When asked about allowing his young son, Will Smith, to forgo a scholarship to MIT, instead to try his hand in the risky business of entertainment, Will Smith, Sr. replied with the words above. The father knew what the son didn’t: that every one of us are infused with innate skills, unique gifts that are ours to use or to squander.
How many clichés’ are there to say this? Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Don’t look back. Grab the world by the throat and swing. Dance like nobody’s watching. YOLO, for crying out loud.
Lately I have learned you can run but you can’t hide. There. I clichéd again.
Let me just say that if you refuse to accept and use your clearly bequeathed gifts, the God-handed talents smashed onto your face with the force of the Universe, if at every turn you run from your Eaglehood and cling to your Chickenhood, well, the end of it is predictable. And know this: there is not enough religion, enough yoga, enough mind massages, enough sex, therapy or galleons of alcohol to dampen the sharp spears of regret of what you tossed and lost.
In my come-and-go capacities as a teacher, I have prognosticated ad nauseam the adage to Never give up! Stay the course! Embody tenacity! But alas, who has failed to heed her own counsel? That would be me: Chicken Hagan.
The decade-by-decade details of failure are too debilitating to list. I now look in dismay at the others who were budding young writers such as myself in the 1990’s. I don’t even have the courage to write their names. And the main difference between me and my published and careered peers? They didn’t give up. They didn’t collapse into Whinedom and lament the State of the Industry. (Okay, many of them likely whined, and did lament the state of the industry, but they kept plodding forward, nonetheless.)
Let’s be honest. I buckled. I caved. I BS’d my way straight out of a writing career. I stoically claimed to put my family first. I bragged about my non-existent ego which did NOT need to be validated by Random House. I DID crochet effing afghans and organize church bazaars, Steven-effing-King. I did become a reluctant, accidental teacher because my kids’ school had staffing problems. I did absolutely anything to avoid facing and embracing my God-given gifts as a writer. And now I drink from the foul-tasting chalice of regret. (I didn’t coin that. Not sure and don’t give two shits who did.)
Living in your Chickenhood will find you standing in a pile of chicken crap. Which will end on one crappy day when, so desperate for employment validation, you find yourself face-to-face with a former student who thinks you are brilliant, because she TOOK your advice and used her talents, as you stand there working on a temp job getting paid less than you did when you were twenty.
Do I have enough gumption to get up and go again? I am not sure. But with whatever fight there is left in me, I offer this advice that I blatantly steal from Will Smith’s very wise dad: if God gives you an eagle, don’t treat it like a chicken. It is well-nigh impossible to get your feet back out of chicken crap.
Please, no pity comments. Don’t cry for me, Argentina. YOLO, bitches.