing was terrible and I knew it. I do not write things on a whim, read them over one time and put them up where the world can see.

After I write something, I wait. I return to it. I rewrite. And I rewrite again. And again. Sometimes I make big changes. Most of the time, I make tiny changes that confuse people. Because it’s only an adjective. Or punctuation. Or a name.

Even with all that editing, I hate almost everything that I write at some point. Then, I like it okay. Then, I hate it even more. After a few years, there are always, always things that I would have done differently.

The important thing to remember is that past work seems like bad work only because I am still growing, I am still improving. If five years down the line, everything I wrote seemed as good to me as it did when I originally wrote it, it would mean I hadn’t improved any in those five years. If I want to become a better writer, I must get used to looking back on writing from the past with a cringe.

5 – I have not wasted money. Or time.

I have spent  money to meet people I thought could help me network in the industry. To no avail. I have spent money on supplies and printers and websites. That haven’t returned on their investments. I have spent money copyrighting, printing, mailing, and renting space. I went $20,000 into debt to make a movie.

When I tell people this, they tend to look at me like I’m an idiot. They sharply intake breaths, as if it pains them that I am so foolish. They wonder why anyone would waste so much money.

I have wondered myself. Put all that money together, I’ve thought, and I could have a down-payment on a house that’s nicer than that of anyone I know. I could have a better car, a newer TV. I could tell them how many hundreds of Blu-ray DVDs I own that I never watch, about my luxury car. I could wear a diamond bracelet the next time we see each other and really show them.

Then, I realize that I’m thinking their thoughts. Not mine.

I want a career. I want success. I want to create things. I want to learn things. I want to travel. I want experiences. If that takes every penny I have, then so be it. There is no sense in living a life that I don’t want now to save for a life that I don’t want later.

My time is worth more than money. And it’s how I spend time that matters.

4 – I am doing this for me. But that doesn’t make me selfish.

Let me first say that we are all selfish to an extent. All of us. Even parents who sacrifice everything for their kids. Those parents did, after all, choose to have kids. Because they wanted kids. Which is a personal choice that brings them joy. Therefore, has some basis in self-fulfillment.

What I mean to say is, following my own life path doesn’t make me any more selfish than anyone else. This is important for me to remember, because, in the past, people have tried to make me feel as if I am. As if I am somehow shirking the responsibilities of family or life by not being available to them.

The details are boring, but the truth of the situation is this –

We all live different lives. Mine has some benefits that others don’t. But others have some benefits that mine don’t as well.

So, whatever people think about me in the heat of a moment is on them. I know who I am, I know what I feel, I know in what areas I am selfish, and I know in what areas I have sacrificed a great deal. And only the people who know all of those things about me have any right to judge my character.

3 – I have the talent to succeed.

I may not succeed. I may never succeed. That knowledge – the possibility that I could very well end my life having made no mark in the arenas that mean the most to me – it can be paralyzing. Why spend hours in a pretend world, fluctuating between joy and misery, when I can spend my time in the real world finding ways to dull my mind and be content, if not happy?

I think it sometimes. But it’s only a thought. Not always as fleeting as it should be, but just a thought nonetheless. And many of my thoughts shouldn’t be given much credence.

Here’s one that should, though –

The fact that I may never succeed doesn’t mean that I am not good. It doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve it. I do have the talent to succeed. And the drive. And the work ethic.

I do deserve it.

Failure doesn’t mean that I don’t. The world is subjective. And not always fair.

2 – It’s more important to me to be a good writer than a successful writer.

That’s a hard thing to admit. It makes any complaints that I have about my lack of successful ventures blatant hypocrisy. After all, if I would truly rather be a good writer, can’t I do that in the privacy of my own room? Or my small inner circle?

I’m not saying that I wouldn’t like to be successful, because I would. Of course, I would. I would at least like to make enough from my own writing so that I don’t have to work other jobs and write things that I couldn’t care less about for the largest percentage of my day. I want the freedom to write or film or act or create music full-time. I want a career that I love. Who doesn’t?

But if success in the marketplace means abandoning my voice, if it means altering my style to fit the style of what’s selling today, then it’s not worth it. A successful book will mean very little to me if I feel ashamed to have written it.

Of course, that’s this year. Things may change when I’m older and still broke.

1 – I am doing everything that I can.

Sometimes it feels like I have been trudging in place for most of my life. Like I have been mired at the base of the mountain and the summit is still as far off as it was when I first started. It’s an illusion, of course, created by the passing scenery, which looks the same year after year. Another city, another apartment, another rejection, another birthday. All different, but all the same.

I am moving forward, though. Upward. I am making progress. I just don’t want to mark that progress by my weariness alone. It’s vital that I start concentrating on the subtle differences. The changes in the air, the whispers on the wind, the renewed vigor that comes with each prominent marker. It’s not fair to let myself fall into a pattern of thinking that I am still stuck at the base without a clue when I am, in fact, mid-climb.

I am taking the right steps, I am ascending, even when it’s hard to see. It’s just that my way up isn’t anyone else’s. I’m not following someone’s path. I’m not  interested in doing that. I am trying to make my own in the best way I know how, so that I can be proud of the entire journey.

But this isn’t just a hill in the backyard. This is a big damn mountain. And the bigger the mountain, the slower the climb. Getting to the top will take time. It will take effort.

I just hope I don’t die trying.

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