It’s Like We All Wanna Be Famous Even Though We’re Not Good At Anything.
Your generation’s addicted to attention.
“YES!” I sat up and shouted at the television, scattering balls of used tissues and startling the mutts from their warm puppy slumber. Maybe I was drunk on cough drops, or maybe it was strictly the Codeine talking, but in my cold-riddled mind I had just heard The Truth spoken aloud on the screen, effectively making Martin Sheen — or at least his character — the wisest person on the planet.
But then Katie Kampenfelt responded.
I know. It’s like we all wanna be famous even though we’re not good at anything.
“YES!” I shouted again. “She’s the wisest person on the planet!” Then I started coughing uncontrollably and had to lie back down. The cold I caught in Boston was still wreaking minor havoc on my system when I settled on Ask Me Anything as my choice brainless Netflix movie selection for the afternoon. The last thing I expected was for its characters to vocalize a very real fear of mine that’s been simmering below the surface ever since declaring I want to write a novel.
What if I sit down to do that thing I’ve been wanting to do my entire adult life and realize I’m not actually any good at it?
What if all I really want is attention?
What if, like every Facebook status update, like every Instagram photo, like every damn thing I share on this blog, I’m just throwing a big fat mess into the void and hoping at least one person likes it?
When I was in the eighth grade, I decided I wanted to be a diver. Not scuba diver, (that came later), but diver, diver. Like chlorine and aerial pikes and high dives and thigh muscles. I thought it was the most beautiful sport in the olympics, and I wanted to be a part of it. I envisioned myself a sleek little dolphin, muscular and petit in my Speedo, swim cap chic. I’d be part of an elite club of athletes, famous for my fearless precision. Mostly though I just wanted people to think I was as cool as I thought olympic divers were cool, and I really felt no real passion or dedication towards the sport.
The thing is, too, I was afraid of the approach. The definitive steps towards the edge of the board, the chest-high knee, the bounce. What if I missed the board on the bounce? What if I went all Louganis and concussed myself on the springboard but worse, never even had a medal or anything beyond a couple of hard-earned racing stripes to show for it? (Racing stripes, by the way, are the angry red lines that show up on the back of your calves when you slap the water during a bad landing. The rest of the class could hear when it happened, but our instructor taught the diver to remain underwater and swim to the other end of the pool, screaming the entire way, to deal with the pain. By the time we came back, the hurt — at least the physical part — was mostly diminished.)
This wasn’t unlike the time I wanted to learn to play the folk harp. The desire happened with such intense fervor that my parents could do little to ignore it. What if they were stifling the next Greg Louganis? Or… um… the next really famous folk harpist? No one wants to be responsible for that. So while I rarely had the coolest toys or most stylish clothes, they almost always catered to my more reasonable (and not-so-reasonable — hello, harp?) whims when it came to self-improvement.
Whether that was positive, encouraging parenting or gratuitous overindulgence, who can really say?
But the diving. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t conquer my fear of the approach. I was afraid to jump forward or, cliché to end all clichés, to dive head first.
Inwards? Inwards with a front flip? I could do those all day. They only required me to stand backwards on the board and launch into the abyss. There was no approach. No bounce. Just myself and a single spring before plummeting into the water. But for some reason I couldn’t move beyond my hesitation to fully commit to forward diving which, let’s face it, is kind of instrumental to the sport. I quit soon after.
Which, I’ve come to realize, is kind of a theme with me. When a chosen hobby or even profession doesn’t advance in the effortless way I’d envisioned, I’m quick to give up and move on.
And I wonder sometimes if maybe I apply that fear to everything I do — that everything I try might be the thing that makes me me, only I’m not approaching hard enough. I’m not jumping head first. Hesitation is rampant. I’ve failed to go all in.
And that’s why I can’t quit on this book. No matter how dumb it starts to sound or how many times I want to delete it all and start over, this can’t be the thing I do half-assed. This has to be whole-assed, guys. Because it’s not a dive. It’s not a harp. It’s not a blog or a photo whose primary purpose is to earn me a smidgen of that attention my generation’s come to crave.
It’s my book.
I just hope to god I’m not not good at anything.