In the absence of time to sit and write something new for this column, it occurred to me that this one I wrote a year or so ago may be fitting for the New Year and the whole “New Year, new me” many tell themselves.
I make no pretense of being a motivational speaker. However sometimes a synapse fires, a light blinks on and things do appear with a little more clarity. I think it has something to do with getting older, but who knows. Our society is quick to try and put us in neat little categories, little boxes, and keep us contained there. So many people are pressured into going along with it, never trying something or living they life they really want to.
That societal pressure, those boxes? It’s all bull.
Author Robert Fulghum wrote about this much more eloquently, pointing out that in our society we are identified by what we do for a living. We’re doctors, welders, garbagemen. But really we could just as easily ( and perhaps more accurately ) be identified by the things we do that define us outside the 9-5. Parent, painter, gardener. Fulghum said it’d be funny to identify by the thing he did the most, breathe. Or as he put it, being a “resperateur”.
The point being, YOU determine who you are, WHAT you are. No one else.
Years ago as I began writing more and putting it out for public consumption ( all 10 of you ), I voiced doubts about calling myself a “writer.”
After all, a writer is someone who goes to the desk and writes for a living, right? They wake up, they write, and it pays the bills. Stephen King, James Patterson… those guys are writers. Someone on a self made WordPress soapbox writing for a few of his friends to read it? Not so much. I was not worthy of the title, “writer.” ( Imagined in neon lights above my head and sighs of adoration as the word is said. ) Luckily, I’ve a friend who knows how deliver a swift kick right when it’s needed. His response has stuck with me for probably 10 years now: “What are you waiting for, someone to say it for you? Fine, I hereby dub thee a writer, now get to work.”
Not his exact words, but you get the point.
And he was right. While sitting around wondering if I was allowed to call myself a writer, I wasn’t doing the very thing a writer would do… WRITE!! It didn’t happen overnight, but with practice and the desire to learn what it takes to write good ( haha! ) I gained confidence enough to put it out there for all to see. It’s the same for some of my other endeavors. When someone asks if I’m a farmer, I demur, I’m hesitant to say I am. Farmers are those people up at 4am working 16 hours a day to barely make it feeding the world. But I raise animals for food. I long hesitated to call myself a musician, yet I’ve played in a band from one end of this state to the other for over a decade. However as time has gone on, my friend’s words continue to eventually drown out those doubts.
I’m a writer. A musician. A hobby farmer. I’m also a father, husband… a human in progress.
I guess my point to all this is, if you’re looking for the world to define you, you’re in for a world of disappointment. It takes more than an arbitrary calendar date and a gym membership. It means you have to have the confidence to say, “I am an artist.” or what ever it is you believe in your heart of hearts to be.
So tell me, or more importantly, yourself: What are you?