Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?
I grew up desperately wanting to be in theatre but I was always told that was stupid and only gays and lesbians were in theatre. For a while I believe my family seriously questioned my sexuality.
And although I loved the theatre with all my heart (there is nothing as magical as that moment in a cool, darkened theatre, united in silence, waiting in anticipation for the lights to go up) I was also logical enough to know I would never actually make any money in theatre. That’s why actors are all waiters and waitresses and the only experience I ever had with food was working at Subway for a year in high school, but we didn’t have to carry those huge, heavy trays with breakable plates on them. Although the worse thing I ever dropped was a slice of salami, I knew I probably wouldn’t be making any money waitressing either. (I have very weak upper arm strength.)
So, I figured if I could get a job teaching English then I could also teach theatre and coach forensics and get kids as excited as I was over the written and spoken word. Except I was told that teachers just sucked all the money from the hard working taxpayers and were lazy because they didn’t even work full time, what with summers off and all.
There came a point in my young adult life where I had to choose: Follow My Dreams? Or Attend Civil Thanksgiving Dinners with my family?
Now I find myself in my middle adult life pondering (seemingly along with many other middle adult person I know) whether or not I’m doing everything I can do. Should do. Ought to do. Am I fulfilling my purpose? And if I’m not, then what should I be doing? And what if it’s not as cool as I thought it would be? What if I want to do a certain thing but find out I really don’t like it? And what if I’m too old to learn something new?
Then it dawned on me: We all have the same life goal - to rescue Princess Toadstool.
I mean, isn’t that it? Rescue the princess and be the hero? Feel the clap of a proud hand on our backs and hear the congratulations and good jobs and I knew you could do its?
I’m not implying that your life mission is to actually conquer Super Mario Bros. (Well, except for some kids back in 1985.) I actually meant it as a metaphor.
See, when we sit down with the video game, controllers in hand, we know our goal: rescue the princess. To do this we know we have to travel through Mushroom Kingdom; a pleasant little kingdom with clear, blue skies and green grass and special coins and the occasional Super Mushroom.
But we are also aware this will be no easy-peasy walk in the park. There will be Goomba’s and Koopa Troopa’s intent on making our life a living hell and there will be times when, no matter how hard we try and how sincere our effort was, we will fall into a pit or simply run out of time.
Sometimes we clear the levels with a sense of ease and a feeling of I’m king of the world! Yet other times no matter what we do, we find ourselves trapped in the Minus World Glitch where we are forced to do the same level over... and over... and over... and over... until we simply run out of lives. (Which is pretty much how every new mother feels around month 7 of staying at home. “All I do is change diapers and locate Sippy cups. Every. Single. Day. It never ends.”)
But, see, the point is that even though we know the challenges we will face in the game, we still try. And at the end, when we defeat Bowzer and finally rescue the princess we can say, “I hated that underground nonsense – hated it – but, look – I did what I came here to do. I rescued the princess.”
Even if you don’t ever rescue the princess (and I have never, ever rescued that blasted girl) – you tried. Maybe your kids watched you
Isn’t that what we are saying if we don’t go out on that limb and do what our heart is leading us to do in our real lives?
Because when you feel that gnawing at the back of your head whispering writer or school counselor or travel agent or volunteer or even divorced single mom… that’s your soul trying to get your body to go where it needs to go. Everybody has their own personal Princess Toadstool they are trying to rescue: sail around the world, open your own bookstore, join the Peace Corps, learn to dance. You know what they are.
Either way, the
Am I too old?
What if it’s not what I thought it would be?
What if I don’t like it?
What if I make a mistake?
First off, if some 98 year old woman can graduate college, you are not too old, so let’s just take that one off the table.
And so what if it’s not what you thought it would be? What if you try and then decide you don’t like it? I don’t think you’d be making a mistake. You’d be growing. Evolving. Gaining new experiences. There is no mistake in that. Remember that. Commit that to memory. There is no mistake in growing.
Besides, nothing is wasted. Each level we get through makes us a little tougher, a little smarter and a little closer to rescuing the princess – and ourselves.
Oh, yes, I went out on a limb!
This past winter I was blessed to co-write a show with the
fabulous JaNelle Powers of Pelajia Productions.
Although the part I played was small...
it was, by far, the funniest one of the cast.
(Personal opinion only.)