Five years ago I helped launch the most ambitious book festival in the Pacific Northwest and I was scared shitless.
At the launch party, a fancy dinner hosted at a private home overlooking the Columbia Gorge, I meekly held a glass of wine and admired the A-list authors in attendance. The authors I invited. The authors whose agents and publicists I spent months talking to and negotiating as to why it would be an awesome idea to send their talent to this brand spanking new festival. This festival that was filled with promise and about to be revealed.
I was eavesdropping on stories of these great literary minds and I was afraid to put my hand out and say, “Hi, we’ve spoken before.”
When you’re afraid, usually someone will step in. That someone was the founder of the festival, a man saw how hard I worked. He pulled me into a conversation he was having with some of his fellow authors, sang my praises, made me blush, and ended by saying, “Can you believe she’s only 18?”
That’s when when all of the strength inside of me shriveled up and died.
I was 18 and I helped launch an incredible event and I was scared. Scared that I would lose credibility with one of these authors who I had an email and phone relationship with. Scared that someone would say that I was too young and that I shouldn’t be involved at this level. Scared that someone would think less of me because of my age. And, let’s be honest here, scared that someone would take that glass of wine out of my hand.
I have spent most of my adult life fearful that someone would close the door on an opportunity because of my age. A big part of that is because my life has been on fast forward since I was 16.
When I was a junior I left my high school and started taking classes at the community college through a program called Running Start. For anyone who’s attended a community college, you know that the demographics range from 16 to 60+, and so do the professor’s attitudes towards Running Start students. Some professors embrace the early-achievers and some think they should stay at the high school. It’s all about confidence, performance, and blending in.
So I blended in.
I graduated with my bachelor’s at 20 and began my Masters the next term. At 21, I finished with the requirements for the program, moved to Seattle, and was the first of my friends to get married. I defended my thesis at 22 and can now slap an “M.A.” at the end of my name. I move through life on fast forward.
Over the past two years as a full-blown “adult” working a full-time job, finding new hobbies, and building new friendships I have not been proud of myself and I have not embraced who I am—a dreamer, an achiever, an ambitious young woman. And that’s probably the worst thing to admit to myself.
And I am tired of it. I am tired of being ashamed of everything I have worked hard to achieve and everything that has made me who I am. I am done with pretending. I am finished with trying to blend in. I do not want to be embarrassed about anything that I’ve achieved “so young” in my life. I do not want to be afraid that someone will “slam the door” on my face when they learn about my age.
Because no one has before and no one ever will.
I am ready to own it: my achievements, my failures, and my dreams. I need to believe in myself and know deep down in my core that this is who I am and this is who I am supposed to be. I have accomplished a lot over the past six years since standing at that dinner party and I want to do more. Much more.
After recovering from the dinner party and the festival in itself I opened up to the Director, my manager, about how much I loathed when the Founder would tell people my age. In response, he said something along the lines of this:
Remember that he’s a writer and all of these people are writers, too. They love stories and you are a great story. Someday, maybe one of them will write about you.
I am a great story, dammit. And I’m going to be the one to write it. Welcome to my blog.
Photo Credit: maria.see photography