I have spent my life chasing this mythical version of myself, this person who I seemed to think existed. Not a shocker or anything, but she doesn’t exist.
It wasn’t until after college that I stopped trying to be what everyone wanted me to be. I am exactly who I am and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I am imperfect, and that’s okay.
Well, it’s okay with me. But that’s not the case with the rest of the world all the time. Or so it seems.
Today: a box for my personality and future was described to me. I don’t really think I liked any part of it. The personality in the box wasn’t mine. The future of the box wasn’t the one I was dreaming of. And the box itself was nothing like the world I wanted to live in.
So, now I’m sitting here, asking myself why I should try to fit in the box? Was it the money the box offered? Or the security of having a box at all?
Sure, both are nice. But are they supposed to drive who I am?
Some of you might say yes.
I can’t. I don’t know what the best decision will be, but I do know that I am no longer the girl who can keep chasing not only my mythical version or myself, but someone else’s as well.
As I finished my query letter this week and realized that sending out that letter is my dream, I started to reflect what led me here.
I knew that I would spend my life writing when I was in second grade. Crazy, right? Yeah, well, it’s the truth. I wrote my first story in first grade. It was pretty lame I’ll admit. As far as I remember it focused on a crazy squirrel. Definitely not my finest literary moment.
From that moment on, I spent my spare time in one of three places: with my nose in a book, lost in the world in my head, or with a pencil and paper-drawing or writing what I saw in my imagination.
As my cousins and I made up games of pretend, the characters and places we created wound themselves into the world that I was creating.
In sixth grade, I knew I would spend my life trying to share this world I created with everyone. I didn’t know it then, but what happened between then and now shaped everything I’ve written.
Everyone in life has shaped me and therefore my writing: family, friends, people who have hurt me, people who I have hurt. I didn’t know it at the time. But I see it now. Thank you to everyone who has ever crossed my path. I wouldn’t be me without your influence.
You know that saying that goes something like “what is right and what is easy are rarely ever the same thing”? Maybe it’s not a saying. There’s a good chance that’s a line from a book, movie or TV show and it’s just stuck with me over the years.
Regardless of its origin, that mentality has always been-and will continue to be-excruciatingly true.
So often our desires and our responsibilities do not line up perfectly.
Life would be easier if they did. We can all agree on that. But it’s from the moments where we’re caught between the two that or true colors begin to show.
The most depressing thing in this world is growing up and forgetting about the simple joys. God, that sounds so dark, doesn’t it?
I didn’t mean it to sound like life is a dark, terrible prison sentence.
What it is though is just one shot to be happy. One shot to make something of yourself on this weird planet that we call home. It’s just a big, beautiful, wondrous place that’s filled with tiny corners of exciting new adventures.
And that sounded a lot like a Disney movie.
Okay so for the middle ground here... have you ever been in love? Well if you have, do you remember that feeling you got that first month of dating whenever you saw that other person? Yeah. Magical, right? It feels like that other person is the reason that the world is spinning. Powerful stuff, that feeling is.
It seems to me that a some point we all grow up and lose that feeling about everything.
Remember when a Saturday of no plans meant hopping on your bike and going nowhere, and even though you had no direction it the feel of blind freedom that was exhildersting? Remember how exciting it was just to be on the cusp of an adventure? Yeah, me too. Invigorating, wasn’t it?
Today I couldn’t help but feel that way as I wrote a scene in my longest running project. As I described the setting through the eyes of a character who had never been there, I felt myself fill with wonder and curiosity. Where did that go?
At some point we all have to grow up. Go get a job, pay bills, pay student loans, and do “adult things”. As we do that we all seem to see the world in shades of dull gray, as if there isn’t anything exciting anymore because we only get up to go to work to earn money to pay bills. And don’t get me wrong, that is reality. But that’s not my point.
Now you’re probably sitting there going, then what is your point Amanda?
My point is that we all need to find something, anything, that would bring that spark of childlike happiness and excitement back to our lives. Even if it’s only for a brief moment every day.
Now you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking that it’s a cute but impossible notion.
I beg to differ.
Life shouldn’t feel like work.
Well, we’ve all had rough days. Right? And it’s safe to say it’s easy to get down about it...
So I’ve had a pretty shitty day. Or week. Well it’s Tuesday and it’s all been shit since Friday so nearly a week. Usually I’m one of those people that says “there’s no where to go but up”. Every time I thought that, it got worse. Friday was rough. Saturday sucked. Sunday was just plain painful. Monday was hell. So today I let myself wallow. I allowed myself to think the worst of every situation and assume that my world as I knew it was over. I know that it’s not.
I’ve decided that one day of self pity is healthy. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to hate some aspects of your life. It’s just human nature.
That being said I allowed myself to feel every emotion fully today. I silently sobbed in the bathroom. I screamed every curse word possible in my head - directed at me and others. I gave myself pep talks and lectures. I took all of my frustrations and anger out of on writing - fight scenes, sex scenes, death scenes. God - I am grateful my anger can be useful!
