I’ve been traveling around with my show, meeting new people, and sometimes getting reacquainted with old friends. The thing I hear most often from those old friends is “You’re EXACTLY the same as I remember you! You haven’t changed a bit!”
My internal gut response is: Oh, god. I hope that’s not true. I hope I’ve changed.
I turned 49 a couple of weeks ago. As I enter my 50th year I can’t help but reflect on the person I’ve become.
I was a really cute little kid.
There. I said it. I OWN it. I was fucking ADORABLE. Black hair, green eyes, dimples - the works.
Cutest Kid Award Winner. Fight me.
But like a supernova, I burned bright then burned out in the looks department, exploding into an awkward phase that lasted roughly 20 years.
That’s a joke. One of the countless self-deprecating jokes I’ve directed at myself over the years. mostly to deflect what I assumed would be harsh criticism from others. Often about my physical appearance, but other perceived imperfections as well.
Thick, unflattering glasses? (Oh, I borrowed these from Sally Jessy Raphael.)
A tendency toward nerdy intelligence that needed to be downplayed? (Don’t mind me. I majored in “Know-It-All” with a minor in “Well, Actually….”)
An unlady-like appetite? (I’ll eat whatever doesn’t eat me first.)
Unmarried? (That’s me! Terminally single!)
No kids? (No, I love babies! I just can’t eat a whole one.)
My daily affirmations were:
Tear yourself down before someone else has the chance. Own the narrative.
Never let them see you sweat.
I saw myself as deeply, painfully flawed.
But maybe I could change. If I just tried hard enough. If I ate the right food, read the right books, wore the right clothes.
For decades, I tried to mold myself into someone new, some different, someone better. I imagined myself as a real-life Jamie Sommers, but without having to break every bone in my body to get there. Or, at least, I’d save that as a last resort.
In my 20s, it was starvation diets and all the culture I could afford.
Which, as it turns out, wasn’t much more than going to the movies 3-4 nights a week. I sat through Polish independent films, brutal WW2 dramas, and big-budget Oscar contenders. If I wasn’t at the movies, I was at home trying to play catch up by renting stacks of VHS tapes from the local Gen-X video shop.
That blazer was on point, tho.
What I really wanted to do was watch Must-See TV. But, that was “junk food” and to be done only in secret, in the dark.
Tony Danza! Brooke Shields! ER was LIVE!
In my 30s, it was travel and career.
I lived abroad twice and became an expert in managing global accounts. I racked up so many international trips that I had to get pages added to my passport. And I was able to fly myself roundtrip to South Africa on miles. I worked 80 hours a week and survived on booze and butter. And whatever you put butter on. Flight attendants remembered me. My career took off and my bank account along with it.
What I really wanted to do was hang out with my family and friends. But they were often thousands of miles away so, with the exception of few well-traveled friends who would pass through town, I was usually alone and lonely.
Oktoberfest! ca 2007
Barreling into my 40s, it was workouts, clean eating, and “personal development.”
My parents were both gone and I was drowning in grief. I went to Tony Robbins events, got into meditation, hired a coach, wrote down goals. I became a blonde and briefly tried that on as a personality.
Trying to look both disinterested and available at the same time. Plus, booze.
What I really wanted to do was find a partner, settle down, maybe get married. But, I never felt changed enough. Never felt finished. I focused on inappropriate and unavailable men who hurt and disappointed me. Which made it really easy to decide that I couldn’t really trust anyone.
It would be easy for me to say that only the challenges and pain of the last decades changed me. But like the self-deprecating jokes, that wouldn’t be entirely true. There was a lot of joy and wonder along the way, too.
I’ve become well-read and well-traveled. Open to understanding other people and their experiences. I’ve stretched myself beyond almost every boundary and comfort zone I can imagine. I've embraced my creative life and am living it the best way I can. And I’ve learned that the way I speak to myself is just as important and the way I speak to others.
The biggest change is that I've started to understand myself more. What I want, what I need, and how to care for myself in the best way.
And, on most days, I’m able to accept myself exactly as I am.