“You used to think you could do anything?”
“Huh. What do you mean?”
My aunt went on, “When you were little you used to think you could do anything your older brothers could do.”
My aunt must have had a reason for telling me this. Yet, I don’t recall. All I remember is we were on Brookmont Road which is just a couple of blocks from my childhood home. She was driving us somewhere.
But I believed I could do anything she says. Little me running after my older brothers. I wouldn’t be left behind. My mother tells a similar story.
“You wanted homework.”
“You said your older brothers got homework and so you wanted homework.”
“How old was I?”
I believed I could do anything.
Do you remember when you were 18? You drove around with your friends and you had nowhere to go but everything to do. And you were certain you would accomplish it all.
In 1997, I completed my Master’s degree. My father died. And I was unemployed. I stared out at Flatbush Avenue from the window of my 1st floor studio in Brooklyn.
I wasn’t laughing.
I held the baby carrier tight with one hand. With my other hand, I waived down a cab. The sun shone bright for me as my wife, son, and I as the cab took us down 5th Avenue and across Central Park.
My hands shook slightly as I pushed send. The letter was on its way. There was no turning back. All those summers where I played the Brent Farve game of “will he or won’t he” were mute. It was time to move on. I’d miss the students but I’d find a way to teach a class or two. There would be different students. The focus had to be different. I wanted a new challenge, to follow a dream.
I took a deep breath.
And I laughed.
Each morning the creep is far away. Or I have the strength to fight it off. Everybody gravitates towards confidence. Or so they say. Hell, even a dog can smell fear. So, I push on, doing and trying. I must beat the creep. Yet each night he seems to seep back. Sometimes with ferocity and other times he simply sidles along side of me.
I’m not laughing.
“It’ll take time.”
“You have to have patience.”
“You have to keep going.”
“It’ll all work out.”
People have words of encouragement. I appreciate it. I believe them. But my savings are leaking away. The balance in my checking account is sinking. Years of saving are being eaten up bit by bit.
I have no choice now. Never mind my ego. I have responsibilities. I have obligations.
I’m trying to laugh.
I didn’t expect success in a day. I didn’t expect people to roll over and welcome my entrance to the writing world. Okay, I secretly wished for it. But who doesn’t? Aren’t we all dreamers? I was hoping people would scoot over a bit and let me have a seat at the table.
And well, they haven’t moved over. Barely. So, I have to push. Then, I have to push harder. I have to carve out a seat at the table. It’s happening. I think it is. Sort of.
But the creep stands near. He is in me. My own green eyed monster. My own flaw. Not jealousy.
The self-doubt creeps in. Did I make the right decision? Is this going to work? Do I have the right temperament? But I have the skills. Just call me back. I need a chance. Please, just a chance.
The Little Engine
When I was little, my favorite story was The Little Engine That Could.
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
I’ll keep going up the mountain.
I counsel myself. It will take time. Things are happening. Slowly. Push on, Push on. PUSH ON!
Keep fighting. Don’t let the creep win. Don’t let the self-doubt be your fatal flaw. Keep pushing on.
Once I laughed.