My voice is loud. I am loud. I am a loud person. I have the ability to project my voice on a stage without the need for mics. I have always been loud. I cannot recall a time in my life when I have not been loud. Even when I was self conscious, I was still loud. I can't not be loud. It is a part of me. When I was very young especially, I had a desire to get attention, perform, be the star. This made me louder. I starred in several productions in elementary school, I attended theater camps, I put on plays and stories for my parents. Once I even charged my parents to come see a circus that me and my friends put on in our backyard. Oh right, yeah I went to clown camp. I legit went to a clown camp. That was a thing. In second grade I starred in a play about this ghost who was haunting this old lady. I played both the girl, Julie, and her grandmother. I did an old lady voice and everything. 7 years old and I was already Eddie Murphy-ing it up in multiple roles in the same show. In 4th grade I starred as Calamity Jane and sang in our school's production of Tall Tales and Heroes. I wore cap guns holstered at my hip and sang in a Southern accent. I was 9.
Do you remember Emma Watson in the first Harry Potter movie? How she was so incredibly insufferable and enunciated every. single. line? Here's a refresher:
That was me AS FUCK. Ask anybody who knew me when I was a kid and you will know it to be true. Which is why I identified so strongly with Hermione when I read the books and saw the movies when I was older, though I never really appreciated my Hermione-ishness until fairly recently. Maybe it takes age or time or having a kid for you to really appreciate how irritating you were when you were a child yourself. But that's okay. I digress
Anyway, "theatricality" began to affect my ordinary speech even from a young age. The world's a stage as the Bard said, and I took that rather literally, though I hadn't read any Shakespeare yet. I found that I wasn't terrible at doing accents. I would hear them on TV or in movies and I would try to copy them. A lot of the time I would do this in the privacy of my room, creating stories in my head and acting them out to myself. But sometimes those accents would come out in regular conversation. Just little things here or there. There were times I wouldn't just talk, I would make pronouncements. I used my hands a lot. I wanted to be heard. I lived on attention. I did well in school. I did well in school without really trying. I was happy.
Where am I going? For the longest time I used to say that it was my insecurities that prevented me from doing things. That was true to an extent. I was teased a lot in middle school, I did have lower self esteem than was healthy, I did feel crippled by self doubt. I don't have those same insecurities I do when I was younger, I like myself in a way I never did in the past. As those layers are peeled off, as I took away the excuses, it became harder and harder to deny the underlying truth of myself, of acknowledging that it wasn't just these other things that were causing my problems, it was me. A few weeks ago I posted about how my insecurities were what stopped me from trying, from putting myself out there, from continuing in theater or choir. That was a partial truth, maybe even an outright lie. The real truth is that trying is hard. When I was younger, it was enough to be a little precocious, to be loud, to be silly to get attention, to get praise. School was easy for me. I could BS an assignment in no time at all. I didn't really want to try, I didn't want to do more work than was necessary. I didn't take theater in high school as an elective, not because I was afraid of judgement, but because it wasn't an honors class and I wanted to keep my GPA up. When I auditioned for plays I brought my old bad theatrical habits I had learned when I was a child and they weren't enough for to get speaking roles, I just wasn't that good. Instead of learning how to act, I became discouraged that I couldn't miraculously get a part without trying. I told myself I only wanted a background part because I didn't want to get made fun of, but the truth is I would have LOVED to have a starring role, but didn't want to put in any of the work or effort necessary to make it happen. Same thing with choir. I didn't practice, I didn't learn, I didn't want to make an effort. My natural singing voice has a nice tone, but I didn't want to learn how to make it better, I didn't want to hear criticism, I never asked my parents to give me private voice lessons, I didn't want to try. I like to tell myself that it was because I was afraid, but really it was because I was lazy: I didn't want to put in the work and then have the possibility of failure, I didn't want to make more of an effort.
