Pass The Butter
Words are powerful. Have you ever unwittingly altered the course of your life based on flippant statement from someone who mattered a lot to you? I have!
A new friend of mine told me a story the other day that reminded me of two very important lessons. One, words can impact someone far more than you may realize, so we all need to be mindful of what we say. Two, on the flip side, don't put so much stock in another person's careless words that you aren't true to the only voice that matters, your own!
This friend of mine grew up in a hispanic family in a predominantly white neighborhood. Around 6th grade, he began to be aware of the differences between him and his classmates. Everyone would show up with PB&J in their lunch boxes, and he would have a burrito. His parents cut and styled his hair differently. And most of all, he spoke English at school and Spanish at home. As he was pulled between worlds, he acclimated more to speaking English most of the time, and his Spanish began to slip away. But he still spoke it nearly fluently with his family. One day, his mom had a friend over for dinner. This boy went to butter his bread and asked the friend to "pasar la manteca", which translates to "pass the lard". "Pass the butter" is "pasa la mantequilla". His mom's friend thought this was hilarious and poked fun at him the rest of the night. It was a difference of a few syllables, but at a tender age, this shaming of his Spanish made him feel so humiliated and angry that he gave up speaking the language. Now, as an adult, he confided in me that he is not bilingual and so wishes he was! He laughed, explaining the trivial moment that eventually led him to speaking almost exclusively English.
Can anyone relate? I know I can! I knew since I was 8 years old and performed in my first play that acting, theater, singing and dance were my calling. Nothing else ever made me feel so alive before or since! All through my childhood, though, people told me consider other more "practical" options. I still planned to get my BFA, preferably in the Big Apple. Like my friend, I was going through a tough patch when critical words came. Family dynamics were rough when I was in high school. I moved out of the house a couple of times, and was desperately trying to find myself in many ways, healthy and otherwise. But I still planned to go to college for my BFA in musical theater. I had a few college auditions scheduled and went to a trusted music teacher for coaching. She worked my audition song with me and at the end of our rehearsal shrugged and said, "Well, you're a really good actor." I was crushed. I so badly needed someone's assurance in that rocky time in my life. But her words undermined what tiny confidence I had in my singing. The same thing happened when I rehearsed my acting audition scene with an friend. He had already gotten in to Julliard on early decision, and took the opportunity to be harshly critical of my lack of process. Between the two of them, I basically threw in the towel before I even gave it a shot. I went to my audition at Emerson, felt that I totally tanked, cancelled the rest of my auditions and submitted an application to Ithaca College and accepted their offer to study communications. I later found out that I had been wait listed at Emerson. And ever since I have wondered, what if I had actually given it my best shot, instead of letting my confidence be undermined? What if I had unabashedly chased after what I wanted without letting other people's negativity bring me down?
And here comes the last lesson. It's never too late! People will always say dumb, mean, ignorant shit. And there will always be reasons to sit on the sidelines of your dreams. But even if you have benched yourself for a while, it's not too late to get back out there and go for it! Whether the voices dragging you down are your own, your parents', teachers, friends, critics or a combination of all the above, spend a moment in quiet meditation. Does your heart still long for that one thing? If so, then don't let anyone tell you it's not yours for the taking! Don't waste time regretting choices. Every choice you made led you to where you are, and for better or worse, you can choose to see it as a beautiful path. Now go brush up on Spanish! Or sign up for karate class. I might just get my MFA one of these days (who needs a BFA anyways?). Take steps towards your dreams. You may "make it", you may not. But living on that path sure beats denying yourself the climb. Live each day knowing that you are enough - no matter what. And take everyone's nay saying with plenty of grains of salt. They probably don't even mean it.
I hope this post has been inspiring, uplifting, and not overly cliche. I enjoy sharing my epiphanies on the human experience.
Peace. Love. and SMILFsauce ;)