The assumption is as you grow older, you grow wiser, and in some ways, that’s true. But when you’re shy in years and light in being, you possess a wisdom that doesn’t last far beyond the world of Osh Kosh B’Gosh. A surety dwells under watermelon juice sticky and tree sappy skin that says, “Try for the hard things, or you’ll be tormented by the things you never were.”
When you’re a kid, you think if you jump off a couch thinking “happy thoughts,” you’ll be able to fly. At least I did. And as long as you don’t try to “happy thoughts” your way off the roof, that’s a wonderful thing. In the days of stuffing orange slices into our lips at halftime and playing Super Nintendo all day, we still dreamt about flying when we put our heads on our pillows. As a kid, you’re free from adult fears and phobias. The world is still a billion miracles and all that matters is what’s happening right that second. Kids are Buddhas made miniature, and once upon a time, we were those kids. How beautiful we are in all the people we once were and will be. How amazing the evolution of a human life is, though we rarely give it thought. When we were little, we promised ourselves we’d never give up – that we wouldn’t stop believing. And like good triumphed over evil in our Disney movies, the evils of our grown up worlds, namely fear and doubt, needn’t win.
Fear and I are like besties now because we spend part of every day together. But I appreciate the fear, because if I’m afraid now, I know I’m being brave. Georgia O’Keefe said, “”I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
Every writer thinks they’ve got the potential to be great, and so do their parents. But talk to me in 10,000 hours, bub. “Daniel-San, you’ll only be a writa after 10,000 hours practice” (Mr. Miyagi voice).
10,000 hours is a lot, but that’s the rule of mastery of any craft, so I’m sure of this: I will write badly for years. I’ll be petrified, unpredictable, and I’ll probably live paycheck to paycheck. But I also know this. We’re born into the world with irrational loves, like looking up words on Dictionary.com or baking chocolate souffles. We’re meant to love these loves doggedly. I know, without a touch of doubt, that becoming the best writer I can be is the best thing I can do with my life. The question is: how do I stay brave and sane while I walk this road?
Writers are notorious for a few things, none of which are flattering. Pistols in mouths and peyote come to mind. Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, and Hunter S. Thompson all died of self-inflicted gun shot wounds. I remember in college I first noticed this pattern and thought, “Shit. All my favorite writers killed themselves. What does this say about me?” David Foster Wallace hanged himself on his patio, and Sylvia Plath put her head in her oven (while her kids were sleeping in the next room). Everyone knows Emily Dickinson was all sorts of crazy, and Virginia Woolf drowned herself by walking into a river with stones in her coat pockets. One thing is certain: the connection between creativity and Miley Cyrus-crazy cannot be denied. I think I’m pretty sane, I’m just saying writing novels is far different than teaching Kindergarten.
I also know I’m not good a writer yet. But I want to be. I want to be able to do what the great writers do. And hey: the dreams you’re born with are the best ones, and one of those came true for me today. I was published in print, and not for some rinky dink/you find it for free outside Starbucks magazine either.
I went for a celebratory surf this afternoon. I tiptoed carefully over the mossy rocks of the reef, and paddled way outside without a leash which, with a ton of people behind you, is sort of like driving a car without a seatbelt. As I popped floats of seaweed between my fingers waiting for sets to roll in, I watched the glittering waves and the pelicans and seagulls fight with each other. It was hot, so I jumped off my board and swam around, and thought about how I’m more Aretha Franklin than I give myself credit for.
I missed my ex-boyfriend today. I really loved him. And as people and situations peter in and out of my life, sometimes I think rather than “I Will Survive,” “I Won’t Survive.” The men with their heartbreak, the uncertainty of the jobs, the friends or lack thereof, and the injuries sideswipe me and bring the rain (not that I never return the sideswiping or the rain). But I’m always okay. I always come out of the storms, remembering how painful they were, but I move on. I’m like Stonehenge, homies. I endure.
I always feel like country bumpkin Pollyanna at these Los Angelite fashion-forward release parties. Everyone’s outfits look like InStyle’s/Vogue’s Pinterest pages. So, hours before the release party, I Heavyweights power-walked it through Fashion Valley, tearing through dresses to find something to wear. A satorial masterpiece that would make even the Laguna Beach-ers proud. I’ll be fasting like Ghandi for two weeks where my now-spent grocery money was, but god, my dress. It’s emerald green lace, and it’s light-weight, which was key, because at the venue of the Del Mar Horse Races on the hottest day of summer, everyone’s faces were melting off. And hay girl hay. It’s a size 2. Thank youuuuu, rapid succession of illnesses.
Remember in Pinocchio when Monstro the Whale swallowed Pinocchio and Geppetto? There they are in this tiny sail boat at the bottom of a whale’s stomach wondering what to do next. Today, we’d watch Pinocchio now and be like, “See ya! You guys are about to be digested.” But as a kid, you just kind of waited for them to beat the impossible odds. I think one of our biggest problems as a species is we underestimate ourselves, we stopped believing in “happy thoughts.” That’s what the best part of today was. My unlikeliest of dreams, my “When You Wish Upon a Star,” blow out the birthday candles, Trevi Fountain coin toss-wish came true. I might not always feel brave, but what I’m learning is life averages better than I think it will. And with a little faith and a little guts, you can do great things…kid.