I’m a writer.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that that sentence, containing only three words, took so much struggle and resistance to finally be able to say. I’ve always known it in some capacity, but I spent an embarrassing amount of my life rejecting it in favor of what I thought to be a more glamorous, more suited to me, existence.
But writing was always my thing. As a kid, I wrote stories and made up shows with my sister and cousins. My dad is a writer and our family’s own in-house comedian, who secretly and quietly taught me everything I know. He introduced me to The Three Stooges and Peter Sellers and made up stories at bedtime.
He showed me what tenacity looks like; even more importantly, what it looks like when people tell you you can’t do something. He pursued his dream of writing graphic novels well into adulthood, working tirelessly on book proposals and other projects after putting in an 8 hour day at a desk job to take care of his family.
To say that his attitude toward creative work had an impression on me would be an understatement.
In school, writing was always my strong suit. My essays were held up in English class while my Math grades suffered even through endless tutoring. I won the Literature & Writing award at my 6th grade graduation. In high school, one of the clubs I was in was organizing a mass and we were working on writing the petitions. I took over and I’ll never forget how impressed everyone was with my ability to string words together, even words I didn’t necessarily believe in.
I saw it too, but brushed this and every other hint aside and decided to study business at a local liberal arts college. That confusing pursuit quickly lost momentum, expedited once I joined my school’s theatre club and started performing in productions. I decided to be an arts major and pursue a performing career; after all, I could always sing and act, loved entertaining, and it satisfied my creative needs.
In college and after, I had some noteworthy performances, but I also had a metaphorical file cabinet chock-full of absurd performance and audition stories that I could whip out at a moment’s notice. At the time, I found my tendency to be cast as the weirdo side character a major and devastating blow to my career plans. Only in hindsight am I able to see this as a laughable indication that I was following the wrong path, and also the perfect anecdote for a comedic essay.
But I continued telling myself that I had to be better, thinner, belt-ier. That I had to make people take me seriously as a performer. I spent so much time comparing myself to the pretty, charming musical theatre girl with long, flowing hair whose mother was a voice teacher and from birth was taught the difference between falsetto and head voice. Don’t get me wrong, I admire her and I’m rooting for her but I’m just not her.
But through my sad attempts to make it to Broadway, I started blogging (the first time any of my writing was put into public view), and everything just clicked right into place. The brick walls that the acting world was putting up in front of me crumbled away and turned into a well-lit path, with tiny floating angels guiding me effortlessly toward my destiny, muttering under their breath something along the lines of “finally, you big dumb idiot.”
I had finally embraced the thing I was put on this earth to do, and the universe was rewarding me. I don’t say this with any ounce of superiority. It’s not obnoxious or brag-y for someone to say “This is what I’m good at. This is the thing.” I think it’s amazing. I think people should shout it from the rooftops. Because life is so fucking hard and confusing and being able to say anything with certainty or peace of mind is something to relish in.
And embracing the thing certainly doesn’t mean the journey is over. It just means the journey has a bit of a clearer destination.
When I think about it, it’s not really my fault that it took me so long to see what I was really good at. I was emotionally seduced by the sound of applause when I busted out a high note in a musical and heartfelt acceptance speeches at the Tony awards. They were enough to make me believe that this was the end-all be-all for me. That there couldn’t possibly be anything else out there for me. That I wasn’t good at anything else.
But really, I always was. I just had to pay attention.