When I was in college I studied Art History, ancient art in particular. I had lofty ambitions of being an archaeologist or professor. I found out Junior year that all the graduate programs I was interested in for Art History required a passing knowledge of one or more foreign languages. I had taken one semester of Italian and I only got a B-. It was hard. I didn't keep trying. I didn't learn a language. Realizing this, I ended up looking into what I could do. I became a librarian. None of the grad programs had a language requirement. I like to tell people that I made this decision to become a librarian based on this yearning to help people, my love of books. That is true, but only partially. I became a librarian because after realizing I couldn't continue in Art History without doing more work than I had wanted to, I felt like I needed to choose SOMETHING and I found that Library Science was a field that gave me the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of people through my love of knowledge and literature. I became a children's librarian in particular because I loved kids, I loved kids books, and I loved the idea of doing storytime: of performing on a stage with very limited stakes. Storytime was, and is, continually the easiest part of my job. 30 minutes of performance several times a week is just enough to give me the high I need from performance, but without any of the negatives: I get no judgement from children.
People reward others for sharing their insecurities, their fear. Depression is something that people can empathize with and understand, fear is something that can be overcome and triumphed over. I am not depressed anymore. I am still lazy. Nobody gives you a medal for laziness, nobody tells you it is ok to be lazy and supports you when you are lazy the way they would if you told them you suffered from depression. I don't have a medical condition, I have a terminal case of sloth, and I realize now that I always have. It is funny, but admitting to yourself that you are just lazy and not depressed can be a very challenging thing. After all, having been depressed in the past, they have similar symptoms: It is hard to get up in the morning, I'm not putting in my full effort at work. It is only when I really sat and thought about it, that I realized that no, I'm just lazy.
Now I feel like "lazy" needs a qualifier. What I mean by lazy is not that I am not doing anything at all, but that I know, I know myself enough to know, when I am putting in my full effort and when I am not. When I tell people that I am away from the house from 7:30 in the morning until 6:15 in the evening 3-4 days a week and 9:45 in the morning to 8:30 in the evening one day a week, and that I'm a divorced mother of a 5 year old living on my own, a lot of them will tell me: but then how can you be lazy? I know. I know I could be more productive with my time, I know that I could be taking a class, working out, learning Spanish, writing, doing something instead of hanging out and watching TV with my boyfriend, that I could be doing more with my library but I don't feel motivated, I know. Putting in the effort, trying, is hard. So instead of trying I just complain. Which nobody likes. I don't even like it. But I do it. My mother likes to say that I am my own harshest critic. She says this as though it is a bad thing. She says it as though having high expectations and not meeting them is ok. I don't know if that it necessarily true.
I think the problem is I was a smart kid. I was a smart kid and people told me I was smart, that I was talented. I think people telling me I was smart and talented when I was a kid made me think that being smart and talented was enough to get by. If I had to try then I wasn't smart. If I failed I wasn't talented. I don't think anybody ever really told me that mastery of anything takes practice, takes time, takes work. I have fantasies about being a published author, I have fantasies about being a master of kung fu, I have fantasies about magically being the star of a show. Magic is bullshit. Some people have a natural talent, but even people with natural talents cultivate those talents. It isn't enough to be unafraid to put yourself out there, you also have to learn. That is what I am learning. I am learning that I need to learn. I am learning that natural intelligence and ability has gotten me here, to where I am now, but if I do want to do something more, be something more, than I can't just skate by without effort. I don't have anybody else to motivate me. I need to motivate myself.
So. So I've decided to try to stop complaining. Perhaps if I force myself to stop complaining maybe I can actually do something. I don't know what the something is yet. This writing, forcing myself to write, is a start but it isn't enough. I need to challenge myself, push myself. I need to do the things that are hard. I need to write when I am tired, I need to practice my ukulele if I want to be able to do more than play a handful of simple songs, I need to study or learn if I want to get better, I need to not be so damn lazy. I need to stop settling. I need to stop taking the easiest path, the path of least resistance, the road frequently traveled, the comfortable. I need to be uncomfortable. Maybe that's it. Maybe that is it more than laziness. I need to stop being comfortable. Comfortable is great if you don't want to go anywhere or do anything, but it requires discomfort to do something more. I need to stop taking the comfortable path and try the difficult, the unknown, the uncertain, the uncomfortable. It took me getting a divorce to realize that I could live on my own, that I could take care of myself, that I could be me. It took that external factor to make me see the truth of what I could accomplish. I don't want another external factor to force my hand again. I need to force my own hand, I need to make myself uncomfortable. I need to try and fail. I need to not be so damn lazy. Wish me luck