I come from a time and place where the idea of success in any field was attainable and dreams of all sorts were encouraged and pursued. The children of my generation grew up hopeful. Even if our goals and aspirations were not on the level of superstardom (although superstardom was considered an achievable destiny), we lived in a world where we were always told that, if we wanted it enough, we could make it.
Making it. "I'm going to make it someday!" You don't really hear this phrase that often anymore. But back then, it was all we ever heard. The idea of "making it" was drilled into our heads as both possibility and birthright. Making it meant ultimate success and we could have it all simply by wanting it bad enough. It was that easy.
The only problem with the "making it" mentality was that it left very little room for the idea of failure -- which some of us dreamers got a fairly good taste of when our dreams didn't materialize according to plan.
So, even though we were raised on word games and head trip catchphrases like, "failure is not an option," or "expect the highest," our sense of competence was being undermined by the unspoken likelihood that we might not make it after all.
I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who were mad about the arts. When I showed artistic ability at a young age, it was immediately assumed that I was going to be an artist someday. Having incredibly supportive parents was fantastic, especially when I decided that -- halfway through art college -- I wanted to be an actor. That same "You're gonna make it, kid" attitude stayed with them when I left the theater to start a band. Whatever I did, they believed in me, which is all anyone could ever ask of parents, really.
Unfortunately, their belief in me had me continuously reaching for the stars, which oft times left me wondering why I sometimes came up empty-handed. Oh sure, I'd experienced a mini-portion of success, but wasn't my destiny all about making it?
It got to a point where no matter what I did, someone would suggest a way for me to take it to the next level -- the level where the world would stand back, applaud and approve. I could never just create a thing of beauty, I had to provide entertainment for the universe. And every single thing in my life became a goal-oriented creative act. No gray areas between here and messiah.
And so, to make everyone happy I became the best artist, actor, singer-songwriter I could be. They wanted me blonde, so I went blonde. They wanted me skinny, so I got skinny. Everybody was so happy with me. My approval rating was through the roof. I was skinny, blonde and talented and I was definitely going to MAKE IT!
Until the money ran out and my record label dropped me mid-tour. It was like falling to Earth. I hit hard and after gathering up the pieces of me that weren't destroyed in this metaphorical fall, I heard only one thing: the nonstop ticking of my biological clock.
So, I got married. For some reason, marriage was like the anti-goal; getting married meant I didn't make it after all. Not that it was a bad thing -- it just wasn't being a rock star. I was under the impression that it was my karma to save the planet with my abilities, and now suddenly, I was this thing I never wanted to be: a wife.
So, I had a kid and just basically gave up dreaming about making it.
It was official: I no longer existed. I was now a biproduct, the skin of the snake. It was OK though, I didn't mind being non-existent. I loved being a mom. In a way, it took me away from all the disappointment of having not made it. And everyone loved me being a mom, in fact, all the things that I was prior to being a mom were suddenly and magically erased from everyone's memory. I was no longer an artist, a singer or an actor. I was just a wife, a mother and absolutely nothing else.
Until I got divorced. Ah, then everyone told me how much better off I would be now that I was free. So, with the entire world at my fingertips and all the single lady freedom any former artist-singer-actor could ever need, I did what any other woman my age would do with all that secret fear and longing: I went online in search of love.
And I found writing.
All alone with my divorced self, with no one to tell me how good it was to be all alone and divorced, I began to craft words. Nobody egged me on, nobody told me what to do. In fact, I avoided all forms of praise or encouragement because I didn't want to get caught up in that "making it" trap. I didn't want to make it. I just wanted to write. I didn't want to be told that I was great, and I didn't want to be told that I sucked. I just wanted to write.
With my hair black and my body less than rock star perfect, I wrote. I wrote blogs and articles and content. I wrote erotica and slash and horror. I wrote fiction, non-fiction and copy. And I did that thing that all writers dream of doing: I wrote a novel.
I am forever grateful to anyone and everyone who has ever believed in me, my looks or abilities. There is truly nothing better than having loved ones stand by you. But there is a drawback: Enormous expectation can lead to plummeting disappointment, and while telling a person that they are destined to make it may seem like a noble and loving thing to do, it can also leave them feeling very confused and empty in the event that they don't live up to all that was expected of them.
Making it is personal, and sometimes has very little to do with how the world views success. Maybe it's about doing something that doesn't necessarily rely on praise or kudos or even anyone's opinions at all. Maybe it's just about, as Joseph Campbell says, following your bliss. Tricky thing is -- you have to find it first, and that you can only do on your own.