"I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.”
The second I read the above quote in Year of Yes, Shondaland became my church; Shonda Rhimes my minister. I mean, seriously, who else could think up a word like badassery and make its definition truly badass?! Talk about follow-through.
Amen to Shonda.
Amen to badassery.
And, more importantly, amen to the HARD workers.
I am one of these. A blue collar American who came from the very fabric of hardworking cloth that my ancestors weaved and my parents continued on stitching. If I had to choose a material to describe my family's hardworking cloth, I'd say we're burlap. Sturdy, trustworthy, but mostly resilient. Burlap is badass. Badassery's badge is made of burlap. Don't believe me? Well, let's think about this for a minute. Burlap is derived from plants, it's eco-friendly, and has many uses. For example, burlap is used for uniforms soldiers wear, it's durable enough to carry heavy loads if made into a bag, artists have incorporated it into their craft, and it can be handy during emergency flooding situations as sandbags (burlap encased) are often used to stop water flow. I can go on, but I won't. This post is not about burlap, it's about badassery (which burlap is).
ARTISTS are hard workers. Artists must possess the passion to create for their personal fulfillment before looking to satisfy anyone else's. I say this because I am a writer. And I create for my self. But, I also submit for publication. And sometimes I get accepted (yay!) and in other instances I get rejected. *bangs head on desk
I'm telling YOU this because this year, in 2015, I sent my baby into the world - my BIGGEST project to date (a novel) - with breath baited in hopes for acceptance by a literary agent. Now, if any of you have created something of the blood, sweat, and tears kind, and then unleashed it into the world with said hopes that it will be well-received then darling, YOU are a badass in my book. Sharing anything creativity-related with anyone is like stripping down to your underwear in the middle of a crowded mall. You feel me?
So, out into the universe (courtesy of the World Wide Web) my novel's manuscript went. To my surprise, it immediately got requests for more pages - some agents wanted to read it in its entirety while others asked simply for more of the work to better gauge the project as a fit for them. This went on for over three weeks. Yes. More than 20-something FULL days of querying and sending and resending and querying some more and checking email inboxes and rechecking said inbox until finally I stepped away. Literally. I packed up my family, readying us for our Thanksgiving holiday in Florida, and left all things writing-related home. In New York. I packed NO laptop. I packed NO flash drive. I packed NO printed pages of the manuscript (to reread and scrutinize yet again). All I had was my mobile phone, which isn't that smart, and my best efforts at writing a book for possible public consumption in the universe's hands.
And you know what? The minute we entered my mother's house for the official start of vacation, my phone rang. It wasn't signaling a call, rather it was notifying me of an email that was apparently trying to get through on the plane ride, but the phone had been off.
Now, as you know from my first post, I have a gentleman soulmate. But what you don't know about him - among other things - is that he's friends with hardworking people including a former NFL Quarterback with the New York Jets. Let's call him Jeremy. The story goes, that when Jeremy was starting out and looking for an agent, he immediately felt the pressure of being signed with a BIG agent. Big agents, after all, are the creme` de la creme` and have the best chances of getting anyone anywhere. Well, Jeremy came to find that when he agreed to work with a top dog, the then-rookie was low on Big Agent's priority list. L-O-W. After some time riding backseat in Mr. Big Agent's car, this future NFL star had had enough. Jeremy dipped into his pocket and retrieved the business card of a HARDWORKING agent at a smaller firm with whom he had met prior. Excited to have been called, Hardworking Agent jumped at the chance to represent my husband's friend. Hardworking Agent had put his all - the blood, sweat, and tears kind - into Jeremy, making him a top priority, and landed him a BADASS position playing with his favorite team: the New York Jets.
Standing in the middle of my mom's kitchen, I pull my cellphone from my jeans pocket. I tap a few times to get into my email account and see RE: Your Manuscript. Now, this message I was about to open was a full-read, which simply means that this particular agent was already reading the entire book, and so anything she was going to say hereafter determined the fate of the novel being represented by her for publication. I poke frantically at the touchscreen.
Well, Dawn, I like it. A lot! I think we should be able to place this with a conventional publisher for your major fiction debut.
My throat constricts and my head gets a bit dizzy from nerves. My gentleman soulmate glances at me from across the room and notices the changes straight away.
