Whether or not you’re concerned that the White House is in danger of turning into a satellite campus for the Kremlin, there is one thing we can all (hopefully) agree to be thankful for: we live in a country where we possess the freedom of expression.
Think about that. I mean, really let it sink in.
If you have a book, film, artistic work or even a simple bumper sticker-sized message to share with the world, no one will physically prevent you from putting it out there.
You can proclaim your faith – or lack thereof – and you won’t be thrown in prison.
You can champion a cause that sears your soul. At the top of your lungs, and in broad daylight.
So, in honor of this privilege, it’s time to realize that “just add water” is only a good directive for condensed soup and Chia Pets. Not so much when it comes to speaking your personal truth.
When I left my last corporate job almost six years ago, I thought I had the trajectory of my writing career all figured out. I had dreamed of making films since college, so that was first on the list (to date, I’ve been fortunate to have written and produced two: Anniversary and Waiting For Goodbye). But beyond that, I figured I was destined to be a full-time freelancer. After all, what other option was there for a cube farm refugee with a knack for words?
I got a decent amount of work straight out of the gate. And that was partly due to the fact that I was so elated to no longer be starring in my own personal revival of Office Space, I would write about anyone or anything. From executive officer profiles and Facebook campaigns to video scripts for spray tan gadgets and robotic surgery, I took everything that came my way.
But after some time, I started to feel that something wasn’t right.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mr. Emerson’s quote is famous for a reason. It really is an ideal way to see your existence. Adopting a viewpoint like his makes it easier to handle frustrations. To see great progress in small victories. To appreciate life as the weirdly wrapped gift that it is.
But I didn’t always feel this way.
We all have a back catalogue of things we regret doing or saying. And unfortunately, it’s all-too-available for us to use against ourselves when Life uses our self confidence as a piñata.
When we’re already low, our monkey minds go to town…blowing up minor missteps into irrefutable proof that we are complete idiots:
The time you choked during your presentation and forgot the name of your own company.
That stellar moment when you asked your co-worker when she was due. And she wasn’t pregnant.
The night where you had one (or three) too many at cousin Barb’s wedding and assaulted the dance floor with gyrations that looked like MC Hammer on peyote buttons.
The word “should” is often vilified, and probably with good reason. Most of the time, it conjures up more guilt than it does motivation. Like, you should be exercising…but instead, you’re doing bicep curls with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. (Hey, that’s called resistance training. Don’t judge me.)
As a self-help geek, I know that reframing things from a burdensome “have to,” to a more light hearted “get to” is a good way to go. Less condemnation, more freedom. It’s all semantics, but I find that it works.
That is, until I conveniently forget this fact in the midst of some self-created stress freak out, and go right back to whining about everything that I “have” to do.
But something happened recently that made me realize how important it is to frame things correctly.
A few years ago, I read an article about a 13 year old girl named Athena Orchard who died of a rare form of bone cancer. I’ve never forgotten Athena, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the tragedy of her having such an unfairly short amount of time on this planet. Never getting to live out all of her cherished dreams. Having to leave behind family and friends who I’m sure are still lost without her.
But Athena left something else behind.
Today is one of those days where nothing is really working. And when that happens, I generally go to my impressive (or actually obscenely large) collection of self help books, CDs, downloads, widgets, gadgets and cards and pluck something that I think is going to help this self of mine get to feeling better.
So, what’s it gonna be? The charms-and-trinkets route? Put all my dreams in the manifestation bowl and wait for them to come true? Write all my grievances on a piece of paper and burn it to a crisp to release them to the heavens for perfect resolution? Meditate until all the wisdom of the Universe downloads into my head?
Right now, I feel like I’ve been drunk on so many different flavors of self help koolaid that I need to send myself to rehab. No more gurus, gadgets or therapies both mystical and practical. Cold turkey, baby.
I confess, I am a sucker for talent shows. Okay, so they’re cheesy, overproduced and hosted by vapid mannequins with serious self tanning issues. But I can’t help it. Every time I see one of the hopeful contestants take the stage, I am drawn in. Not just by their stunning voices, but the bravery and backstories that got them there. As I listen, I am praying that they don’t have to go back to anything that involves a cubicle or wearing a giant rat costume for a herd of screaming five year olds eating pizza. Considering my own shower-and-car-only voice, I believe each and every one of them should be the next world dominating superstar.
But then they’re eliminated. And I fall prey to the same insta-thought that nearly everyone else does:
“Well, they didn’t make it. Back to obscurity.”
But really…says who?