When I was little and someone would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always answer, “A star.” I didn’t know if I would be a dancer or singer or actress or genuine triple-threat, but I just knew that I would be recognized and acclaimed for the innate talent I certainly possessed. As I grew older, the answer changed over time to writer, lawyer, or journalist. I would instead use my empathy and intelligence to protect and educate and inspire others so we could all change the world together.
Then, somehow, something broke.
I could no longer see a limitless future with endless possibilities and every opportunity. Slowly, and then all at once, I stopped seeing myself as an asset to the world and instead became a burden. Talented? Pfft. Nope. Time to put away those childish delusions. Change the world? How could I change the world when I couldn’t get out of the house? Or even out of bed? Why can’t I get out of bed? What is so frakking hard about getting out of bed? Everybody does that. See them? That person? They lost a limb and they can do it. That one over there? They lost their family and they can do it. Those others? They have anxiety and depression too, but they can live and work and even create beautiful things while they are suffering and all of that? Out of bed. How dare I even imagine or hope or dream when my life is reduced to the size of a queen-sized mattress?
There have been ups and downs, some long past and others documented here. (Some are still happening even now, as I’m writing this, gathering the courage to press publish when I’m unsure how much of this matters or helps or even makes sense to anyone but me.) There are weeks and months of feeling pretty good, of moving forward with my life, and of planning for the future. Then there are other weeks and months when everything becomes grey and dull and dim and tasteless again. (To paraphrase Mr. Incredible, “Why can’t I just stay saved?!?”) The problem is that even when I am feeling “better,” when I am not suicidal and when I can ignore some of the constantly churning self-hatred in my head, I still can’t quite answer the question of what I want to be. (Since I am, unfortunately, most definitely, already grown up.)
I want to be someone who shows empathy and care for other people, but also for myself. I want to be courageous and brave without being reckless. I want to be calm and logical and still be the kind of person who believes in magic and dreams. I want marvel at everything from space and time to the iridescent rainbow reflected on a soap bubble. I just don’t quite know how.
That video electrifies me. It gives me goosebumps and makes me cry and gives me back that feeling of being able to do anything, to be anything, including myself. Part of it is just the song; those guys certainly know how to write an uplifting anthem. (See also: “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen) The other part is the emotion of Keala Settle and the way she creates emotions and energy in the rest of the room and then the whole thing just becomes magic. I adored the song in the film, but this particular version is transcendent. I have listened to it at least five times per day in the last week and, if anything, that is a low estimate.
That is what I want to be. Brave. Bruised. Not scared. No apologies. Just me.