by Jennifer Paros
be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold
your own myth.
other day I was at my desk trying to get myself to start
working. I didn’t feel like doing anything, it seemed, and yet I
also wanted to work. Frustrated and unable to neither crack the
proverbial whip nor walk away, I closed my eyes for a moment in the
hope of releasing myself from this tug-of-war.
mind’s eye, I was back in eighth grade, musing over how good I felt
rehearsing our graduation play (it was a musical) and helping out on
the production. I thought about Sam (name changed for this tell-all
account) – my “co-star,” a fellow eighth grader. Sam was not
comfortable acting and had trouble singing on key. At the time, I
didn’t bother much about Sam’s challenges, though I was
rooting for him and any possible improvement. I wanted it all to
work but more importantly, I just wanted to work. I wanted the
experience of working together on the production and I already had
that experience, regardless of Sam’s performance.
eighth grade I didn’t feel great about who I thought I was. I felt
compelled to hide, striving to conceal what I had determined to be
some ill-defined deficient aspect of me. I wasn’t thrilled about
showing up for life because life seemed to be about feeling bad
about myself. But while in this play, I was engaged in the pleasure
of my new role and work, and the usual story that so colored my days
rarely caught my attention.
the play’s run, we signed each other’s yearbooks and Sam wrote kind
words of thanks to me, expressing gratitude for my patience with him
and his learning curve. While Sam had struggled with his assigned
role, I struggled with the self-made role of “ME”. I fought with
this role every day because it was not one in which I could thrive.
It was too small, too unhappy, and too fearful. But in my mind,
that was who I was. When I was given the opportunity to be an
actress, my spirit had plenty of room – as opposed to the day-to-day
way I had identified myself. For the time we worked on the play, I
was free of my usual thinking - and that’s why I felt good.
I was thirteen, it was easy to have patience for Sam but I did not
have any for me. I believed my disappointment and unhappiness were
about my personal reality, the hand I’d been dealt. But
Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2013
not going to come from awakening one morning with the “right” hair,
doll-like features, and glowing self-confidence (as I believed). It
would come only when I stopped chasing the thought storm of
moody, plain girl. A better role would naturally evolve from
living from the inside out, from who I actually was, rather
than from ideas, judgments, and assessments.
As you begin to pay attention to your own stories . . . you will
enter into the exciting process of becoming, as you should be, the
author of your own life, the creator of your own possibilities.
opened my eyes and left this memory, I returned to my work and
considered whether or not my current idea of “ME” was helping me do
the things I truly want in life. I was aware that the measure of my
happiness depends upon how well this self-made identity allows me
true expression. How small or large, how open or closed, how
expansive the role determines whether I find it hard or easy to play
my authentic part in the world.
day, we get up and begin again. We create anew – whether it’s a
book, picture, relationship, song, class, or business. But when we
create our part so it allows us freedom and authenticity, we create
a role we want to play, that’s easy to play, and with it,
work we want to do because it comes from what we actually are, not
self-image but Self.
beat our own drum, we take our own breath, we embrace our own way,
we live ourselves as free or hampered as our attention allows. It’s
common practice for people to think they’re not good enough, but
thinking not-good-enough ideas about who we are is equal to
writing crummy roles for ourselves. Let’s give ourselves parts that
are good to play and then we’ll want to play – and we can even call
this play our “work”, if we wish.
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Jennifer Paros is a writer,
illustrator, and author of
Violet Bing and the Grand House
(Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.
Please visit her website at