"Are you all right?"
"An agent wants to represent me," I mumble.
I wave the phone at him because my esophagus won't cooperate (maybe that's why I'm better at writing...)
He reads the email and looks up at me, his blue eyes smiling bigger than his mouth as he hands me the device.
I force a smile through a frozen stance.
"It's okay, you're allowed to celebrate," he says.
My elation was internal, but my hesitation was very much external. It was INCREDIBLY obvious that I was in a state of scared-happy. You see, the offer had been from a boutique agency, someone I actively sought after amidst a list of power agents; agreeing to work with a larger firm a more knee-jerk reaction to reaching the top. Then the thought of Jeremy and his experiences with this agenting business came to mind.
I hit the reply button. "Can you send me a copy of the specifics of our contract?" and return the phone to my pocket. Then, like Christina Yang on Shonda's hit show Grey's Anatomy, I dance it out around my husband, celebrating my first YES toward potential book publishing success.
It started with the birth of my daughter. And then, one miscarriage and two and a half years later, the birth of my son. The shards of the reflective glass pierced my image; stinging at my sides. Who are you? Why are you even here? You can't handle motherhood. Sh*t, you can hardly grip the realities of married life. Yes, this was my inner dialog. Until I smartened up. (With the help of my husband - bless his soul - because really, I wasn't me.) And, truth be told, that woman who shared my name and body was scary. Because she was afraid.
After a battle with Postpartum Depression, my eyes cleared of the milky fog to see that my dreams were coming true in real time: I had left the arduous nine-to-fiver, married my gentleman soulmate, was impregnated with both a baby and my (long-lost) passion for creating things, particularly stories, and yet, here I was a marionette to fear. Yes, motherhood was scary. And being a wife had its uncertainties (I come from a divorced home), but damn it I was writing again. Slowly reentering my realm. Man, Stella got her groove back...of course with permission from my heart, my savings account, and gentleman soulmate -- whom equally footed the bills while I began my unstrung dance.
But here's the thing. (See? There's always a thing.)
I wasn't fully engaged. As in I wasn't 100% in the game. There was a heckling voice in the back of my mind that said full-time motherhood with writing on the side weren't "real" gigs. And I had trust issues with allowing a man to provide for me and I wasn't sure how to settle into a life without struggle or a paycheck. All I really want(ed) though was to truly enjoy what I was doing, this dreamwork of writing, mothering, and being a wife. I wanted to really EXPERIENCE all of these things that I'd yearned for, for so long, and now had the opportunity of acquiring.
In order to do the legwork of practicing awareness and fulfillment, I 'd have to commit 100% of me. But, really, WHO could help?
My gentleman soulmate works 'round the clock.
My mother resides in Florida.
My dad is a resident of Boston.
And, honestly, motherhood doesn't provide much time or access to the girlfriend circuit that would be required of having a sister-like figure physically nudge me. Since I need this self-reflective work to be something more than a task checked off of a To-Do list, I am turning to Oprah Winfrey, a longtime inspiration, who has been walking the talk of mindfulness and self awareness and GRATITUDE for years. I am designating Oprah my mentor and, respectfully, I will be her (unofficial) mentee.
Through my trusty DVR, I am going to watch the episodes of SuperSoul Sunday and SuperSoul Sessions during my children's naps and after their bedtime. The shows are going to be my "classroom" where I sit amongst the other listeners in UCLA's campus audition and absorb the lectures. Then I'm going to follow up with the books (whenever possible) as a more in-depth curriculum.
But that's NOT all.
I'm also going to participate in O courses. My first class, LIVING BRAVE SEMESTER, launches in the New Year - January 11th to be exact - with an all-time favorite of mine, Brene` Brown.
But what about right NOW before the class begins?
Well, I am finishing up two books (I'm a Gemini, I can do that sorta thing) by authors who have been featured on Oprah's SuperSoul series. And since my zodiac and LIFE experience point to signs of weakness in consistency, I am making consistency a priority for this work.
Stay tuned for Year of Yes, and what Shonda Rhimes taught me about the 'Y' word. But in the meantime, I'll leave you with this little gem from Super Souler Rob Bell:
MY NAME IS DAWN TURZIO. I AM 36 YEARS OLD AND I'M JUST GETTING STARTED.