Monday, December 24, 2012

Regret Blows, or, My Plan

Well if you're reading my Brilliant Word Art, Readers in Russia, then you know that the world did not, in fact, end and we are all still stuck with bills, holiday decor that we will have to re-pack in our creepy basements come the new year AND wondering why boy bands still exist. I mean, I don't want a horde of grammatically incorrect (I can only guess) tweens making voodoo dolls but A. it would be an improvement, and B. I truly do not anticipate tweens to read my blog, BUT can all of us who are responsible (or otherwise) adults agree that there is NO valid reason to listen to corporately-manufactured and oddly-coiffed 16-year-olds singing about jack shit? Yes? Perfect.

It breaks my grizzled 30-something heart to remember the olden times fondly; times when James Hettfield scarred my childhood with the Enter Sandman video. Times when you could count on Axl Rose to show up to an awards show and possibly burn something down. Like Slash's hair. Times when the term "rock star" still meant someone other than Taylor Swift, who, mercifully, was merely an unfortunate twinkle in some twangy-country-music lover's eye. Remember? Let us hold our imaginary lighters aloft for the prehistoric times when music still meant something.

But alas, it's 2012, we're all still here and L.A. Reid is still making shit tons of money off music that he probably wouldn't listen to EVER unless it made him shit tons of money. In fact, I'm willing to bet that when he goes swimming in his pool filled entirely with hundred dollar bills that he has his Klipsch speakers play old school Dr. Dre or Snoop or Metallica just to cleanse his brain of the horrible music that he is forced to listen to at work.

L.A. Reid snaps his fingers to his waiting team of domestic engineers. "Turn the infrared heaters up, my money pool is tepid! And I want some Ice Cube on, right now! I can't get the sound of Justin Beiber out of my head! ARGH! THE PAIN! Get me a damned mojito on the double!"

I know. Such is the imaginary life in my head.

My point, readers in Sri Lanka, is that A. I don't know what language you speak B. I assume everyone speaks English because your countries give a shit about foreign language and C. since the world didn't end, AND I read a fantastic Facebook posted-and-reposted article on Cracked.com about how I need to get some shit done, I'm getting some shit D-O-N-E.

I'm writing. The proof is in the pudding. The delicious butterscotch pudding that is my Word Art. You're all very welcome.

Seriously. Read the article. It should be required reading freshman year in college, although since it's not (that I know of), maybe you'll luck out and get a brutally honest professor. I think honest professors can change lives. Unless you think they're being sarcastic, in which case you might, like Your Favorite Writer before you, chuckle knowingly and go back to mentally figuring if you can afford flavored-long island pitcher night on Thursday.

One of my favorite English professors favored wandering the halls of the liberal arts building in a dramatic duster and wickedly intense black bowler, leading another English student and me to nickname him "The Captain" or El Capitan, respectively. Why? Why NOT. He clearly captained the U.S.S. Proper Grammar and the lesser-known U.S.S. Obscure British Literature.

One fine English major-y day, he asked the small class of upper level students in his 5,000 level lit class to raise our hands if we wanted to make money by writing. Most of us, moi included, raised our adorable early-20-something hands.

"Wouldn't it be great if you could do that?" he asked with a rakish grin. "But you can't! So pick something else!" he added with great zest and joie de vivre.

I chuckled knowingly, amused with my professor's continued use of witty sarcasm and mentally figured if I could afford flavored long-island pitcher night that Thursday.

Unfortunately for me, that brief comment in an upper level English lit class 500 years ago when T-rexes roamed the sun-dappled Indiana University campus is one of the main take-aways I had from college. Mainly because it burns with the realization of a prophecy fulfilled.

Yes, *some* writers make actual money writing. Far more of us end up spending our days hunched in front of the cold glow of our monitors, muttering to ourselves like Gollum talking to his Precious, as we slurp cooling ramen noodles from chipped coffee mugs.

As a Lady of Leisure, I spend most of my days doing laundry and gabbing about the demise of decent music in America, as I curse the expiration of my sat radio in Tom Cruze. Oh, and I write too, on occasion. I'm just lucky enough that The Man has a good job and I'm spared the indignity of ramen noodles and instead can indulge my balsamic vinagrette salad dressing habits.

The article in Cracked got me thinking though - mainly because it is unflinchingly honest, and painfully realistic. The gist is this. Do something, create something, you are only the sum of your talents and usefulness to the world. I am not sure that my brilliant grammatical acumen is a gift...although it certainly should be; and my writing is best when I actually DO it. Shocking, I know. The writer of the article actually takes a fairly staunch position about writers. A lot of people call themselves writers, few of them produce much. The epiphany, it haunts.

