I’m sure you are a very positive, confident person who never gets down on yourself or feels like a loser. Well, I’m not. I admit it. I come from a pretty success-oriented family and, if interviewed, they would probably smile and say they’re proud of me…but they’d be telling a half-truth…because they love me.
Their disappointment – and my many friends who have catapulted past me in this entertainment race we all started together – has continued to drive me. I’ve chalked it up to having always been a late-bloomer: Boobs, not until ninth grade. First kiss, not until summer before tenth grade (probably ’cause I didn’t have boobs). Interest in reading, 1998. Exercise, three years ago. Understanding how to calculate tips, five months ago. In looking back at these minor accomplishments, I think they took such a long time because of fear. Um, wouldn’t YOU be terrified of your chest skin having to stretch into bags?!
I turned 36 years old one month ago (there you go, person who has googled “emily volman’s age” nine times). On that day, I ran my first half-marathon. The day before that race, I ran a short 5 miles in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. I didn’t really know where I was going in that park, and I was afraid. Was I allowed to run here? Is this path for horses? Will they trample me? Are rapists hanging out behind bushes? Will a car randomly jump the drainage ditch between the freeway and the golf course and kill me? That run was exhausting and I don’t mean on my legs.
To make matters worse, I saw a very old sign along part of my path. I could barely read it, it was that old. It said “NO RUNNERS BEYOND THIS POINT.” Oh, shit!! I knew it!! I looked around and there was no one in sight. I’m totally going to get yelled at! Or tased by a Park Ranger! Or…yelled at!
I then looked at the sign again. It really said “NO R N RS BEY D THI PO N T.” I looked around again. There was a lady running not more than 100 yards in front of me…long past the sign. My heart was pounding at the rhythm of my feet, my adrenaline was coursing through wherever adrenaline courses and my emotions were high. That is my excuse for this next part.
I stopped dead in my tracks. I was so pissed at myself. For the last 36 years on this planet I have followed the rules because I’ve been SCARED! And 9 times out of 10, I have been scared of getting yelled at! What a waste. I totally know how to yell back (ask my husband)! So at that moment, I charged through the bushes (penis-wielding violators be damned!) and kicked the post holding the sign. It really hurt. Toe throbbing, I loudly proclaimed to the two Asian golfers on the other side of the safety net, “For the rest of my life, I vow to FUCK THE SIGN!”
Since then, amazing things have been happening. I won’t go into details, but I will tell you that it does not involve golf balls. Instead my new outlook has shined a light on new and old faces and opportunities, which has inspired me to say “fuck you” to other success-sucks…..like age.
You’ve always heard that “age is just a number.” But unless you’re that facebook punkass, I know you’re thinking you haven’t done all you could have by now in your life. Yeah, me too. In the book The Rhythm of Life; Living Everyday With Passion and Purpose, author Matthew Kelly sites various people who didn’t really achieve their greatest accomplishment until later in life. Between that list and the interwebs, I compiled a quick list for you to reference when you’re feeling like a big fat failure:
• Julia Child – Being a government spy until she was 36 seems cool to me, but as she wrote to her sister-in-law, “To think it has taken me 40 years to find my true passion [in cooking],” I guess it wasn’t.
• Peter Mark Roget – Actually, Roget had done some cool scientific shit long before he was 70 years old, but it wasn’t until he was forced to retire at that age that he focused on what he really wanted to do: make a book listing similar words in classifications. He got his first thesaurus published when he was 73.
• Ray Kroc – Maybe you don’t know his name, but he was a 52 year old milkshake mixer salesman whose best customers were two brothers that owned a few hamburger restaurants. Kroc liked how fast and cheap these brothers served people and he suggested that they franchise on a national level. The brothers were too scared to do that, so Kroc said ” fuck the sign”…and, 9 years later, created a whole new sign: “McDonald’s – More Than a Billion Sold.”
• Colonel Sanders – Speaking of fast food empires, Harland Sanders didn’t start cooking chicken until he was 40 and didn’t franchise KFC until he was 65.
• Rodney Dangerfield – He started doing stand-up in his teens, but not having any luck, he quit. He could have been the most famous acrobatic diver in the world, but there’s no respect in that! He finally got back into stand-up at age 40.
• Andrea Bocelli – The dude’s blind!, so you’d think being a lawyer would make him feel complete. Nope. He liked his “fun” job as a piano bar singer much more, but he didn’t catch a break with that until he was 34.
How about these people? No one recognized them until they were dead.
• Vincent van Gogh – 2,000 pieces of art, but rarely seen until the end of his life. In 1990, his “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” sold for $82.5 million and is now valued at $134 million.
• Emily Dickinson – Infamously recluse caused by a romantic breakup, Emily wrote poetry that hardly anyone saw. Only 7 poems were published while she was alive, and those were highly edited.
• Edgar Allen Poe – He sold The Raven for $9 during his life. He published other works but was either paid nothing or very little…and certainly didn’t get famous from it. He died at the age of forty, moving from town to town to avoid staying out of legal trouble from debt and drinking.
That might not seem inspirational, but at least you’re alive…and not homeless (or if you are, at least you get internet access at the library you’re currently in)…
• Halle Berry was 21 and living in a homeless shelter while trying to make it as an actor/model in NYC.
• William Shatner had just wrapped the Star Trek series, so it seems surprising that he had to live in a truck camper with his dog. Divorce’ll do that to ya.
• David Letterman, Jim Carrey and Jewel…we all know they were once car sleepers waiting to be discovered.
I was also going to list famous people who married their cousins, but I would like to go eat lunch. Neither of which has anything to do with anything.
So what’s the point of this blog, you ask? At this point, I have no idea, and I really don’t have the patience to be your personal Deepak Chopra, okay. But if you remember anything, let it be “fuck the sign!” Use common sense, of course, but run on whatever path you’d like! You’ll eventually finish and feel really good about your accomplishment; regardless of recognition. And if you’re truly lucky, someone will yell at you along the way! Start thinking of a response now.
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