Over Labor Day weekend I took a research trip. I needed to visit the place my character is going to be, even though it’s fiction. Something about being in the location, smelling the air, seeing the sights helps me when I’m writing. Normally, I ask my BFF to go with me. She is outgoing and I can hang back while she tells strangers all about my book. It’s easy with her; I get the information I need without having to break out of my shell.
But this time I went with a friend who is just as shy as I am. Maybe more so. I knew we would have fun, so I put off worrying about the talking to strangers part. No sense in getting upset about the inevitable. Even though that’s what I usually do.
I have always described myself as shy. As a kid, I hated presenting in front of the class even though I’m a good reader. In group karaoke I move to the background and dance instead of singing. I’m not a big fan of attention.
But recently when I called myself shy in front of another friend, she rolled her eyes and told me I was wrong. I didn’t believe her, but maybe she was right.
Because on this trip I didn’t have anyone else to break the ice for me, and I surprised myself.
When my friend and I arrived at the Inn, the woman who ran the place asked why we were there. It was a small village, not exactly a tourist hot spot. I explained that it was research for my book. And when she asked what the book was about, I told her. No stammering, no red face. I just talked about my book. I called myself a writer.
Then I talked about it with other people staying at the Inn, and with bartenders and waiters. Anyone who might have had information to help me, I asked.
And it wasn’t even hard to do.
That is when I realized how much I have changed, even just in the last year.
I haven’t been working on my shyness. I haven’t been practicing talking to strangers, and I’ve been out of the classroom for awhile. I thought about joining Toastmasters, but decided I didn’t have the time.
Overcoming my fears of talking to strangers is a positive side-effect of the confidence building I’ve been doing in the gym. Getting stronger physically has helped me to get stronger in other ways. It has made me more confident all around.
It’s funny to think about how working on push ups and squats and weight-lifting technique could take me from painfully shy to kind of outgoing. I can make a guess as to how it works: I see myself able to do more in the gym and that changes the way I see myself as a whole person.
If I can deadlift 250 pounds, then talking to a stranger should be nothing. And practicing failure in the gym shows me that mistakes happen and I get over it. I can drop a bar or miss a rep and nothing bad happens. Just like if a stranger can’t answer my question or doesn’t like the sound of my book, it’s not the end of the world. I can pick myself up and try again.
Changes in confidence and personality are like building strength, they happen slowly over time. Maybe that is why they are harder to notice for ourselves, until someone else points them out. But now when a friend tells me how different I am from the person they first met, I will agree with them.
Because I know I’m not the same person. I’m a stronger version of me, all around.
Strength isn’t just in the body, it’s metal and emotional, too. When we work on one, we impact them all. And in the end, we become stronger than we ever thought possible.
Do you see yourself as strong? Or do you tend to downplay your abilities? Do you notice small changes in yourself? Or does it take someone else to point them out?
I consider myself to be blessed when it comes to my friends. I have so many amazing people in my life. Friends who are there for me when I need them, make me laugh all the time, and encourage me to be my best self.
But I recently had an experience with a friend that reminded of a bad date. Nothing I said seemed to be right, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t avoid a dig or an argument. I felt like I spent the whole time defending my choices and my life. A friend whom I love and adore was actually kind of mean to me.
Deep down I know that she didn’t do it on purpose, and I understand that most things that people say are actually about themselves. But I couldn’t seem to let it go as easily this time. Luckily, I had another friend to call and I asked her the question: Why can’t she just be happy for me?
Friends don’t have to make the same choices in life in order to support each others’ dreams.
But my friend explained something I hadn’t considered before. She said that when people are truly unhappy themselves, they can’t be happy for others. It just isn’t something they can do.
I probably already knew that on some level, but I hadn’t really understood it. Because I believe that happiness is a choice. If I am not happy, I change something. And maybe that’s part of why my friend was so mean.
It must be hard to see people go after what they want and not just take whatever comes along. Especially if you are faced with a similar decision and you turn away. So I started thinking of all the topics I could talk about with my friend that might keep me safe from the mean.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that isn’t something I am willing to do.
