If I Had a Diary, It Would Say This

by Kenneth Rayman on July 24, 2019
How did Anthony Bourdain become “Anthony Bourdain”? Josh Gates become “Josh Gates”? And more recently, with his new show traveling the world eating food, Gordon Ramsey become “Gordon Ramsey”? Whenever I get caught up with these questions, I take a minute to reground myself. Comparison is natural but it doesn’t serve us. Whenever I start to compare myself, I must remind myself that their journey is unique to them even if I’m always left to wonder how they caught their big break. I think about Gary Vaynerchuk’s quote, “Everybody looks at Lebron today, Steph Curry today…” as if overnight success is a thing, instead of hours, months, and years working on a craft, and what we would term as sacrifice of fun for talent. Anthony Bourdain was a chef for two decades before his first book was even written; the book helped launch what we know of him today, but he had a story before that. I remind myself that my dreams of traveling the world as a voice like Bourdain or Gates, will take time, energy, devotion, and most importantly, forward thinking instead of “glancing from side to side” wondering what they did to catch their break or what they’re doing to enhance their image.

The same can be said for how I live my life when I’m not traveling and giving voice to the heart. My “mirror” Teya (read my article “Purpose: Living With It and Finding It” to understand the reference) posted a story recently about living a life different from others and the tendency to compare ourselves. While she shared something specific to disability, I’ve had to learn the lesson both in disability and outside of it. We both have fought comparing ourselves to “healthy” or “normal” all our lives and, while social media can exacerbate it, with it and personal growth we’ve seen how to change the image in our own way. We were only caught up in the highlight reel that is a by-product of the medium. With social media’s nature, being selective on what gets put out, the outside world gets a skewed highlight reel back of us, just as we do them. We choose to be complainers or live our best life and document it.

Recently I had a moment of scarcity when I thought of what my two years as a “starving” writer looks like to the person working full time traditionally. They might view me as I view them, through a highlight reel not showing the hours I spend on ideas, researching, watching content to educate myself, a few days of writing, followed by several hours editing. While theirs shows someone, who can work full time while not having their muscles tire out mere hours into the day, and who lives a life with friends, activities, and social support while having no problems with money or relationships. NEWSFLASH! It’s all bullshit! I’ve been burned a least twice by this assumption, finding out that there’s always something behind the door that someone is dealing with.

I, myself, have gotten reminders while traveling about the reality of the world, such as Poland currently dealing with a very nationalistic sentiment, Norway being more conservative domestically then they appear at large, and the UK dealing with very divisive domestic policy. I must remind myself that we are all, collectively or individually, dealing with something whether we see it or not. Teya’s shared story by an account called “Chronically Cheerful” said, “It’s ok to live a life others do not understand.” The message was intended to help people like myself, Teya, Victoria, Derek, and Mairead know that our lives were no less important, complex, or normal than another’s, just that we require ingenuity in daily life that doesn’t conform to convention. I resisted this fact for longer than I should have and when finally, half-heartedly accepting that fact, I declined public assistance I was due because of the label that “society and the system” would place on me. Even though I could prove my writing was “doing something,” bucking the image of public social support recipients, I still wanted to assert control over what I couldn’t, and it took me off my path even if just mentally. I, at times, wonder if I’m going to have to move back to Indiana to be near family and leave the life I’ve built in Washington. I wonder about the what ifs, whether accepting my limitations, pursuing writing sooner, would have helped but that’s like wishing I’d seen my professional issues sooner to realize I have the uncontainable desire control of my own situation. I needed the wake-up call of my EDS diagnosis to show me how fragile life really is and that my professional “dreams” were not mine, having a talent that is wider than what can fit in a list of “roles and responsibilities.”

It’s like Gary says, “All that looking back is messing with your neck.” Thinking forward is the only way I get my book done, my speech recorded in front of an audience, my next trip booked, and my next pitch heard. My mode of living is by necessity and, finally, by design of what I need and want. No amount of prior planning can have changed that or made life any easier, because we all deal with something. If I look beside me on this path, I’ll see nothing as those I’m following, while miles ahead of me, are not straight in front but at different spots all over “the track” with hurdles of their own in front of them.

I feel I write a little often about this, but as my friend Jason Goldberg said recently, “I’m saying it here until I forget and have to say it again,” recognizing a nudge of his own when following “convention,” which took him away from his values. I write this to remind myself and others that we are ok the way we are with our own journeys, which no two will be alike. I write to say that the image of whatever “moniker” you find yourself metaphorically under only defines you if you let it. Stop thinking that you need to be “someone” before you can say anything, as it is the thing I deal with the most. I remind myself daily that the person who “has it all together” and winning at what I want to do is in reality “a duck on a pond” because right behind the camera there is a personal or business issue they are dealing with that you don’t see. I know this because they’ve either admitted it publicly on stage or privately to me that makes them human again, while they still “appear” ahead of me on the track.