Things have been bubbling and brewing, sparking and rolling. Change, she is in the air. I’m working at something new and exciting and I feel better than I have in ages. It’s still fresh and I’m still very much in the learning phase so I’m not quite ready to spill the beans yet. I have more playing, more learning and accountability to go before I’m ready to bring it to this space and share it with the big wide world. But it’s coming, oh yes…
Going in a new direction has got me thinking about all sorts of things. My brain has been moving so fast lately that I haven’t really been able to formulate complete thoughts. But this morning I had a still moment to reflect on a few of the things that brought me to this new place. And I realized that the biggest catalyst for my growth came from letting go of who I thought I wanted to be.
When I was younger, I had dreams of being a writer and dreams of being an actress and I followed those pursuits to university and beyond. I studied, I acted, I wrote. I graduated and moved to Chicago. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I loved parts of acting. But I didn’t love it the way other people loved it, the way my friends and colleagues loved it in that all-consuming, “I want to do nothing else with my life but act” way that you have to love it in order to truly succeed as an actor. I’m still deeply invested in theatre as a transformative art form but I don’t miss acting as a career. I’m happy to dabble and support and leave that dream to the people who are really passionate about it.
Writing. Well, writing is a different story.
Growing up, I read and studied amazing writers and drank in the romance of playing with words all day long until you crafted a beautiful, life changing novel that guaranteed you a spot in the history books. Forget the fact that Hemingway shot himself and Plath put her head in an oven. The way I saw it, writing, if you were good at it, was your fate, come what may.
I’ve carried writing around and put it down and picked it back up and caressed it and neglected it and given up on it and reclaimed it and promised never to abandon it again more times than I can count. I love (and occasionally hate) to write, always have, and a deep down part of me knows that I always will. It is my surest and most natural way of processing the world.
For most of my life, I held on to the idea that I would, one day, be a Capital “P” ‘Professional Writer’. Through all other iterations of career, the idea lingered, taunting and belittling everything else I attempted. “Well, it isn’t writing,” that little sock puppet voice would whisper. If I didn’t eventually earn my bread and butter solely by churning out articles and essays and books, it would be a betrayal of my truest self.
I was so laser-focused on the what I thought that dream was supposed to look like that I didn’t allow myself to see what was going on in the periphery. Instead, I constantly berated myself to, “Just write!”, ignoring the voice in my head that told me I was also a social person, a person who wanted to be out in the world helping people in a more concrete way. That little voice that kept whispering, “There’s something more to this….”
The sock puppet told me that was just the fear talking, that I was a commitment-phobe, afraid of failure. I ignored the pit in my stomach that appeared at the thought of writing to deadline and creating on cue, of taking a thing I love and stripping it of its spontaneity and fun. Of sitting in a room or a coffee shop day after day after day. Alone.
And then, one day, I thought, “What if I explored this other thing….”
And I looked at ‘the other thing’ a little and felt a twinge of excitement. But it didn’t take long for the guilt to arrive, and I quickly shoved that ‘thing’ back into its drawer and got back to typing.
For months, I opened and closed that drawer. I stared and stared. And then, one day I finally allowed myself to try it out. As soon as I stepped into that new space, I knew that I was made to do this thing, this other thing, maybe just as much as I was meant to write, or more.
And that’s when I realized: our early dreams can become such an ingrained part of who we are that they sabotage anything else that jumps in and says, “Hey, I want to play too!” They can be greedy and controlling and demand that we, like them, remain frozen in time.
Walking away from a non-dream (for me, that was real estate) is easy to talk about: leaving behind the mundane in order to pursue your passions–that’s sort of the accepted, verbalized version of living your best life and being an authentic person.
Talking about a dream that you may have outgrown…
Shit, that’s scary.
It’s also unimaginably freeing.
Creativity comes from following the bread crumb trail to what excites you now, not what excited you ten years ago. Admitting that you’ve changed or that what you thought you wanted didn’t end up looking the way you expected it to–that takes cojones.
And it gives you permission to grow. My new dream is way bigger and cooler and more inclusive than the original version was. It embraces other people and territories and forms of communication. Realizing I wasn’t built to do just one thing day in and day out means I no longer have to be ‘Rian, the Capital “W” Writer’. Now I can be Rian, who writes and also does a lot of other cool and fulfilling things.
I’m giving myself permission to be happy by today’s standards, not yesterday’s, to expand out and live in possibility rather than in childhood certainty. And, as scary as it is, it’s not the betrayal I imagined it would be.
It actually feels like a big, fat gift.
I love this line from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden: “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
Is there something in your life that you’ve outgrown–an old belief you still hold about yourself, a dream that feels stale and rigid? What would it feel like to let it go, even for a little while? What could you do with all of that extra space?