I think we all need to find something in ourselves that no one else can lay a hand to. Jane Eyre called it an “inward treasure.” To me, it’s like a second heart. And unlike the hearts that pump blood, these hearts can’t be injured.
And while we go looking for these things, these second hearts of ours, that often look like cameras, paintbrushes and an architect’s plans for a new skyscraper, we should remember a few things. Like what our city’s veins look like from the window of an airplane. We should remember that one day we’ll hold our babies at barbecues on Sundays. We’ll be the ones filling stockings. Accepting awards.
Too often we look in the mirror and pick apart our reflections. We see saddlebags, underbites, and bald spots. The mistakes of yesterday. Each of us has around 60,000 thoughts a day, and how many of them are kind? We should build ourselves up and give ourselves credit. Even just for waking up and facing the day. “You took a shower! Good for you.” Seriously, why not? We should. And we should know that every smell, every disappointment, every country we’ve seen, every hangover we weathered, every break up we slogged through, is part of us, and it made us better.
It’s a hard balance. Striving to be the best you can be, but remembering to stop and smell the roses.
But I think the real peace, the real point of it all, is in taking responsibility for yourself. Not counting on a weekend trip to change your life, or assuming that once you put on a wedding dress, every wrinkle in your world will iron out neatly. It means giving credit to your talents and aspirations. Insisting that meaningful work be as much a part of your life as romance and friends.
My ring finger is bare and expiration dates on food sort of look like suggestions now, but I’m wiser. I’m learning not to look for answers in the wrong places, like people, anymore. I might look for it in imaginary people like Dexter Morgan, who I watch with cookie dough fro yo when I’m stressed out, but not in real men. Not in flesh-and-blood friends. Not in alcohol. Sometimes, my Mom. For sure, sometimes my Mom. But not in being prettier, thinner, or better dressed. Sometimes I still want these things because I am, after all, a human and I’m not perfect. My shoulders are too wide and I binge on Oreo’s at two in the morning. But people, in general, aren’t perfect. They’re afraid of escalators and so they avoid department stores. They go to AA meetings and start Weight Watchers for the tenth time.
And while, like these people, I’m not perfect, now I know where I should be looking. I, more or less, know what I’m supposed to do. And it’s hard. It’s hard work, and sometimes I get really afraid. But it’s still something I’m grateful for every day. Knowing what I want to be when I grow up, because for a long time, I didn’t.
I truly believe each person is born with a talent. We enter the world, like Maya Angelou once said, “trailing wisps of glory.” But while we’re born with talent, we’re not born with skill. It’s our responsibility to work on it – work on ourselves and develop all our latent abilities. And at the end of all that, at the end of jumping off cliffs and burning the candle at both ends, you get the Elizabeth Gilberts. The Duomo in Florence. Nikola Tesla. You get the girl, clutching the roses to her chest in front of a roaring crowd who has dreamed of being a ballerina since her mother held her for the first time. And those head chefs? They burned a lot of souffles. Leonardo Da Vinci? He basically failed at everything until he was 46 when he painted The Last Supper.
The most amazing things in life weren’t “realistic.” It wasn’t realistic to think about space travel, and I’m sure becoming the head photographer for Rolling Stone didn’t seem realistic to anyone besides Annie Leibovitz. Now, Leibovitz’ images take our breath away, and we can look at the earth like it’s a picture.
It’s not easy. I think it’s a choice you have to make every morning when you open your eyes. You fight through the fear, and you say, “This is my one life.” At your core, you know what to do and who you need to be. Fear will always be there, the real question is: is it going to stop you?