I don’t go around throwing my happiness in people’s faces, but if you ask me how I’m doing I’m not going to lie. If someone asks how my writing is going, I’m going to tell them how much I love it and how amazing my mentor is this term.
I can be sad seeing a friend hurting and encourage them to find what makes them happy, but I refuse to apologize for my life.
I’m not sorry that I left a job that was making me drained and angry, and went back to school to pursue my dream. I’m not sorry that I love working out and eating healthy, and I make it a priority almost every day. I’m not sorry that I didn’t stay in an unhealthy relationship or rush to get married just because that’s what I was expected to do. I am not sorry that my family is defined by love and not biology. And I am most definitely not sorry that I don’t feel trapped by life, and that I decide what I want to do with each day I have.
Just because people we love are stuck, doesn’t mean we owe them an apology or an excuse. We don’t have to complain or pretend we are miserable in order to fit in. I know that misery loves company, but I’m not willing to be miserable and I don’t want to help the negativity grow.
We all have the right to choose our own happiness, including them. And maybe if we keep going about our happy ways, the positive feelings will spread.
If it’s true that we lead by example, then being happy is the best thing we can do for the world.
Usually, I do my best to be low key and avoid the fireworks if at all possible. Not because I don’t love the holiday, but because I am terrified of fire. I end up spending the entire night covering my eyes and praying that no one looses a hand. Not exactly fun.
This year I thought about trying something different. When a friend invited me to tag along to another friend’s cookout, I said I’d think about it. I tried to pump myself up about the idea of celebrating the 4th. A cook out and fireworks should be fun.
But I couldn’t get rid of that feeling in the pit of my stomach that something wasn’t right.
Sure, I could have fun during the day. But I knew that once the sun went down I’d be looking for a way out, like a reverse vampire.
Then another friend told me about a CrossFit competition she was doing with a couple of people from our gym, and she invited me to join them. It was only a two hour drive away and they had a place we could stay for free.
Right away the feeling in my stomach lifted. It felt right.
No, I wasn’t ready to do a competition. And it was a little bit expensive for me on short notice. But I knew I wanted to go. I just didn’t know why.
I struggled with the options of how to spend my weekend because what I wanted didn’t make sense. It was the Fourth of July, I should want to go to a cook out and watch fireworks. That’s what the day is all about. I could meet new people, eat good food, and have fun.
I couldn’t explain to anyone why I wanted to go to a competition and not compete. Being equipment manager/photographer/cheerleader didn’t sound like fun to most people. And Florence, South Carolina isn’t exactly a tourist destination.
But for some reason, it sounded like the perfect holiday weekend to me.
So I didn’t listen to the shoulds, or the advice of other people. I didn’t make a pro/con list. I listened to that feeling in my stomach and went along on the trip.
It was fun to get out of town for a few days and I got to know some of my friends even better. We joked and bonded and had a great time. On the day of the competition, I had fun being the cheerleader/photographer/equipment manager. And while I was cheering on my friends something happened to me.
As I was watching my friends compete, I realized that I could do it too. And then I realized that it’s something I want, which I never thought I’d say.
Up close, the competition wasn’t just about winning and losing or about beating everyone else. That is all up to how each person sees it. What I saw looked like fun. People were working as hard as they could and competing against their limitations, beating their own times and setting new PRs. Really, it was a similar feeling to the gym: community and fun. Just on a bigger scale.
I came back from that weekend trip with a new view of competitions, a new view of myself, a new goal, and the motivation to see it through.
I am so glad that I decided to listen to that feeling in my stomach instead of doing what made the most sense. Sometimes our bodies know so much more than our minds. We just have to listen.
Have you ever felt that something was right, or wrong, but couldn’t explain why? Do you tend to listen to your gut or your head?
But I signed up for the Transformation Challenge at my gym anyway. I thought it would be a good motivator and a way to track my progress, and I saw how much people changed last year. I wanted that for myself.
