When my daughter was in fourth grade, she sang a solo in her school’s production of Schoolhouse Rock. I was sitting in the auditorium behind two men. A few bars into her rendition of “Elbow Room,” one turned to the other and said,”I’m guessing this ain’t her first rodeo.”
Of course, I was thrilled to hear this compliment and it was all I could do to keep myself from tapping the guy on the shoulder and gushing about how she takes voice lessons and dreams of being a stage performer.
I share this because this week my daughter and I will head downtown to sign a contract with her first talent agent. As I sat in the waiting room during her recent audition and heard her nail a high note in a song from the opera “The Sorcerer,” I marveled at how she, at twelve, is teaching me to aim higher, be braver, and in the words of Brene Brown, to dare greatly.
She’s maintained a single-minded focus when it comes to her vision. She says things like, “When I’m performing in a stadium…” or “When I live in New York and sing on Broadway…” She lets her imagination run free. She believes in herself.
So by the time she sang in front of the agents, they could also tell that it wasn’t her first rodeo.
Which got me thinking: What are my talents? How far back can I trace them? And in what ways do my experiences count for more than I allow?
If you’re like me, you may not give yourself credit for the bumps and bruises you’ve endured, or the many the times you’ve been knocked down and have gotten right back up on that horse. Maybe you don’t want to remember the failures or, worse, believe that you’d be farther along if you’d made different choices.
The interesting thing about a rodeo is that it involves feats most people would never undertake. It’s scary. Participating in one requires an extremely specific skill set (or a huge dose of craziness). And success is measured in split seconds.
I’ve been to a rodeo only once. In my early twenties, I worked for a concession company and had a one-night gig selling beer in the grandstand at a rodeo. I was also working in my first real job as a copywriter and just beginning my first novel. I didn’t think that one night at a rodeo would contribute in any way to my dream of being a writer.
But here it is, thirty years later, showing up on the page.
My point is that everything you do is in service to your dream. Every frightening moment, every detour, every cringe-worthy experience. And every success, shining moment, or surprising achievement.
That night at the school assembly, I heard my daughter sing, “The way was opened up for those with bravery.” (Granted, I’m referencing the nostalgic, whitewashed version of Manifest Destiny here…a topic for another blog!)
Yes, bravery is required.
So if you want to write, embrace the failures and the chaos. Make mistakes. Be willing to fall on your face in front of others, to show your underbelly, to be less than perfect. Practice, practice, practice. Stay focused. Don’t give up.
Life is like a charging bull or a wild horse. It will buck you off. Keep writing—keep living—what you know. If you’ve been there, done that, don’t dismiss it. Use it to show others the way.
Whether you see it or not, there are throngs of people waiting, watching, and rooting for you.