On Turning 36
I shaved my beard today -- well trimmed, let's not get ahead of ourselves -- but I did not pluck any new grey hairs from it. I don't promise that I never will. But I let them stay today because I've earned every single one of them. They are my stress, my maturity, my desire, my pain, my growth, my death, my reality.
There is a monkey brain that lives inside of each of us. It tells us that what we think, who we are, what we want is not good enough. It only hears and sees and speaks evil to human trying to evolve from it. I am frequently controlled by my monkey brain -- when I sit down to write an email to a potential booker, when I think to post to social media, when I try to break from the patterns that keep me comfortable but set my ceiling barely above my frame. Doesn't it feel like you're getting a little old for that?
How long does it take to establish a pattern? Is it doing the same thing three times in a row? Four? More? Well if it's three, then my pattern is to completely lose my existential shit on my birthday. Two years ago I was performing at a club in Sacramento, sharing the performer's condo with a couple very much in love, while watching the Clinton/Trump presidential race on Fox News and muffling ugly cry sobs into a pillow that, now that I think about it, may or may not have been washed since the last comic used it. Last year I'd just released my comedy album, Insert Token, but I was so broke and broken in my relationship that I really couldn't enjoy the fruits of nearly ten years of labor. Not having the funds to promote your own life's blood and keeping a smiling face for all the people who assume that everything is going well is, um, tough. This year I am in a much better place financially and in my relationship. I've accomplished some important career milestones. I've gained a lot of clarity about who I am and what I want. But as my big day approached, I found myself alternating between wanting to cry and wanting to fight constantly. I thought about all the things that could've happened this year, all the opportunities that almost broke my way, all the people that were almost able to open a door for me. I thought about all the ways that I fucked up, choosing any number of distractions over hard work. I thought of all the crappy things that have happened to me this year, of how precious it is to be healthy especially when one doesn't know when he might be again. I thought of all the things that I identified as wanting in my life in the light of evidence of all the things that I spend more time dedicating my life to (sorry Judge Judy...I'm going to need to break our procrasturbatory love affair). Those thoughts weighed me down like extra-rich birthday cake before summer body season. And so I lost my existential shit again. Patterns, like rules, are made to be broken.
I don't love myself enough. That's not a cry for sympathy; it is the first step to being better. It is a realization that comes with age and experience in dealing with me. There are a lot of people who try to love me and probably even more than that who want to help and/or make money with me. But my love for self has to be more powerful than their love for me. Did RuPaul not tell you already? "If you can't love yourself how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?" (Amen). It's the only thing that sustains when happiness fades, highs crash, and the spotlight darkens. I don't love myself enough because I don't practice loving myself enough. It is not a given; it's a routine. Self-love is a daily exercise that requires focus and attention. It requires that I forgive myself intentionally enough until it becomes second nature to not fear the risk of making a mistake. It requires that I give myself permission to fail, but also hold myself accountable for putting my best effort forth. It requires that I look in the mirror and not judge my worth based on my BMI or how the pants I had tailored three years ago fit. It requires that I don't allow sickness or jealousy or distraction or convenience dictate my actions. It requires that I show up for myself every single day, irrespective of how I feel. Love is not a feeling. It is a choice.
Do not fear success. Fear being comfortable with failure. Fear being comfortable having given it the "old college try." Fear accepting "no" for an answer. Fear waking up to attend a retirement party for a job you never wanted. Fear being an inspiration to others more than an aspiration to self. Fear complacency. Fear irrelevance. Fear bungee jumping and skydiving. Fear the day that race relations in America reach the point where your white friends have to make a choice. Fear having to change your own tire in the middle of nowhere and not having enough Verizon signal to find a how-to video. Fear being the middle section of a human centipede. Fear fear itself. But, now that you're most officially a grown ass man, Julian, do not fear success.