07 August 2012

Who Do You Think You Are?

I was talking with my friend the other day. About life, the universe, and making things, about ourselves and the difficulty of putting ourselves out there for others to see. We talked about how there are these ideas we have and we would like to express, but how there's so often something holding us back. And how the most potent of those somethings is that one insidious question: "Who do you think you are?"

After I got home, I kept thinking about it all. "Who do you think you are?" And it crossed my mind: what would happen if, just for once, I answered that question?

So, let's try it. Who do you think you are? Well, I think I'm a 5'9" German, with blue eyes and greying brown hair. I think I'm a mother. I think I'm a grad student. I think I'm a writer. BAM!! I just ran into an invisible wall.

Not unlike the visitor we picked up from the airport, who, after collecting his suitcase from the luggage carousel, in his jet-lagged state walked right into the glass wall that forms the little foyer around the exit doors. I'm afraid I laughed - it did look just a bit too cartoonish how he bounced off that sheet of glass, and he wasn't, after all, really harmed. Just a little stunned. And all he had to do was take two steps to the left, three forward, turn right, and - Open Sesame!- the sliding doors parted, and parted again, to let him emerge into the spring sunshine. All of which, I'm happy to report, was accomplished without any further mishaps or injury to health or dignity; and we had a lovely visit for the remainder of his stay at our house.

However, not all invisible walls are as easily dealt with as the sheet of glass at the airport. Or are they?

Steve and a Glass Wall
You see, brick walls, even the ones that have been tidily plastered over and painted a delicate shade of rose pink, they're easy to identify and avoid. "Who do you think you are?" Well, I don't think I'm an Olympic gymnast, because I've known I'm athletically challenged since at least the first day of gym class in grade one. D'uh. No difficulty in avoiding that particular wall. But writing, on the other hand - that's something I want to do. It's something I've tried to do, in the last few years. It's a door I was confidently heading for, pulling my little suitcase on wheels behind me, when suddenly - BAM! "Who do you think you are?" It's those insidious glass walls that have you bouncing off them like any old rubber ball. You thought you could go that way, and then suddenly your nose gets flattened (and the person walking beside you, who hasn't spent the last twenty-four hours on assorted airplanes and still has all their mental faculties about them, laughs at you for it).

But, really - all it takes is two steps to the left. This isn't a thirty-foot-wide picture window we're bouncing off of, it's just a little foyer around a genuine door, a door which will obligingly part for you if you just move over a little. No, don't try to go the same way again! Don't keep smacking your head against that solid glass. It'll make you look ridiculous and annoy the airport janitor because you'll leave greasy forehead prints on the glass. Two steps over, three forward, turn right, and there! See? A wide-open door, and the soft air of a sunny spring day blows in your face.

Easier said than done, you say? Well, yes, of course. I'm once again preaching to myself here. But just think: what if, next time that insidious question rears its ugly little head, you just answered it? Maybe you'll find that the glass wall you're bouncing off of is only the foyer around the exit.

Who do you think you are? Two steps to the left, three forward, turn right: I think I'm a writer.

Life, the Universe, and Glass Walls that are merely Foyers. Who do you think you are?


  1. Hey, what a great, inspirational post! Sometimes I feel like I've slammed into that invisible wall, and I like the image of two steps to the left, three forward, turn right. It's almost like Peter Pan! :D

    Thanks for this. Who do I think I am... Hmmm... I like it. <3

  2. Peter Pan- that's exactly it! "Second star to the right, and on til morning!" Hadn't thought of that- thanks.

  3. I think calling yourself a writer is like calling yourself a triathlete. You write because you love it. You do triathlon because you love it. But when someone asks you about it, your mind and body respond like that of a dog who KNOWS the limit of his invisible collar is just one more step ahead. The memory of that mild shock, the shame of it makes him sit down. So you say something like, "I'm not a writer, it's just something I mess around with, sometimes." Or, "I'm not a triathlete. It's totally non-competitive for me. I just want to finish." Each followed by one of those awkward chuckles that results from flirting with exposure. Because, really, we know we're writers, don't we? We've really always known. Loving words is like loving people – it's only surprising when we realize it's not particularly surprising. So, it's the telling it, and meaning it, that disorganizes our feet in our effort to make it through the door, reminds us of the limits on our collars and sits us down. You're a writer. And a brave one, at that :-)

  4. Thanks, Desi!
    You know, I catch myself talking like that about grad school still: "I'm doing my Master's. Well, it's only by distance ed, not like I'm going to school or anything." (awkward chuckle, shuffle feet).
    About the writing, the real surprise for me was that the love for words and Story that I've always had (always, for as long as I can think) translates into "being a writer". Who knew?
    Go, Fido, the door is open and the collar is gone! Woof!