I sat down with my coach and came up with goals. Some I thought were possible, others not so much. But I put my entire self into the competition.
I made a plan and stuck to it. I went to the gym five days a week, including arriving early to work on push ups and pulls ups, and staying late for the weight lifting class. I got my nutrition under control and made a meal plan that works for my body and my lifestyle.
I worked my ass off. Kind of in a literal way, too.
As it got closer to the end of the competition, I felt a desire to win that I’d never experienced before. Yes, it was fun to workout with my friends and we all encouraged and supported each other. But I knew how hard I was working, and for the first time ever I felt like I deserved to win. I had earned it.
It was with this feeling that a friend and I went and got tattoos to celebrate our hard work. We decided that no matter the outcome of the competition, we deserved to recognize ourselves. So we did.
Two weeks later when they announced the winner, it wasn’t me.
I have to admit it really sucked not win. More than I thought it would, actually.
But when I went home and thought about it I was able to see that no matter what the outcome of the competition, or who won the cash prize, I still walked away victorious.
What I won is so much more important than money or recognition.
Because I won a newer, stronger version of myself. One who can see all the progress I’ve made. I hit or surpassed every one of my goals, surprising myself in some. I am strong in both body and mind, and I now have the confidence to appreciate it.
And I have the confidence to set my sights on bigger things. I am willing to risk more.
The way I think about competition has changed in the process, too.
This past weekend when I volunteered at a CrossFit competition, I finally saw the appeal. It isn’t about winning. Not really. It is about testing yourself to see how far you can go, how hard you can work. It is about giving all you have because you believe you can.
That was the reason I ran marathons. Not to win, but to do my best. To beat my previous time, to push a little harder. It wasn’t a competition with other people, but between me and myself. I just couldn’t see that until now.
The truth is, competition isn’t about other people. It’s about competing with myself. With the limitations I see and weaknesses I focus on. It is about making a goal and reaching it.
It is about proving that we are winners no matter how the competition turns out.
How do you feel about competition? Have you ever won anything? Or competed and lost? Did it impact the way you felt about yourself? Do we ever really compete with anyone but ourselves?
I started a new schedule last week and had to switch up my workout times. There is no Olympic weightlifting class during the day, so the coach said I could come in when she does her own training. She wants me to keep making progress, so she is willing to give up her own time.
It turned out that my coach wasn’t the only one at the gym. One of her fellow coaches was there to record her lifts and help her work on her form. And she happened to be sitting right in front of where I was working out.
She must have noticed the look on my face because she told me not to worry about her. “Just do your workout, I won’t bug you.”
But like all good coaches and teachers, she couldn’t sit there and let a teachable moment pass. A few snatches in, she came over and started coaching me. She fixed my form, gave me some pointers, and had me practice over and over.
As my body really got the movement, she had me add weight to the bar.
And that’s when things got complicated.
I was trying to think about every part of the movement, every suggestion she gave me, and think about getting the heavier bar over my head.
I got the bar up to my chest and lost it. It was too much to remember, and I dropped the bar.
So she gave me some advice I really needed to hear: “Don’t overthink it.”
She told me that I have the movement, and if I could get the bar up as high as my chest, I could get it over my head. I just had to drop under it.
She said I was thinking too much and it was slowing me down. My brain was stopping my body from doing the work.
I tried it again, without thinking about every step. I let go of the worry and let my body be in charge. And it was so much easier. The bar almost floated over my head. “See,” she said, “You can lift a lot more.”
When I got home I thought about all the other ways that overthinking can interfere with my life. I can admit, I tend to stew on things for way too long, even after I think I’ve made a final decision.
I go back and rethink, re-decide, and doubt myself some more. I mull things over until my stomach hurts and all I want to do is lay down and stop thinking.
It can be big, important decisions like whether or not to take a job. But it can also be tiny, irrelevant decisions like when I ask my friends, “Should I go to the bathroom now or right before the workout?” I ask because if I don’t I’ll waste all the time overthinking it and the decision won’t even matter.
