“Know, first, who you are and then adorn yourself accordingly.”
Epictetus was a Greek stoic philosopher. I have no idea what that means, and don’t tell me because I don’t care, but I think it means we have no control over anything but ourselves. I love this quote, but truth be told I didn’t discover it while studying philosophy. I heard it on The Leftovers.
It has really stuck with me, because however Epictetus meant it, I take it to mean “decide what you want to be, believe it, and then do it.” In my case my identity/career has changed a few times, and there was a built-in uniform in which to “adorn” myself:
Dancer – tights, leotard (it was the 7’0s) costumes;
Childbirth Educator/ Doula – not so much a uniform as an air of confidence, because I knew what I was doing and I was good at it;
Parent – who the fuck knows? Changes daily. My husband says children are like viruses – constantly mutating. Mainly I wear sweat pants and pajamas.
I‘ve been saying for years that I’d like to write. I have two blogs I neglect, a book series idea, and five ideas for plays. But I don’t write because I am not a writer. I actually had a paid job writing a monthly column for a magazine (thank you, Karen Apostolina) and I still don’t consider myself a writer.
To become a dancer and a doula I studied for years. By the time I was good at either one, I had earned the right to call myself a Dancer, and a Doula. I knew I was good at it because people hired me and told me so. I received feedback. Sometimes it was not so nice, like “lose weight” (said to me by an obese producer while stuffing a donut in his mouth – really). But, mostly it was good feedback and it confirmed that I was the occupation I proclaimed to be. I had adorned myself.
Writing is different. It’s solo work, and requires self-discipline. That is not my strong suit. I only have self-discipline when I really believe in something. Otherwise I nap. I’m learning to write as I go, and while it’s a great help to live with a really good writer, it is also intimidating. Writing is his job, not mine. He didn’t marry a writer – he thought he married a dancer. Joke’s on him.
I made an announcement to my friends at my birthday dinner that I wanted to be thought of as a writer. Now, when someone asks, “What do you do?” instead of my usual answer (“Nothing, I just stay home with the kids. I am a loser and not worth your time so please go find someone more interesting to talk to.”) I’m going to say, “I am a writer.” When they ask, “What do you write?” I’m going to say, “I have two blogs. One is a vain personal chronicle of what I think, and the other is fiction about ghosts in New Orleans.” I won’t get into the fact that I really think the ghosts talk to me, so it’s not technically fiction; TMI. I’ll also say, “I’m working on a novel. It has an ex-Marine in it. SHE is kick ass smart. It also has a German Shepherd Dog in it because I like German Shepherd Dogs.” By this point, people will really go find someone more interesting to talk to.
It’s working. I said it out loud, so now I have to write something down so I’m not a liar. I am adorning myself, mentally, as a Writer. As far as physically adorning myself, I’m changing out of pajamas and putting on something cute. My idea of Writer adornment is not sweatpants. Unless they’re clean. My writer husband just walked through in sweatpants. Okay, maybe I can still wear sweatpants.
The day after my major pronouncement at my birthday dinner, I was donating money over the phone to one of the many Democrats running for office. When the caller asked my occupation, without a beat I said, “Writer.” She believed me. I’m even starting to believe it myself.
I’ll keep reading if you keep writing!
You are a writer indeed…. and really good at it!