Here’s To 34

inspiration

Today I am 34 years-old. It’s not old but it’s not necessarily young either. I have to admit, this one has been a little hard for me. As this birthday approached, I kept thinking, “What if I die at 68? Have I already lived half my life?”

I suffer from the never-enough syndrome:  I am not healthy enough; I am not pretty enough; I don’t take care of myself enough; there’s never enough time; I have not done enough, succeeded enough; I am not enough. And so I’m afraid that if my life is halfway over, what have I really done? Who have I become? Do I have enough life left to do the things I want to do and become the person I want to be?

I didn’t know it till recently but I had this unconscious idea of who I would be by 35. I never would have admitted that I had a plan but now that I’m almost 35, I am realizing it was there all along:  I was supposed to be a well-respected working artist with money.

I opted to take a path where merit means less than in most careers. It doesn’t matter how talented I am, I still need a B-job to support my art (at least for now). I am mostly okay with not going into a more predictable career. I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer and if I did do any of those things, it would purely be for security and money. That’s just true for me. More power to the people who took those paths because they wanted to.

My path, though, has made me work two jobs my whole life, sometimes more. One to pay the rent and one to feed my soul. And because of that, my life has sometimes meant coming home or not coming home from work to go to work. There have been lots of sacrifices besides money, like times when I couldn’t go out with friends, and whole weeks where I’d go without having dinner or going to bed with Michael. People have mostly understood that, and those that haven’t aren’t around anymore.

And I truly believed that this path I took would be worth it because I would get the results I wanted by, like I said, 35. But now that I’m here at 34 and sure, a little saddened by the realization that things don’t always (often do not) work out as planned, I am also beginning to realize…

It’s the path that mattered all along.

You hear this kind of thing all the time:

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And I don’t know about you but I always thought it was bullshit. I’ve run through life wanting to one day get to the finish line and say, “I HAVE ARRIVED!” But each year, I learn some things that  make me think, “Oh, I’m not there yet. I’ve still got so much more to learn.”

I listen to a lot of interviews on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, mostly by actors/directors/writers I really like and have been working forever, like Ron Howard, Alan Alda, and Sir Patrick Stewart. These are not “young” guys. However, what really strikes me about all of them is that despite their age and experience, they are still learning and are excited to still be doing so.

Ever meet those old(er) people who are willing to try anything? Those people are my heroes. Their willingness to try new things tells me that, despite their years on this earth, they don’t presume to know everything about life and the world. They know there’s still so much mystery left on this earth and their curiosity gives them the energy to explore.

That’s they key I guess: maintaining curiosity. 

I want to be one of those old people. Year after year when things don’t turn out as planned, I want to take a bird’s eye view and stop looking at the things I haven’t done/seen, but the things I have.

So, what I did I do at 33?

  1. I traveled across the country and showed my film in several cities, meeting new people, and continuing the conversation about mental health.
  2. That film became available on VOD.
  3. I helped raise over a million dollars for a good cause.
  4. My family grew.
  5. I saw a lot of sunrises because I got up early to write on this blog, and to work on a feature screenplay, a short play, and a web series (the last two I will produce this year).

And a lot of other things that I didn’t Instagram.

Is that enough? It can be.

What did I learn?

  1. Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.
  2. I have amazing people in my life and I’m being introduced to more and more all the time.
  3. I can do bigger things than I thought I could. I have more skills than I give myself credit for.
  4. I’m a writer too.
  5. The clouds are 3D.

And a lot of other things that aren’t in my awareness at the moment.

Is that enough? It can be.

And if I let it be so, it is enough.

Where will I be by this year’s end, or the one after that, or the one after that? Apparently, I have no idea. But I’m actually really excited, and a little scared, to see.

Here’s to age 34, and to having no fucking clue what it will look like.

                                                

PS- I look forward to the day when I read this post and laugh my ass off.

 

Tell Me You Love Me

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Give me this stamp. Every day. Please.

“Tell me you love me.” How often is that phrase the subtext of your words? Does the need to hear it haunt your mind? Frankly, it does mine.

Sometimes I can’t see that approval and love is what I am truly seeking. Often, in fact. Usually the situation goes something like this: I do something big, something I’ve worked my butt off for. The acknowledgment is not enough and sometimes not even there. I cry uncontrollably, a cry fueled by anger, frustration, and a nagging feeling like, “I did something wrong. There is something wrong with me.”

The part that makes this all a little sadder is that I do get affirmation from friends and loved ones. But it’s the people that I don’t get it from that I have this extreme need to get it from. The ones I deem challenges. The ones whose love I have to work for, because anything worth having is worth working for, right?

Wrong.

Too long have I put my self-worth in the hands of others, giving too much weight and value to people that I think are better than me. I am a people-pleaser, and that’s really getting old.

Because when you think about it, does it ever end? Isn’t there always something “you could be doing better”? Something others with their objectivity and hindsight tell you you should be doing because it would get you closer to perfection? The thing about perfection is it does not exist, so the more you strive for it, the more it’s like jumping to reach a basketball* net when you are only 5’2″. Sure, sometimes you’ll jump a little higher because if you do it everyday, practice will kick in. But some days you’ll be tired or sick and you just won’t be able to jump as high. Why do we put the value in those days? Why do others put your value in those days too? The answer to both those questions is probably the same:

It’s very hard to accept ourselves just as we are, imperfections and all, even if some of those “imperfections” are what make us human.

In saying all this, I don’t mean to imply that we should just kick back, sit on the couch, and smoke weed all day under the guise of saying, “I am enough just this way.” In fact, doing that, you are probably still saying you’re not enough: not worthy enough to get up off the couch and do things for your life and yourself.

But I also don’t fully understand all this self-improvement stuff. There’s a whole section on it in every bookstore**. The implication in the idea that our selves need improvement is that we are broken, fundamentally, and in need of fixing.

I have had that belief for a long time. I spent years wondering what the hell is wrong with me and then years trying to fix those things. I could never quite get it right and all I did was beat myself up for it, thinking “Why if I can see it, can’t I just change it?”

It taken me a while, and even still I think I intellectually understand it but have not completely brought it into an emotional level of understanding, to realize that:

There is nothing wrong with me.

That doesn’t make me unaccountable for my actions or my words. I can’t just do whatever the fuck I want, saying, “Yo. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with me***”. But beating myself up for my imperfections is a waste of time. I am human. I make mistakes. Doing so doesn’t mean there is something wrong with every fiber of my being. I can forgive myself and move on.

Coming to terms with that means that I can love myself. It doesn’t matter if you do or if you don’t tell me you do. I do not have to work for approval or love or anything. Because when I truly love myself for who I am, I invite others to do so. And those people are the ones who are really my friends. Those are the ones I want to hang around. They tell me they love me without even having to ask. They are pretty damn cool.

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*I have never played basketball.

**Who am I kidding with this “every” bookstore? Isn’t Barnes and Noble the only one left?

*** I don’t know why I wrote it that way.