I almost got discovered once. This is not even remotely an exaggeration or a fish story, I absolutely entirely almost got made famous. I was 17 years old and working at Universal Studios in, also not a lie, Mel’s Drive-In. (I know, right?! I almost had that story.) So, I’m working behind the counter, wearing my adorable 50s uniform of black pedal pushers, a white collared shirt, and a pink pill box hat and I’m getting an order together for this sleazy looking older white man and this younger and more attractive, at least he certainly thought he was hot stuff, blonde 20 something guy. And as I fling french fries and milk shakes onto their tray, I hear the older guy say to the younger one, “Hey, look at this red head. She’s pretty cute, right?” I glance up to see the younger guy kind of shrug his shoulders and hear him say, “Eh. She’s pretty cute. I guess.” (Yeah, well, forget you too, Back Street Boy wanna be!) And the next thing I know the older guy is shoving his business card in my face and asking me if I can sing or dance. I tell him that I cannot really do either but he waves me off and explains he’s a big time music producer and I don’t have to be able to actually sing or dance, but that he thinks I am cute enough that he could make me famous either way. He went on to tell me about the wanna be boy bander next to him and that he was going to be the next big thing. (He wasn’t.) But if I went with this guy, I could be a star…for five minutes. This is a true story. I promise.
Sadly, I never followed through on that oh so generous offer. I could have been the next Britney, bitch. But my insecurities got the best of me. Not true, at all. My 17 year old good girl brain saw right through that weird, sleazy wanna be Lou Pearlman and I chucked his card right into the trashcan the moment they walked away from my counter.
But I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. And by “thinking about”, I mean God/the Universe/whatever has been pulling overtime reminding me of the hidden whispers in my soul. Its been coming up everywhere: in books I am reading, in conversations with friends, in my literal dreams. I am being beat over the head with these unfulfilled ideas and unchecked boxes on my heart. A brave person would recognize that all of this cannot be a coincidence and would DO something about it. And I am working very hard at being a brave person. But….
I have a gremlin on my back. He’s haunted me for years.
When I was in my 20s I was surrounded by artists and creative types. I couldn’t throw a rock and not hit someone working on that new hit song or modern art piece I did not get at all, but tried very hard to understand. They were the artists. They made art. I made the lights turn on so the world could see their art. Our roles were simple and well defined. And its worth saying, I liked my role! A whole lot! I loved it even! I also happened to work at a church full of undiscovered artists and I watched as time after time the leaders of our church would call out in people the gifts and talents that they saw in our little creative congregation. I watched doodlers become painters. I watched tinkerers become sculptors. I watched writers emerge with new found voices and I watched musicians learn the beat they had been waiting for all their lives. All because someone else saw it in them and spoke it into being. They got discovered.
And conversely I also watched people bring their dreams and their talents and their passions to the church with hopes of serving the Bride of Christ with the first fruits of their hearts and I watched them be told they weren’t good enough. In the kindest and gentlest way possible, of course, but that was what was at the heart of those, “I really appreciate your desire to serve, but…” conversations. I watched people’s dreams get crushed.
And so I took these two accidental lessons, this idea that talent is only talent when someone else sees it and his counterpart fear that if you offer up something that is lacking you will be told in no uncertain terms just how lacking it is, and I created a gremlin that has sat on my shoulder ever since. He sees my dreams and my untold goals and he dares me to take the first step towards an attempt. He salivates at the idea that I might actually try and that he will get to be the one that reminds me of how not talented I actually am. He whispers to me that if I were any good, someone would have said it by now. Something would have happened by now. The sleazy guy at Mel’s Drive In would return but this time with a real offer that didn’t reek of a predator. He reminds me of my lack of education and he reminds me that I DID have talents and gifts called out in me all those years ago too, but those words of truth were nothing along the lines of what I want to do today. He reminds me of my place. He reminds me of what people expect me to do next. And he dares me to move outside the very secure and very well defined box that I have lived in all these years.
But I am working harder at staring him down. I am calling him out by his name and I telling him to back down. I am realizing that failure might be inevitable but it doesn’t kill you. I am hearing the stories of people that I love and respect and realizing that they weren’t handed the golden contract to sign on the dotted line their first time out the gate. I am reminding myself that when you don’t try, you don’t stand a chance of succeeding. And I am learning that I get to define success. I’m trying really hard to try new things and take new risks and as terrifying as it is, there is a freedom in it too. I get to reach new levels of vulnerability with the people that I know truly love me and they get to hear parts of my heart that they had no idea even existed before. Its breathing life into old, trusted relationships and it is giving brand news ones a firm and secure foundation. I am sending the gremlin back down to where he belongs. And some days I keep him at bay and some days he camps out on my shoulder, but I think he knows his days are numbered.
And I don’t think I am alone in this battle. I think there are lots of us just begging for the opportunity to be discovered. But, my friend, there is no being discovered anymore. Even YouTube has lost its power. Do what you love. Do it whether anyone else even notices. Do it because its fun and you like it. Redefine success and, in doing so, take that gremlin down a peg or two. (And always be wary of strangers with golden tickets and boy band hair.)
One thought on “The Gremlin”
I read a thing once that mentioned, in a kind of throwaway comment, that there were many (more than a thousand?) people who played the club and bar and honky-tonk circuit in Texas. Just in Texas. They made a decent living, made a life. Never got rich. Never got famous, but certainly had some fans. And did what they loved for their whole lives.
It made me realize the choice is not fame v. unfulfilled obscurity. The choice is doing it v. not doing it. Love you! Good luck against that Gremlin.