I’m at that point again. That point where I’m asking myself “what the hell am I doing?” and I don’t seem to have a better answer than “shooting my mouth off in public spaces.” I suppose that’s the beauty of something like Twitter. Over 95 million tweets a month and very few that contain more than a quick stand-up style joke or half naked photo. While I have taken to the idea of micro-blogging, I will forever have the urge to sit down and write more. A lot more.
You see, part of what makes me – me – is the burning desire to communicate and idea or feeling or discovery in the hopes of inspiring thought or passing on simple pleasure. Some might say it’s ’emotional sluttiness’ but for me it’s as normal as drawing breath or refusing to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. Seriously people, if you’re over 30, just don’t. This same rule goes for Valentine’s Day as well. Trust me.
Not unlike most other people on this ever-warming planet, I often wonder what makes me the way I am. What makes me flirt with the almost daily threat of being shit-canned at work for the things that I say or feelings that I just can’t seem to hold back. In my thinking I realized it’s a pretty short and simple answer: 3 pivotal moments. Sure there have been thousands of little things like the time the neighborhood kids had to pay my 5th grade crush $1 a day* to pretend to go out with me. Or the time (the only time) I was fired from my job as a Bank Teller for taking a bad check. Each moment pushes life in a new direction and teaches you a little something about yourself that you never knew before. In my case, the firing was an amazing opportunity for me to have more time to explore what it was I really wanted to do with my life and the kind of person I wanted to be. Sometimes losing something isn’t losing as much as it’s gaining and that’s a lesson I remind myself of almost daily…since I have a big, often inappropriate, mouth and all.
Event 1: The Nine Insights
It was late-summer 2001. I was in my final stretch of classes leading up to earning my degree from The Art Institute and feeling a little lost. I’d spent the better part of the year having a ‘second teenhood’ going out to clubs and working as a cocktail waitress on the weekends. During this time I had started to question my faith, who God is, whether or not he/she actually existed and why on earth we were all here. What was the point? Why did we push ourselves to do things, achieve things and care about things? Being that I was raised Catholic and only knew what I had been taught about God through Church and Sunday School classes, this was no doubt a very confusing time for me. While I never did live my life the way I was told to, I had a conscience and tried my best to be my best. But this was different. This was an energy. I could feel it all around me. Something was pushing me in a way I’d never felt before. Instead of being frightened or overwhelmed, I was inspired. I just didn’t know what to be inspired about. I friend of mine suggested I read The Celestine Prophecy and the timing with what was transpiring inside me was uncanny. I vividly remember going into the book store and finding the last copy on the very bottom shelf of the ‘Fiction’ section. Now, I’m normally not a fan of non-fiction books but I felt drawn to this one and as soon as I opened the cover and began to read — I couldn’t put it down. It was as if that book were written just for me…to explain all of the things I had been feeling and why. I had never felt more validated in my existence than at that very moment. Pretty powerful stuff. I realized that friend’s suggestion was no accident. It was all part of the bigger plan in life. The one where you meet people and choose whether or not to receive their messages and guidance. I’m pretty certain that I just lost over half of the 3 people who actually read my blog and I’m ok with that. That book transformed my life in a way that I no longer cared about living for what I thought everyone was expecting of me. Instead I began to live for what I expected of me. My expectation is simple: live for what inspires. Not just me, but the people around me as well.
Event 2: September 11, 2001
Just weeks after my spiritual awakening, I (along with over 300 million other Americans) faced a true test of faith. Driving into class that beautiful, almost-last-day-of-summer morning I had no idea the horror that was unfolding. It wasn’t until I arrived on campus that I became aware but it would take weeks for the gravity of the event to really sink in and feel real. Sure, I’d read all about Pearl Harbor and studied enough history to know that turning points like these happen at least once in every generation. But this time – it was my generation. Thousands of everyday people (just like me) woke up that morning, went about their day, and died for their efforts. Not a simple death, but a horrific, terrifying death. I was 27 and it was the first time that I truly felt mortal. Needless to say, I struggled through those final months of school trying to concentrate and keep my focus on what I was about to achieve. I did graduate, top of my class, but the months that followed were nothing short of a nightmare. For the first time in my life I was suffering from night terrors, anxiety, panic attacks, depression so deep and crippling that I honestly thought of taking my own life. I realized that therapy alone wasn’t going to pull me through this. I needed to feel what those innocent people felt. I needed to read how those left behind picked up the pieces and were able to move forward with life, raise children alone, fulfill dreams they once shared together. I needed to understand what a precious gift life is and how living on the edge shouldn’t be saved for when we feel the end is near, but for everyday since we can never know when the end is near.
After a couple of years of struggle, I once again drove to the book store.
This time, I went to the non-fiction section and picked up the two stories that both haunted and intrigued me the most: On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, and 9/11: A Story of Loss and Renewal and Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back. I didn’t read them at the same time, instead finishing one before embarking on the other. It really is amazing how healing a power storytelling can be. It brings us into a world and paints a picture but allows each reader the freedom to shape the finer details in whatever way allows them to really get it, to feel a part of it, to make it a personal journey. Years of therapy and anti-depressants couldn’t do what reading these two books could – allow me to feel the terror, the pain, the struggle and the triumph of life. Never had I been more aware of who I was and what I needed to be able to cope with anything that life was going to bring me. I needed to feel and express those feelings in order to survive in my own skin. It’s why I tweet and write this blog today and why I don’t worry about who or how many people read my thoughts. Just knowing I’m aware of them and put them out there is all I need.
Event 3: Archer
Yep, you read that correctly. Archer. Now I know you’re wondering how in the hello-dollywood I could shift gears so dramatically from 9/11 to a cartoon. It’s simple. Archer is everything I’ve ever wanted to be. It’s free, it makes no apologies and it’s damn funny. I honestly stumbled upon this little gem while channel surfing and knew I was meant to find it. It’s the only show I make a point not to miss each week and feel no guilt what-so-ever spending 30 minutes watching with no distractions. I watched an interview with its creator, Adam Reed, and realized that he had the same philosophy about life that I did: deep down we all have thoughts and feelings that we wished we felt free enough to express outwardly but most of us don’t. Through the show, he has the freedom to do just that and do it in a way that’s funny and approachable even when it falls short of being appropriate. It’s the same way I (like to think) approach my writing, my tweeting, my expressing of myself. You might not always like what I have to say or it may cause you to cringe in horror but it’s real. It’s what makes me real. It’s what keeps me going and inspiring me and, hopefully, inspire others.
*With inflation I would have cost those little punks nearly double what they paid back then, but today, I know I’m priceless.