All this stewing and mulling and contemplating never gets me anywhere, either. It doesn’t help me make decisions. It isn’t like researching all the options, it’s just another way I doubt myself.
So starting now I am going to practice trust in place of overthinking. I am going to trust the decisions I make the first time and stop second guessing myself. I am going to trust my body to do the proper movements and trust that I can get under the bar.
I am going to use my brain to help me, not let it get in my way.
Do you overthink things? Do you trust your own decisions the first time? Are there certain areas where you stew over decisions too much? How much would it free you up to trust yourself the first time?
It’s pretty much life as usual on those days.
So even though I was more tired than usual last week, I put on my yoga clothes and told myself to champ it up. I figured it was just yoga, and would make my body feel better. The stiffness and pain in my lower back would probably go away. It wasn’t like I was running a 5K.
I walked down the stairs to the parking lot and a wave of nausea went through me. I thought, I feel like I’m going to pass out in my own vomit. But I didn’t say it out loud or change my plans. I didn’t think having my period was a valid excuse to skip.
I wanted to stay home on the couch with the heating pad, but just the thought of it made me feel like a wimp.
I thought of all of those commercials of the women playing tennis in short, white skirts. Smiles on their faces and enough energy to win the game. If they could do it, so should I.
I got in the car and drove to the gym, but I didn’t feel any better. In fact, I felt worse.
When I sat down on my yoga mat, I was a little dizzy. I took a few deep breaths and tried to concentrate on feeling better. It didn’t really work.
Then we went to do our first downward facing dog and the world started spinning. I felt like I was back in college and had too much to drink. That moment where you wish you’d never had a sip and you swear off alcohol all together, right before you pass out in a heap of coats on the bed.
I sat cross legged with my head up until I felt the ground go still. I started to wonder if maybe my body was trying to tell me something. Maybe even yoga wasn’t such a good idea?
But I brushed it off and decided to try again. I mean, what was I going to say, “Sorry, everyone, but I can’t do yoga today because I’m on my period?”
No way. That would’ve been like admitting that being a woman made it hard for me to do everything all the time. That would’ve been wimping out. That is something I don’t do.
Instead I focused on keeping my head above my heart on all the moves. If I didn’t bend down, maybe I could make it.
But that didn’t work, either. I kept having to stop, and sit, and wait for the spinning to stop. Eventually, all I was doing was sitting.
That’s when I realized that forcing my body to do something it clearly didn’t want to do wasn’t in my best interest. It didn’t matter that it was because of my period. My body was telling me to stop and sit still. It was either listen or pass out. My body would win in the end.
I decided to listen. And get myself together enough to be able to drive home.
I had to accept that my body knows its own limits and what it needs. It isn’t being a wimp to listen. It’s actually being smart. If I would have stopped when I felt that first wave of yuck, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble.
When I got home I talked to a friend who also happens to be a nurse. She explained it could be about iron and electrolytes, or blood pressure and sugar. She said that my body needs more and different nutrients to get through that part of the cycle. It isn’t being a wimp, it’s science.
The truth is, it’s ok to take a day off when our bodies tell us that’s what we need. Being a woman doesn’t make us less or weaker. But it also doesn’t mean that we have to put on the short, white skirt and smile about our periods. We each get to figure out what is right for us. We get to decide what we do.
Do you give yourself a break when you’re on your period? Do you listen to your body? Do you ever feel like you have to be super tough to prove yourself as a woman?
Now that the winter weather is over, I’ve been searching for the perfect outdoor furniture. I wanted a chaise lounge so I can relax and read outside on the balcony. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a summer afternoon. A friend recommended Big Lots because of the prices, so I went to check it out.
And I scored. I found a padded chaise lounge with an attached head rest, and I got a small side table to sit next to it. A book and ice coffee is the perfect combo, after all.