But that was it. Today was my day. Now I’m moving on.
Yeah, I know - it sounds cruel or callous or heartless right? But I don’t see it that way. I see it as healthy. I could absolutely spend every single day worrying over every aspect of my life. Where does that get me? Probably missing out on life and never truly appreciating anything.
Today, I’m not okay. Tomorrow, I will be.
About a year ago, I learned that my husband was offered a job in Chicago. At the time we were living in Scottsdale, Arizona. While going home had always seemed appealing - family, old friends, familiar places, and that beautiful Chicago skyline - it suddenly seemed unnerving.
I was no longer the person I was when I left four years earlier. My priorities, perspective and life had changed. How could a new me move to an old home?
Beyond that, I couldn’t bring myself to even imagine telling my students I was leaving. They had made such an impact on my life. They had changed how I viewed the world, how I interacted with it, and how I planned to influence the world around me.
It’s difficult now to realize that it’s been a year. So much has changed. And yet hardly anything has.
As it’s still early in this new year, just like it was then, I am forced to trust that this was the road I was meant to take.
I don’t know about any of you, but sometimes being creative has made me feel like a bit of an oddball, a misfit. Not that I minded of course.
As I’ve grown older I’ve come to appreciate that feeling. I see the world in a way that most people don’t. I see the good and the bad, the blurred lines and those that are well defined.
To me, the world is filled with endless possibilities. That can daunting in some ways as well.
Recently, I was told to take a personality test. While I find them interesting, I’ve always taken them with a grain of salt. How can you know me from 25 questions?
This time the test referred to me as a paradox, a complicated individual. For a moment I was irritated. Complicated? Definitely. A paradox? I’ve always thought I was straightforward, honest.
Deeper in the description there was a quote from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that stuck out, “If there is one word that makes creative people different from others, it is the word complexity. Instead of being an individual, they are a multitude...they tend to bring together the entire range of human possibilities within themselves. Creativity allows for paradox, light, shadows, inconsistency, even chaos - and creative people experience both extremes with equal intensity.”
I don’t expect everyone to agree but as an author I was struck by the idea that a creative person is a multitude. Seeing the world through different lenses allows me to create unique characters who experience life in ways far different from my own life.
Creativity can be difficult to define. While I find the quote enlightening it still doesn’t define what it means to be creative to me. I suppose that’s why we create art at all, to further understand ourselves and how we interact with the world around us.
As I bring myself closer and closer to publishing my first novel, I’ve realized that my heart pounds more often and sometimes I find myself feeling sick to my stomach.
It has taken my some time to learn this difference but this isn’t fear, panic or uncertainty. In fact, it’s the opposite.
I am beyond excited to share this novel with the world and every step forward brings me more joy.
But here’s the weird thing about the arts. Every song, every lyric, every painting, every dance, every scene written or acted is personal. You are your work. Putting it out there feels a lot like telling your secrets to the world. Because in a sense that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Lukas Graham sang, “‘Cause only those I really love will ever really know me.” And while that generally seems true, we all put our art out there in hopes of connecting with people, of letting others know they’re not alone, of teaching others through our experiences.
This journey so far has been terrifying in the most beautiful and uplifting way. I cannot wait for the world to see the beautiful world in my head.
You ever have that “holy shit what did I just do moment”? You know the kind - when your heart is still pounding and stomach is filled with ecstatic butterflies. That kind of moment that you know changed something about you.
They’re the best, aren’t they? And the worst. Kind of everything at once.
In just one moment today, I felt extraordinarily confident in every decision that I made and everything that I was working towards.
Now, I’m sitting on a train with my headphones blaring Reputation and not giving a shit that the man next to me looks extremely irritated by pop music and self-satisfied smile.
Now do you know the moments I’m talking about? The ones that you know have changed everything.
This morning I woke up terrified at just the thought of putting not just my novel, but this world in my head - as well as myself - out there for the world to judge. For a moment I couldn’t believe that I had allowed myself to be so vulnerable.
But today at work, a coworker said something that resonated. He said, “I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something that not everyone else could do. Because, if we’re being honest, unless you have a talent or something you’re really good at then you’re just like everyone else. You’re ordinary.”
As he spoke it was easy to see the truth in his words.
But talent, that ability to do something that not everyone else can do, is only one piece of the equation, right? Beyond an ability is the confidence to be able to do it, and the willingness to put yourself out there and be vulnerable.
It always strikes me that so many people in this world are talented, and I am fortunate to know some. If you’re reading this, take a moment and consider the guts that it would take for you to pursue your dream - your craziest daydream that you hardly dare to say aloud to even yourself. Ask yourself: if there was nothing standing in your way, would you pursue it? If you hesitated, ask yourself what is holding you back?