I like to pretend that I am “totally cool” and also “with it,” as the kids say, but that is a lie. And one small piece of proof that I offer you is this: I am not kidding when I say that my recent purchase of the Twilight soundtrack and my inability to stop listening to it, over and over in the car as if I have lost my mind and all sense of irony totally and completely, is the greatest exposure I’ve had to new music in a very long time. I am moved to maybe consider thinking about looking up further musical experiments from the likes of Muse and those adorable little Black Ghost fellows.
The idea kind of terrifies me, though. Experimenting! With music! But what if I don’t like it? What if it is weird and does not speak to me and I am not thoroughly charmed and delighted? That means that I have wasted my money, and wasted my time, and also that I am not cool. That I am exactly as not cool as I know I am yet secretly hope I actually am not. It tells me that I am terrified of the unfamiliar in very sad and deep-down kinds of ways.
Sometimes when I am feeling good about who I am and the path I’ve taken to get to the places I’ve been, I think of myself, with a smidge of pride, as an adventurer. Someone who goes out there all willy-nilly like a crazy person and does the scary things, takes the risks, goes full-bore and -speed ahead. I’m a crazy wackster! Watch out! And that’s often been true of me—that I’ve done the large and possibly stupid things, so far with good results. For instance, I’ve never moved small—from Pennsylvania to New York, from New York to Jersey, from Jersey clear across to San Francisco and then back a little ways to Utah. Each has been a little nuts, has meant giving up a lot, has taken a lot of guts and hope and chutzpah.
Somehow, though, it’s easy to do the big scary things than the little scary things. It’s easy to pack up my entire life, not so easy to make myself walk into a bikram yoga class. Easy to quit a job and say it’s the freelancing life for me! Ridiculously difficult to talk to the cool-looking girl I see every day in the coffee shop, or write an email and say hi, I think I would be very good at a job writing for you, or try to organize my finances, call about my student loans before I end up in debtor’s prison, or buy a CD I might not like or one that is not cool and for which the clerk or the loved ones who ride in my car will judge me.
I think I’m afraid, at every step, that my ignorance will be exposed, that I will look stupid, that I will screw up at something small and therefore be that much more ridiculous. If moving across the country doesn’t work out—well, it was a huge risk anyway. If I look stupid trying to make small talk with someone I would like to be friends with—well, that’s kind of sad. The size of the failure is small, but somehow concentrated.
I keep saying that I’m not going to make new year’s resolutions, but it’s clear that there are things I want to switch up, to change up. That there’s a way I want to be, and that it all starts from the same place—I want to stop being afraid. I want to live my life loudly and brashly and fearlessly. I want to be okay with the possibility that the next step could end with me plummeting off a cliff (or just a curb). I want to fling myself off the cliff, the curb, I want to skin my knees, get up, break back into a run. To stop worrying about being “totally cool.” To be totally awesome.
photo by OneEighteen