90 Percenter

We all have dreams. Big things - or small things - we want to do or be or see. I tend to get slightly obsessive for a short period of time, and then fizzle out pretty quick.

In my early teen years, I so badly wanted to win one of those Seventeen Magazine modeling contests. Despite my significant booty (not yet preferred by the masses), my mother's words of caution and my own body-conscious anxiety, I decided to go for it. My best friend gave me a make-over, a backyard photo shoot and her choice for favorite 3 photos I should mail in to the contest. I addressed the envelope, licked a stamp for it, and left it sitting on the kitchen counter until well after the contest deadline. I did the hard 90%.

In high school, I was determined to leave my small-town roots behind and hit the college scene in a big city. I went on campus tours, took entrance exams, wrote and mailed in generic "pick me!" applications and dreamed of finally getting away from my totally square 'rents. By the time I received notification of my acceptance into Ohio State - where my very best friend was also going - my interest in dorm rooms and party times was diminishing. I mustered some enthusiasm and spread the word to everyone except OSU, who never heard back from me about my intentions. 90%.

At 25, I for real went to college. I started with just one class, in my easiest subject - English 101. The first assignment was to write an essay about an actual experience from your past. I sat on my front porch with an honest to God pen and paper, and I wrote my first short story. It. Felt. Ah-mazing. It was good, too. I knew as the words left my fingers and appeared on that paper, this was what I wanted to be doing. I continued taking classes, adding a writing course here and there just for fun. I finished my degree in preschool education, attempted a job in the field and decided that staring at/cleaning up/talking about poop, mucus and vomit for minimum wage was not how I wanted to spend my life. I was 90% invested in this career path, but no thanks!

When I turned 30, I invested in myself once again and booked a 2-day writing intensive retreat with a prestigious editing company in Cincinnati. Upon their suggestion to market yourself and network with other writers, I opened a Twitter account (whatever that is - it probably won't last), replaced MySpace with Facebook and began a year-long stint of daily blogging. I caught the attention of some pretty awesome up-and-coming writers and received a decent number of invitations to guest author at other sites, review products and interview celebrities. I won writing competitions. I spoke on the phone with the high-falutin' likes of Uma Thurman, Jason Schwartzman and Anthony Edwards. I conversed with Tweeps like Scary Mommy before she was a household name, and a broke Justin Halpern when the shit his dad said was just being submitted to the public for fun. I was in. I was on fire. I may not have been at their level, but I was running with those bulls. Then we moved 2 hours away, I went grudgingly back to work full time and it just got hard. I let all my accounts go stale. I stopped responding to emails. I quit writing and quit networking and just generally quit doing what I loved. I was on the 90% track to actually getting paid to do what I loved.

What the literal F***?

You know what I've realized? You know why I keep quitting when I'm almost there? I've been blaming postage weight, shared dorm bathrooms. dirty diapers and dumb jobs for every failed attempt at living out my dreams. The problem was never the long walk to the mailbox or my husband throwing up while I was on the phone with Goose from Top Gun. The problem was always this: I didn't think I was good enough. I chose to quit before I failed, because failure might mean someone else realizes I suck. I can get the hard 90% out of the way in a snap, but I can't hand over the reigns and let that last 10% unfold because it might mean I AM stuck playing what's-that-smell in a bathroom full of toddlers who just shared a mystery casserole for lunch.


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