Monday, August 16, 2010

Almost Famous

While I was growing up, I always kept a dream alive for those times when I felt alone or was picked on or thought that I was a freak: I'd tell myself that someday my differences would work for me and I'd be a great success. I'd make more money than the bullies who tormented me and would be a household name. I'd be famous -- and all of those people who'd ever treated me as if I were "less than" would be sorry.

Fast forward many years later and this dream still hasn't come true, at least not on the scale that I'd hoped for in my youth. I write for a well-known publication, play with a band and released a CD, but I'm most definitely not a household name. Until recently, this bothered me -- and I treated myself as if I were "less than" because I wasn't living up to some ridiculous goal that I set for myself when I was a kid.

Back in high school, I perforfmed with the band and orchestra -- and played three instruments, no less: the flute, tenor sax and clarinet. But as much as I loved music, I was in it for the awards that they gave out at school each year, and was disappointed when I didn't get anything.

Around 2003, I wrote a novel for teen readers. I was really proud of the work I did and managed to get a literary agent -- and almost sold it twice. But it wasn't quite right for what the editors of the various publishing houses seemed to want, and a sale never happened. I wrote a second novel -- which I liked -- but my agent hated it. She dumped me.

I was so bummed about this, not only because I believed in my work (and because rejection sucks), but because it was delaying my dream of becoming the next Judy Blume or Meg Cabot. I wanted to be an iconic author whom millions looked up to -- and whose work was turned into movies, like Harry Potter. I even knew which actors I wanted to cast as certain characters!

Having big goals is great, but when they become so big, anything else doesn't seem like it's worth much. Because I had this terrible attitude, I denied myself a lot of joy along the way -- the joy of playing music, the joy of writing. I was so into seeking others' approval that I saw myself as a "failure" and it left me bitter.

The point of this post is that I think this is yet another reason why I'm obese. Being full of regrets and disappointments has left many voids in my life -- and I often filled them with food. On those days when I realized I wouldn't be the Great American Novelist, I stuffed myself with cookies and during those times when I acknowledged that I wouldn't be a zillionaire, I crammed my mouth full of pizza or cereal. Then I'd have regrets about being fat and ugly and hopeless ... and the cycle would begin again.

The good news is, I've learned to let go of certain dreams and find new ones along the way. After getting so many rejections from publishers, I decided to complete a project just for fun -- just for ME -- and put together my CD. I'm not a rock star or anything like that and wasn't trying to be one, but I loved the challenge and had a great time producing the album. Only a handful of people have heard it, but I'm really proud of the work that I did -- and that's what matters. Not that I've never become as famous a flute player as James Gallway.

I've also taken my writing back and am finding the joy in that again. About a year ago, I began doing some online freelancing, where I write about any topic I want. I also started this blog. Again, not many people read my work, but I love writing and know that this blog has helped me a great deal with my weight loss.

That said, I'm concentrating on finding the joy in other things: being with friends, traveling, writing travelogues for my friends and family, singing karaoke ... I'm even thinking of taking some art classes. I doubt that any of these activities will give me great recognition, but I no longer care about that. As I get older, I'm learning to appreciate the simpler things in life -- as cliche as that may sound. I'm recognizing the many talents that I do have, even if my writing and musical skills aren't making national news.

Now that I'm letting go of those things that were weighing me down -- in ever sense -- I'm feeling lighter. I think it'll be only a matter of time before my body catches up with my mind.

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