I write poetry, Toby. That's how I enter the world.
Tabitha Fortis, "The U.S. Poet Laureate", The West Wing, Season 3 Episode 17
That line has stuck with me for years. Literally, years. Since it actually aired, in the spring of 2002, as I was preparing to move into the next phase of my life in DC.
I've had quite a few conversations about this recently. It helps to know I'm not the only one who hasn't quite found it yet.
To be fair, there are a few I already know about.
Like, on stage.
I do not know if I am a good actor. I don't know how many other actors struggle with the nagging sensation that they kind of suck, but no one is telling them. It's hard to know that for sure, especially when you only do theater, and therefore can't sit back and watch yourself on film or on tape, in the process of acting, and say, well yes, I can see now, that I am good. I do get cast in things, here and there, now and then, and that's probably a sign that I do okay.
But, my level of ability isn't really the point. Not really. Acting feeds my adrenaline. There is a feeling I get on stage that doesn't happen anywhere else in my life. I look forward to every second of the process, from the table read to the performances, and even if it is a train wreck for other people to witness, it feels right to me. In those moments, on stage, I am well within myself.
I also enter the world in words.
I write. I am a writer. Did you know that about me?
It's taken me a very, very long time to be able to say that, out loud, and it still makes me kind of nervous. One of the all-time great Elizabeth Mysteries is that I feel no vulnerability on stage, despite a decades-long, deeply scarring battle with my appearance. Put me on a stage, in a quiet, serious moment, 200 pairs of eyes focused only on me, and I am fine, alive even.
But saying "I am a writer" makes me afraid of your judgment, in spite of the hundreds of thousands of words I have written, some of them out here in the world, some of them to one single person or another, some of them to a blank book no one sees.
I am a writer. I write things. I am writing things, I am working on things.
So, there are two, for starters.
However, I also know a few ways in which I for sure do not enter the world. I don't enter the world as a lawyer, nor doing business development for a law firm.
This is the balance that I think we all seek, and a rare few of us find. The two ways of entering the world that I can identify for certain are not ways that, right now, allow me to survive in that world. I do not know what it is like to earn a living from being who I really am.
I think I need to work on that a little.