With Stars in My Eyes
As a child, I was celebrated for being a dreamer, encouraged to think big. The sky is the limit, I felt. Something within me seemed to be watching and guiding me to this particular type of life. I didn't know what that would be, but it didn't matter then, as I was so young.
I just remember evenings sitting on the blue carpet of my bedroom staring at my Emerson glowing in the dark while listening to Bonnie Tyler, Aerosmith, Poison, and Bon Jovi. I often closed my eyes, sometimes lit candles and imagined a stadium full of people waving lighters while they sang along to songs I wrote.
I assumed I'd be a songwriter because my dad is a songwriter and because I love music so much. I pictured playing the guitar like Lita Ford and wailing on the microphone and it would drive everyone crazy. The thought of being on the road traveling from city to city excited me, even though as I grew into a teenager, I understood it wasn't glamorous. I mean, I watched "Wanted Dead or Alive" on MTV quite a bit.
Then, I wrote my first poem at 12 years old. As I wrote, my spine tingled and stomach tightened as my pencil scraped across that wide-ruled paper, and I knew that I wanted to write more than songs.
I spent my childhood in an idyllic North Carolina community which allowed me to augment my belief that I would achieve my dreams. My daydreams morphed from filling stadiums of screaming fans with lighters to filling auditoriums of attentive, black-turtlenecked intellectuals hanging on every word I uttered. This dream became so pervasive that I deluded myself into thinking I had enough talent to pursue a degree in writing.
From college until today, I faced many, many people glad to tell me just how quickly I rocketed towards mediocrity. This was especially true if I wanted to remain a poet.
Still, I did not give up writing. I slowly understood that I had been born with stars in my eyes, and once those orbs caught the right light, I could not do anything but the work.
Do I do it to reach literary greatness?
Nah. It would be nice, but it is not the driving force.
I do what I do because I love it. That's all. When I write, I feel like a rock star. I am braver on the page than in real life, much like a comic is audacious on stage when she may not be so while shopping for tampons. On the page, the banal can be extraordinary, the plain beautiful, the weak powerful, the anxious calm and so on.
This is especially important to me considering I'm a person whose idea of big plans is watching The Skeleton Twins when my son is at his dad's for the weekend. Or, my heart warms at being able to drink hot tea while podcasting or reading a fantastic book. Or writing on this blog or a screenplay or a poem.
Because all of those things make me feel so much. Therefore, I can do nothing but engage in a great story so I can unlatch from reality and immerse myself in completely different people and imagine their feelings, and their feelings usually fuel my feelings. And it all feels so right and beautiful to me.
Then, I get back to my work.
For whatever reason, this is not something I did in the decade I was married. Not doing what I am made to do caused a lot of mental and emotional strife. I felt (and still feel) that the only recourse to reclaiming that most important part of myself was to leave the most important relationship I had.
There are two big lessons since my marriage ended that took me a long time to learn:
1) Pursuing what I want is not selfish--it's essential.
2) Having stars for eyes is not a blinding way of seeing--for me, it's the only way of seeing and many, many people are too scared to risk looking at life any other way than in plain color.
Still, many people have and will continue to persuade me to do practical things or be "normal," whatever the hell that is. I can absorb their fear and acquiesce to their "wayward" advice, or I can turn my gaze away and let it dazzle someone else.
It's not a leap to guess which one I'll be doing.
I am not stopping. No one may ever know my name. Millions may never hear of this blog or anything else I do. Even if a miracle happens and I can make a living from my writing, there will still be people who will never hear of me. That's all okay. I don't write for any of those reasons (though I will not snub my nose at more money--I'm just being real). I write hoping that my joy in the work sparks joy in someone else. I write in hopes that it makes some sort of difference somewhere. I write because that is where I feel most free and invincible. I write because I hope to light up someone's starry eyes.
Like everyone else, I'm made of stardust. So I may as well let it shine out as far as it can. Therefore, the work is never done.
How could be when living with stars for eyes and a heart of dreams?