Who You Are Is Enough But You Can Still Be Even More

Sometimes it feels almost impossible to feel like you are enough, that all your work and all your love matters to the people you want it to matter to. Sometimes it feels like no matter how hard you love or try or work, you can’t get it right, make a difference.

Here’s the thing: You can’t save the world.

Sometimes you can’t save even one person. But if you try and you love and you listen, you are doing your absolute best and your absolute best is a gift to those people; and it’s a gift to yourself.

That doesn’t mean you will always be awesome and perfect, understanding and full of empathy because nobody can always be that perfect.

But trying? Loving others. Listening. Being.

It is important.

Yet, it’s so hard to believe.

 

I was recently talking to someone brilliant, 24 years old, beautiful, good, and that person thought that they had already wasted their life.

There are a million metrics and achievements this person has already notched off – things that I can’t even imagine achieving. That didn’t matter. It wasn’t enough.

They called themself a loser. Their life, they claimed, was a waste.

But from my viewpoint as someone who is not that person? All I can think about when I think about them is wow.

Just wow.

What an incredible human.

If I can believe that about them why is it so hard for them to realize how cool, amazing and wonderful they are? Why is it so hard for so many of us to believe it about ourselves?

Half the women I know have created themselves and their dreams and expectations in the likeness of a rom-com, which is explained so well in this column by Heather Havrilesky in Vulture. She wrote:

But your concept of yourself makes no sense. You got it from a rom-com. Age 35 is not an expiration date on your beauty or your worth. It doesn’t matter if every single human alive believes this. It’s your job to cast this notion out forever. I’m 48 years old and I’m determined not to tell a story about myself that started in some beauty-product boardroom, among unimaginative corporate marketing professionals. I fail at this quest often, but I’m still determined.

But then there are a bunch of us who don’t or didn’t care about rom-com images. Some of us have massive savior complexes. Some of us want glory. Some of us want to be remembered forever. Some of us have modeled our lives off Marvel movies and Captain America or Ancient Macedonian kings. We’re not much better off.

From fourth through eighth grade my true life ambition was to take a bullet meant for Bono of U2. I would dive on stage, heroically be killed, die in his arms painlessly somehow. And all of Ireland would be so overcome by my sacrifice that they would instantly broker peace. The entire world would do the same.

Saviour complex, much?

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I was a weird kid, obviously, raised on too much Doctor Who and Star Trek. But I wasn’t about romance or babies. I wasn’t into getting married. I didn’t want to be defined by my husband or my marriage or my kids. I wanted to define me. I know! I know! The horror.

But we don’t have to be saviors either. There is so much pressure to be something that our culture, our society, our books and movies and television show, Instagram photos and YouTube videos want us to be.

But what makes us feel truly like we have a purpose, that we aren’t a waste of space and resources, that we matter?  For a lot of us, connections, doing good, friendships. For some of us that still isn’t enough? We are on an endless quest for more, to be better, to do better, to make the most of our time on this earth. Or we are on an endless quest to meet the expectations that society has placed upon us.

We have to find a way to discover who we are and what we want.

Superheroes

Havrilensky wrote:

I’m going to choose to embrace narratives that make me feel more alive and able to contribute whatever twisted crafts I can to this world, while I can.

I’ve been posting a piece of art or a video on my Facebook every Friday because it is what scares me. There’s this weird vulnerability in those forms of communication that make me feel especially vulnerable, but I want to be a better artist. I want to be unafraid about who I am. Those scary Friday posts are part of me going for that instead of just hiding my paintings in the basement.

I grew up poor but in a pretty intellectual household. There were assigned roles. I was the quirky weird one wearing Snoopy shoes. My brother was the ambitious gorgeous one. My sister was the good one. I was the one who read books, who was nerdy and self-righteous. I heard narratives about who I should be all my childhood. I bet you did, too.

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Mine were: 

You’re shy.

They thought you were blind when you were born. You still don’t notice things.

You are weird.

You are smart. You’re the smart one.

You aren’t an athlete. You have weak ankles.

You aren’t an artist. Nobody in this family is an artist.

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But who I thought I was meant to be was also defined by what was said about my much older siblings but never said about me: 

Your brother is so successful.

Look at his dimples. He’s so beautiful. People just stare and stare at him. What an athlete.

Your sister is so kind. Her heart is so big.

Your sister loves children. Your sister is so good.

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Me in a U2 shirt, hiding my face because I’m the quirky one, not the good looking one.

Those narratives shape us. Combine them with comparing ourselves to television tropes and superheroes, rom-coms and Instagram perfection and it’s hard to be okay with who we are. Shakespeare said that comparisons are odious. There’s a reason for that. They make us feel shame. They make us feel jealous. They make us feel less. Or they make us think of others as less.

Here’s the thing: Nobody is less. I’m going to leave you with two solid paragraphs of Havrilensky because her article is brilliant and true.

What if you just decided that you’re an artist, today, right now? You’re sensitive and erratic, maybe. You’re maudlin and also expansive. What would it look like to own that identity, as a means of making art, sure, but also as a means of owning your FULL SELF? You wouldn’t feel as angry at other artists. You would recognize them as kindred spirits. You might notice how your shame matches theirs, and fuels all of you. You might feel proud of your small creations and you might start to see how every single thing you’ve done, every place you’ve been, every town you’ve lived in and left, every friend you’ve gotten to know and then forgotten, they all add up to a giant pile of treasure.

You are 95 years old, looking back at your 35-year-old self, and this is what you see: a young woman, so young, so disappointed, even though everything is about to get really good. She doesn’t see how much she’s accomplished, how much she’s learned, how many new joys await her. She doesn’t know how strong she is. She is blindfolded, sitting on a mountain of glittering gems. She is beautiful, but she feels ugly. She has a rich imagination and a colorful past, but she feels poor. She thinks she deserves to be berated because she has nothing. She has everything she needs.

What is it that you want to be? Who do you want to see? Be that person. Love that person.

Writing and Other News

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Art.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

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Time Stoppers!

You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

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Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

FLYING AND ENHANCED

Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them here or anywhere.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

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