While watching an episode of my addiction, Girls, a change in the story line reminded me of a time in my own life that to this day, I regret.
The character of Hannah, played so effortlessly well by Lena Dunham, is an aspiring author with a ton of ideas for a book, but no direction to figure out where to start. When she reunites with an old writing professor, she’s coaxed into attending a creative writing reading, where she will share a story of her choice to a room full of strangers. Going into the reading, Hannah is very sure and very confident about the topic she wants to discuss: a college boyfriend who was a hoarder and her experience sleeping on a stack of empty Chinese food boxes in the attempt to relate to him. To you and I, I’m sure that sounds crazy as hell, but it could have made for a very interesting story to share–had she gone through with it. However, her boss got to her first. Said boss, the comical character Ray, wasn’t feeling it. She told him about her idea and he told her that it pretty much lacked all depth. Instead, he encouraged her (note: he doesn’t write himself) to write about something real, his recommendations included racial profiling, acid rain or death.
Feeling discouraged, Hannah completely changed her story on the train on the way to the reading, and made up one about an Internet boyfriend who died for shock value (a parody of a story by an old classmate whose recent published book about a real-life boyfriend who killed himself sent Hannah into a quarter-life crisis). No one liked it, and she wound up doubting herself and her capabilities even more. When her former professor asked her why she didn’t stick to her original hilarious story idea, she said she bailed on it because it didn’t have depth…her reasoning clearly influenced by the opinion of her boss at the coffee shop. Taking his advice and doubting herself had wound up making Hannah look like a complete a** in front of a room full of strangers.
As random as that story sounds, I’ve been in a similar situation. A situation where I let other people put doubts about my abilities in my head, enough to make me leave behind a past dream of mine. At the age of 12, while vacationing with family in Nigeria, I was spending a hot day in the house drawing. Doing illustrations and sketches as a teen was my passion, or so I thought it was at that time. But on that same day, while minding my business and letting my surroundings inspire me, the man doing laundry for my father, who I wasn’t too fond of, saw what I was doodling and asked me what it was. When I told him, he said my sketch didn’t look good, and proceeded to draw a picture of me that he lauded as much better than my own. Feeling like an absolute failure, and being that I was only 12 at the time, an impressionable age, I put my pencil and my drawing pad down–and literally never picked it up again.
I can now admit that honestly, drawing wasn’t what I was meant to do for a living. However, at 12, I had years and years ahead of me to get better, to train, to improve and to grow. But because I was young and embarrassed at that moment, I let someone else make me feel like I would never be a good enough artist, and I didn’t even allow myself the opportunity to get better, so I just gave up. This dude, when I think back on it, was washing my dad’s drawls for a living and I gave him the power to judge my work. He was clearly no trained artist his damn self. It’s something that I definitely wish I hadn’t let happen, but at 12, I wasn’t too good at defending myself or my dreams just yet.
As a grown woman I can now see the error in my thinking, and I encourage you, on this day and moving forward to never let people push you away from your dreams because they want to be negative. With every great dream, there will often be a hopeful dream killer looking to stop you dead in your tracks. And every once in a while you might realize that a path you were enthusiastic about is not necessarily the route you want to go in the end, but make that decision on your own. Please don’t let ambition-less people with too much time on their hands and shade to pass out who don’t want to see you succeed talk you out of your destiny. Because when you do, you walk around with a boatload of shouldas, couldas and wouldas to sulk about when you give up on yourself. Don’t give your haters that much power over your life. You have more talent and greatness to offer the world than people give you credit for, and as long as you know this, remember this greatness, and are confident in it, BABY, you can’t be stopped.