The answer might surprise you.
Today my daughter, who wanted to be a doctor when she was three, announced that now she wanted to be a singer or an artist when she grew up: the singer part is new. When she was out of earshot I asked my husband, “At what age do I tell her that under no circumstances will she be a singer or an artist?”
“When she’s a junior in high school and she still says that’s what she wants to be,” he replied.
I am a hypocrite. I aspire to be a writer, but do not want my daughter to want to be an artist. Somehow it’s okay that I want to be a writer in my spare time because I have a real job. Since writing is just a hobby, it’s okay…except even then it’s not really. When I was at a work meeting recently with 60 people we all had to go around the room and tell our “secret talent.” One woman said she used to have a food blog with over 100,000 views. One woman can herd goats. A man explained his art – oil on hammered metal – and when my turn came I said, “I am a knitter.” Others went on to reveal things like a competitive pole dancing talent and I wondered why I couldn’t bring myself to say that I am a writer or that I recently finished my first novel. Why is writing more embarrassing than pole dancing or knitting?
One of my issues is that in all areas of life I am in a rut. My real job isn’t going well and inevitably the place I spend 40 (+ or – 20) hours a week impacts the rest of my life. When work goes down the toilet so does my general outlook on life, and as a result work starts going even worse and the spiral continues downward. Eventually I don’t want to work, parent, write or knit or do much of anything but sit in the parking lot at work and dread my day.
I’m bad at my job which means my whole outlook on me is a mess. I’m obviously a crappy writer and mother and wife and child and knitter: you should see the mess I just made out of the blanket I am working on. When things get like this nothing will convince me that I don’t suck and I’ll find endless examples to support my theory. (My husband will tell you I am a joy to live with when I get in this place.) If I’m getting consistent external feedback that supports my crappiness vision then things go from bad to worse, and I’m getting that right now in vast quantities. Ergo, I am not in a good place.
Then today I read this amazing article in the Washington Post that promises to fix my “negative self talk” problem. I am supposed to write three things I liked about myself everyday before I go to bed and read the ever growing list when I wake up each morning. I emailed the Washington Post article author to commit to the project, because I think accountability is important for me to stick with this.
So here I am at the end of the first rotten day and I need to start my list. As much as I want to rant about my shortcomings I’ll do the assignment, mostly because I need a deadline to stop being miserable. If things are not better in 30 days, either due to this exercise or some other reason, I can assess bigger changes.
My first list:
1. I like people even more for their quirkiness: for example my daughter’s friend who only eats ~6 foods. It makes her parents crazy, but I just adore that uniqueness about her.
2. I said hello to my friend’s stepdaughter when I saw her at the garden store, even thought she was with her mom. It was a little awkward explaining the relationship to her mom, but worth it to see the joy in the girl’s eyes at being recognized by a grown up in an unexpected place. I like that I think kids are people too.
3. I asked a friend to recommend a recipe so I can make a dinner for a family friend whose dad died. She is a very healthy eater, so my normal comfort food options are no good. I like that when I comfort friends I try to do it in a way that is thoughtful.
Now I need to transcribe these into my notebook and read them tomorrow morning. Hopefully in 30 days I’ll have a perspective that helps me realize my dreams, gets me out of my own way, and let’s me confidently claim my unique talents.