I couldn’t find a cart, so I did my best to get them to the counter in one trip. There was only one blue chair and I didn’t want to risk losing it. I figured I CrossFit, I can carry a chair and a tiny table. It was awkward and I had to half lope, half drag it behind me.
As I was checking out, an older man got in line behind me. He reached a hand out and helped me turn the chair around so the cashier could get the price wand close enough to ring it up. Without asking.
My first reaction was anger. I kept it internal, but I was thinking, “I don’t need help!”
I took it to mean that he thought I was weak, incapable, in need of rescue. I took a deep breath and got ready to tell him I was fine on my own.
But when I turned, I saw him. And that’s when I realized that it wasn’t about me.
Just like when people give us compliments, when they offer help it is as much about them as it is about us. People feel good about themselves and the world when they say and do nice things. I know how good it feels to help someone else, even if they don’t need it.
The man didn’t look at me and see someone weak, he looked at me and saw an opportunity to be kind. And to be of use. Who knows, he may be at the point in his life where people no longer ask for his help, but offer theirs up instead.
So when he picked up the chair and offered to help me out to my car, I just smiled and thanked him. I knew that my personal safety was not an issue, and I had nothing to lose or prove.
Yes, I could’ve done it on my own. The week before I’d helped my parents move a giant bookcase out of my grandparents’ garage and into the basement. The chair and table were nothing in comparison.
But I didn’t need to do it myself.
Just like helping my grandparents made me feel good, I could see that helping me made a difference to that man. He walked away smiling.
Sometimes it can be hard to remember that kindness and compliments aren’t only about us. It is about the other person, too.
When someone tells us they like our shirt or our hair, or they offer to carry one of our bags, it is much more kind to accept and thank them then it is to argue or say we are fine. It’s only two little words, but it makes such a big difference.
Do you accept compliments and allow people to help you? Or are they difficult for you to accept? How do you feel when you give compliments and help to others?
When we decline help or deny a compliment, we are taking away the opportunity for someone else to feel good.
When I resigned from teaching elementary school I applied to teach at the local community college. It was the obvious next step in my long term plan, and I know that I’m more than capable of doing a good job. But I was still terrified.
I tried applying for other non-teaching jobs at the same level, like tutoring and working in a writing center. But none of those applications went anywhere. And the teaching position kept coming up.
I decided to give in and go for an interview. I figured I had nothing to lose. I could still say no.
Well, the interview was fabulous and I walked away really excited about the program. I wanted to teach there.
But I was still scared.
They said it would be a little while before the next term started, so I put it out of my mind and focused on writing. Every time a friend would ask about the job, I gave a quick answer and tried to change the subject. Especially as the weeks dragged on and I hadn’t gotten the call.
Luckily, one of my friends wouldn’t let it go. She kept asking, and steered the conversation back when I tried to change it. She asked me if I thought I would do a good job at the community college level. The truth is, I do. I know that teaching is one of my strengths and I care enough about students of all ages to put in the time and effort to be well prepared. I knew I would be good. Maybe even great. That didn’t take away the fear.
I could have sat down and tried to dissect my fear. Maybe I am afraid of new things. Maybe it is the change in age, or maybe I’m afraid because it’s something I really want.
But the reason doesn’t really matter. What matters is I was letting my fear hold me back from what I wanted. Fear was getting in my way.
The only way to overcome fear is to face it. So, I did something that seemed kind of silly at first. I stood in front of the mirror and said, “I know I am scared right now, but I really want to teach at the community college and I believe I will do a good job.”
It felt really strange the first time, standing in front of the mirror talking to myself. But, each time I said it I felt a little stronger. A little less afraid.
Somehow, admitting that I was afraid and accepting that took away some of the fear. I was telling myself that I could be afraid and still move forward toward my goals. It wasn’t one or the other.
I decided to give myself the mini-pep-talk for a couple of days, and then I’d send a nice “remember me” email to the interview committee. It would be good to check in and remind them that I was still interested in the job.
Then a funny thing happened.
Before I had the chance to email them, they called me.
They offered me the job, and of course I took it. I even got to pick which class I wanted to teach.