We can't all be as prolifically possessed as, say, a Stephen King or a J.K. Rowling, but we can do what one of my other favorite English professors urged, which is to "use it or lose it." Writing, so similar to any other talent, as it turns out.

So this year, while so many people are deluging my newsfeed with promises to start slurping SlimFast come the New Year, or to buy Nicorette or give up their wine habits, whatever, I'm going to do what the Cracked author suggested and do SOMEthing. Write. It's what I do, among other creative endeavors. It's so much easier, according to the article, to pick apart someone else's attempts than to try anything at which you might fail. As the saying goes, everyone's a critic.

Bringing me to my other personal promise. It began with Your Favorite Writer crying in the shower on my 34th birthday. What could have easily been the beginning of the Zombie PMS time could just as easily have been the tip of the iceberg of mah midlife crisis - I'm a go-getter, why wait 'till my 40s when I can crisis right NOW!

I used to love theater. Love it. Want to act for a living, act forever and ever, amen. I write because it's a compulsion and to not write is to keep words locked in my brain that need to breathe the free air and see the light of day. I acted because it was, for lack of any other effable description, what I loved and who I was and the real me. If my soul were a conjoined twin of artistic design, it would be acting and writing, with the two sharing a heart.

I haven't acted since...freshman year in college. I took one theater class, hated it, and never looked back. Only that isn't quite true. I looked back long enough to realize that it was easier to shove it into a mental shoebox, stuff it on the closet, bury it with old quilts and photo albums and forget. Only you never really forget when it's a regret, do you?

Regret is the single costliest possession. It can cost you your peace of mind, your dreams at night and your courage. Regret is painful and I loathe it with all the burning fury a Scorpio can carry - but giving up my dream is certainly my biggest. I'm coming clean with you all because I've held it in and alone for so long that only a handful of people even know that I carry the burden at all. I am such a damned fine thespian at heart that you look and see only what Mommy allows you to see. For all the years since 1997 I have allowed exactly none of you, save the few in my immediate circle-of-trust, to see my dirtiest regret. But now I'm letting it out, and I'll start somewhere near the beginning...

When I was 17, and knew it all you see, I determined that after I turned 18, I'd get a tattoo to make sure that I never gave up on my dream. The week after my 18th birthday, I went and got my first tattoo. It's on my ankle: a bizarre black and gray mishmash of design and attempted 3-dimensional kanji (the originality pains us all) and it supposedly meant "actor." It probably means "dumb gringo" or "sweet and sour sauce." I remember so self-righteously declaring that I could always look at it and remember what I wanted out of life, because I knew I'd regret it if I never tried.

I do, and I didn't.

This spring or summer I plan to get a cover-up. I am going to get the tattoo that I should have gotten that fall of 1996. I'm going to cover the bizarre and confusing kanji with the well-known theater masks. Even if I never set foot on another stage, that is who. I. was. Maybe even who I was meant to be.

Leading us to the natural decision to try again. I may never be awarded the Oscar, as I was so sure I would be one day (the hubris, it mocks), but that's okay. Sometimes you have to just do it for yourself, whatever it is. I've given the last decade of my life to the most important people in it, but I love myself every bit as much as I love them. This thing, that I tried to deny and shove on the shelf, or bury under the floor after I coldly killed it, all Poe style, it won't stay buried. It keeps waking me up and is loud enough that surely everyone can hear it.

I have no idea what I'll audition for, and frankly, the fucking THOUGHT of an audition fills me with so much anxiety I'm not sure how I'll get the balls to do it. But I will. I don't give a rat's rear if I'm the rear-woman-in-crowd-scene and don't even get to take a curtain call. Or if I don't get cast. Sometimes the effort is the reward, the renewal and sometimes, you just have to roll the dice and give yourself a chance. Everyone's a critic. I'm certainly my own biggest, but I'm also my own biggest fan.

I may not have known everything at 17 (for instance, I thought popping a mini-thin - then legal- with a diet Mountain Dew was a not-bad idea)(the hallucinations, they scare) but I was right about regret. I don't want any more of them, and you shouldn't either.

Read the article on Cracked. Decide what you want to do or build or make or create and don't give a moment's thought to if you will fail or if it will suck or if someone hates it. Take a risk. Don't look back. You're worth it, and so am I.

Comments, questions, what do you want for 2013?







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