Years ago I worked in an office with a perky young woman. She had a lot of funny sayings and was always piping up with some kind of catch phrase. Our favorite was "Thanks for being on the show!" Now, it's hard to explain what that mean't out of context. She usually said it after a difficult or annoying conversation, or as we were heading out of a particularly dull staff meeting. It might have been the way she said it or the timing, but it always made me laugh.
When Shakespeare wrote that "all the world's a stage" he was making a very astute observation. When I was younger I was a lot more aware of being "on." It seemed like I was always "putting on a show" in my personal or business life. I never felt comfortable about it, knowing instinctively that it wasn't really "me."
Now that I'm older I've realized that playing a part and trying to fit in to other's preconceived notions of what I "should" be doesn't work. It's like making a quilt from a pattern instead of doing it freestyle, it's just not who I am. Sometimes I regret spending so much of my life running from myself, thinking that what I have to offer as the unique human being I am has little value.
I've begun to realize that the only "show" I'm interested in being on is one like "Whose Line is it Anyway?" My son loves it and we watch it in reruns a few times a week. What I love about it is that it's more like real life than any reality show. It's a lot more amusing than my life but what do all of us do all day but improvise? I never know for sure what's coming but I know I'm going to have to find a way to deal with it. Of course my improv is rarely as amusing, but it's still "mine" and that needs to count for something.
Now, some of you might be thinking that I'm all into "self esteem." I actually think that many of the things done today with our kids intending to help their self esteem actually harms it. Awards for doing your homework, (like I would have gotten away with not doing it!), trophies for "participation," and the constant barrage of "you're wonderful just the way you are" and "everyone's the same" and "you can do it!"
This stuff makes me crazy! Fortunately, my son's sports coaches have a huge problem with unearned trophies. They don't get one unless the team earns it. As far as kids, (or adults), being wonderful just the way they are, well, I'm sure we can all agree that that's not true. We could all use improvement. Of course, everyone isn't the same and saying so confuses the heck out of kids. The fact is that some kids are smarter than others, that some can run faster, hit the ball harder, sing better, be more popular...it's just the way it is. The American Idol auditions are a prime example of how being told you're great when you aren't can lead to shattering experiences.
As far as "you can do it!" goes, this is a trickier one. I often tell people that are interested in quilting that they can do it if they take the time and apply themselves. The problem I have with the term is that it implies to some people, especially kids, that they can do anything they set their minds to. Now, I'd love to be a singer, but no amount of time and effort will make me one, I stink at it. I also stink at gymnastics, figure skating, dancing, math, and science. You could encourage me until the cows come home and I'd still stink.
Of course I'm a wiz at the arts. I can write and draw and quilt. I think creatively, most of the time outside of the box. But ask me to do anything beyond simple algebra, forget it!
I guess what I'm trying to get at is that it's important to take the time to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. When you find something that feels comfortable to you, something that you can't imagine not doing, that's what you need to do.
It's how I feel about quilting. I fell into it when I was about 13 and I haven't looked back since. Oh, I've tried different things, I did "fine arts" like drawing and painting. I flirted with so many other crafts I can't even begin to tell you which ones. But, I always came back to quilting, and began integrating everything I learned into the one art form.
I encourage all of you to focus on what brings you bliss, improvise when you must, and remember that you have unique gifts to give to the world.
Oh, and thanks for being on the show!