But even stranger than that, the woman who called told me they’d been trying to reach me. They sent emails that I never saw because they bounced to my spam folder, and left messages my voicemail must have eaten. She said they thought I must’ve taken another job or lost interest. That phone call was going to be the last attempt.
I know it sounds a little wacky, but it really feels like my fear was blocking their calls.
I picture my fear like the back-stabbing character in movies. She says she’ll take the message, but she doesn’t write anything down or even tell the main character that the dream guy/job/whatever called. Sneaky and underhanded because you don’t even know it’s working against you.
Thank goodness my friend called me out on my fear, and thank goodness I decided to face it. I didn’t even have to figure it out, I just had to admit it and say, “So what?”
It is ok to be afraid, but we shouldn’t let it stop us from the things we want in life.
Do your fears ever get in the way of your goals? Have you missed out on opportunities because you were afraid? How do you face your fears and move toward your dreams?
We live in a world of instant gratification. I am so used to getting things right away that waiting for 2 day delivery can seem like forever. Even though what I want is carried right to my front door.
This feeling of wanting something right away is especially true when it comes to fitness. The ads everywhere don’t help. I can’t even remember what it was like to scroll through Facebook and not see “suggested posts” about secret tricks to losing belly fat. Luckily, I know there really aren’t any secrets or tricks. They just want my money.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to be patient.
I have a long history of working out and eating pretty healthy. Yes, I have wavered back and forth a little, but I usually come back around. I have food allergies that cut out a lot of junk, and I actually love the taste of vegetables. I used to run and then I was a gym rat, but I had a tendency to overdo it because I wasn’t focusing on the right things.
I was either trying to break an unrealistic marathon time or I was just trying to get thin. Either way, I would become slightly obsessed and then burn out. Because it wasn’t really about me, it was more about what other people would think of me.
About a year and a half ago, a friend told me I should try CrossFit. I was bored with the gym, but didn’t like the way I felt (or looked) when I wasn’t working out. It didn’t feel like me.
I have to admit, when I walked into the gym I was intimidated and not sure if I could do any of the workouts. I kept going, made friends, had fun, and even made progress. But, I still didn’t think I was as capable as anyone else in the gym.
My body started showing some signs of change, but my mind was still the same.
The thing about CrossFit, at least at my gym, is that that the reasons behind what we are doing are just as important as what we are doing. The coaches talk about strength and endurance and overall fitness. But whichever aspect they are focused on, it always comes back to personal strength.
Personal strength isn’t just about lifting heavy weight and having good form. It’s also very mental. It’s about believing in yourself and having confidence. It’s about using failures as learning experiences, getting up and moving forward.
I am not sure exactly when it happened, or if it is even possible to pick a specific time when something clicked. But, something definitely shifted in me.
I went from seeing myself as weak to seeing myself as strong. As capable.
And then my body started showing me I was right.
I did my first real push up, which quickly turned into two and then three. I moved up (or is it down?) in the bands I have to use for pull ups on the bar. I can lift more weight, and I can do it faster and with better form.
And when I pause or take a breath, it’s not because I’m doubting my ability to do the move. I’m concentrating on using the proper technique and telling myself I can do it, even if I am a little scared of the weight.
The other day one of my coaches told me that my mind has changed in the way I think of myself in the gym. She is right. In some ways I don’t even feel like the same person who walked through the doors the first time, terrified to talk to a stranger about working out.
It wasn’t Six Weeks to a Beach Body, there weren’t any secrets or tricks. But the changes I’ve made are life long, and they impact much more than how I fit into my jeans. I am confident and strong, physically and mentally. I can already see how those changes are impacting other areas of my life, like getting the job I want or having the confidence to send my writing out into the world.
Yes, I still have far to go to reach all of my goals. But my changes are more important than that. Because the way I see myself and the way I treat myself has changed. That little voice in the back of my head that used to doubt me now tells me I can do it.
