When my daughter was in fourth grade, she sang a solo in her school’s production of Schoolhouse Rock. I was sitting in the auditorium behind two men. A few bars into her rendition of “Elbow Room,” one turned to the other and said, ”I’m guessing this ain’t her first rodeo.”
Of course, I was thrilled to hear this compliment and it was all I could do to keep myself from tapping the guy on the shoulder and gushing about how she takes voice lessons and dreams of being a stage performer.
I share this because this week my daughter and I will head downtown to sign a contract with her first talent agent. As I sat in the waiting room during her recent audition and heard her nail a high note in a song from the opera The Sorcerer, I marveled at how she, at 12, teaches me to aim higher, be braver—and in the words of Theodore Roosevelt by way of Brene Brown, to “dare greatly.”
My daughter has maintained a single-minded focus when it comes to her vision. She says things like, “When I’m performing in a stadium…” or “When I live in New York and sing on Broadway…” She lets her imagination run free. She believes in herself.
So by the time she sang in front of the agents, they too could tell that this wasn’t her first rodeo, either.
Which got me thinking: What are my talents? How far back can I trace them? And in what ways do my experiences count for more than I allow?
If you’re like me, you may not give yourself credit for the bumps and bruises you’ve endured, or the many the times you’ve been knocked down and gotten right back up on that horse. Maybe you don’t want to remember the failures or, worse—believe that you’d be farther along if you’d made different choices.
The interesting thing about a rodeo is that it involves feats most people would never undertake. It’s scary. Participating in one requires an extremely specific skill set (or a huge dose of craziness). Success is measured in split seconds.
I’ve been to a rodeo only once. In my early twenties, I worked for a concession company and had a one-night gig selling beer in the grandstand at a rodeo. I was also working in my first real job as a copywriter and just beginning my first novel. I didn’t think that one night at a rodeo would contribute in any way to my dream of being a writer.
But here it is: 30 years later, showing up on the page.
My point is that I’ve realized something important: everything I do is in service to my dream. Every frightening moment, every detour, every cringe-worthy experience. And every success, shining moment or surprising achievement.
That night at the school assembly, I heard my daughter sing, “The way was opened up for those with bravery.”
Yes, bravery is required.
Life is like a charging bull or a wild horse. It will buck me off. All I can do is embrace the failures and the chaos, make mistakes, be willing to fall on my face in front of others, to show my underbelly, to be less than perfect. I can keep doing what I love; in my case, that’s writing.
And I can thank my daughter for reminding me to dream big. I can remember that, whether I see it or not, there are throngs of people waiting, watching and rooting for me.
And they’re rooting for you, too.