It is kind of amazing to think about how much more we can do and be and accomplish when we have the confidence to take more risks. Whether it is in the gym, in our careers, in relationships, or in any other area of our lives. The change can be slow and incremental, but it will come and we will be amazed at ourselves. We just have to take that first step.
Are you patient with yourself and making changes? Do you take the time to stop and look back, to see how far you’ve come? Do you give yourself time to reach your goals? Does it give you more confidence each time you reach a goal?
I am a stickler for rules, I know that. And I tend to get caught up in the way things are supposed to be done. If there is a protocol, I will follow it. Step by step instruction or a sample of what’s expected, even better.
When I started writing, I didn’t know any of the rules. There was a story in me that I wanted to get onto paper, so I did. I went to a writing workshop and learned the craft, but they weren’t worried about rules. Everyone was encouraged to write what they wanted and to trust the story. My story was a novel.
It made sense, because that’s what I’ve always liked to read. I love getting lost in the world of a novel; feeling like the characters are my friends and I’m a part of the story.
Then I started going to other workshops and talking to other writers. And they told me the rules. Apparently there was a process and I’d been doing it wrong.
Writers were supposed to start with short stories. You had to read them and write them, and then submit them to literary magazines until you got published. Then you could attempt the novel and get an agent. Those were the steps, the protocol.
I’d never really been in to short stories, aside from Alice Munro. But even her amazing stories didn’t stick with me for years the way novels do. I still remember the characters and feelings from novels I read years ago. That doesn’t happen for me with short stories.
But I’m good at following rules, so I set out to learn how to write short stories. I read a ton of story collections and took notes. I wrote a story and sent it in to for the workshop. Yes, some people tore it apart, but it was about learning so I took notes and shrugged it off.
This term I decided to focus on short stories. If I am going to write them and submit them, I should probably work on them with my mentor.
Yes, I’ve since written another novel that I love, but I have been trying to follow the rules.
The thing about me is, even though I am big on rules I have never been good at fitting in. I’m never enough of one thing to fit into one box. As a teacher, I am too loud, too creative, and sometimes too opinionated. At the gym I am not as strong as everyone else, but I work hard and rely on my strength: attendance. Socially I’ve always been kind of an oddball, too. I don’t care enough to be preppy, but I do love fashion and you won’t ever catch me in Crocs. But, I also love track suits and don’t mind skipping a shower or going in public without make up.
I fit in where I need to and always find people who accept, understand, and appreciate me exactly as I am. But I’ve always had a foot in more than one camp. So I’m not sure why I thought it would be different with writing.
The truth is: I am not a short story writer. I am a novelist. I don’t really enjoy writing short stories the way I do novels, and I feel the same way about reading them. Now I see that what I am doing has nothing to do with me. I am going through the motions because that is what I was told I am supposed to do. I am following the path.
But I am starting to realize that life isn’t like that. Just because something has always been done a certain way before doesn’t mean that’s the way I have to do it.
Why should I spend my time working on something I don’t really want to do because someone else told me I’m supposed to? That completely leaves me out of the equation, and it’s my life and career I’m talking about. It’s my time and my energy spent. And I want to spend that time being true to me.
Really, my writing, like me, doesn’t fit into one set camp: literary or commercial. It’s a little bit of both. A mix, a hybrid, an oddball. Like me. So why would I think my career is going to be just like everyone else’s?
We all get to find our own path, each decision we make along the way moving us forward. Just because everyone else has done something one way doesn’t mean that has to be our way. We get to decide. And we can be true to ourselves along the way.
It is our path, our choice, our lives.
Yes, I am going to finish the short story I’ve been working on. That is what I set out to do this term, and I will. And in the future if I feel like writing a short story, I will. For me. But I am excited to give my full attention back to my novel next term. I know who I am and I am happy about that. I am a novelist. I will make my own path.
Have you been making your own path in life or following the route of others? Are you good at ignoring the common advice and deciding for yourself? Do you find it hard to go against the current? If it is easy for you, I’d love to hear how you do it!