Monday, January 2, 2012

The Nine Lives of Lorie Langdon

Have you ever noticed there are no do-over’s in life?

One of my favorite TV shows in recent years was The Nine Lives of Chloe King. I use past tense because, to my disappointment, the show was canceled after one season. But in case you haven’t seen the show or read the books, the basic concept is that Chloe wakes up on her sixteenth birthday with cat-like superpowers and nine lives.

That’s right, NINE do-overs! And not the lame kind, either. Chloe doesn’t have to fear death. She can take any risk without paying the ultimate price. But even with this superhuman ability, she still has regrets.

Looking back at my high school years, my regrets are vast. But perhaps not on the level of Miss King, who kisses a boy for the first time and inadvertently kills him, or chooses the sorta cute boy with the caterpillar eyebrows over the blonde Adonis with superpowers and a melting British accent. But painful all the same.

Alek or Brian. Was there ever any choice?
 In third grade, I entered the district talent show at my enormous inner-city school. I dressed up like Dorothy and sang my heart out. I won second place. It was the most amazing feeling when the audience jumped to their feet with cheers and applause. The next year, I auditioned for the school production of Annie. But my sweet rendition of Tomorrow couldn’t compete with another little girl with a bigger voice, and everyone in my fourth-grade class made sure I knew it. But I didn’t let that defeat keep me down for long. The next year, I scored the lead in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The summer after my seventh grade year, we moved. And somewhere on that twenty-minute drive from the city to the suburbs, I lost it—my ability to take risks. I worked hard at blending in with the masses, until my sophomore year when I saw an open audition call for The Sound of Music. I’d been singing those songs with my Mom since I could talk, and I’d dreamed of being Liesl almost as long.

For weeks, I practiced Sixteen Going on Seventeen in front of my mirror in anticipation of the big day. I showed up and sat watching the auditions, my confidence sinking a little more with each one. Until I was one of the only people left in the vast auditorium. When the drama teacher made last call and looked me in the eye, I got up and walked out.

I never went to another audition. Even though I was pretty sure I could’ve at least landed a walk-on or chorus part, I couldn’t risk them telling me I wasn’t good enough for a lead role. Like an infectious disease, this new fear of rejection spread to every part of my life, until I became so closed off and fearful that just walking into the school cafeteria gave me heart-palpitations.
Many years later, a frightening illness made me realize our time on this earth is limited and that there are things far worse than a little rejection. So, I put on my big girl panties and jumped into the writing world without a net.

"I don't need easy. I just need possible."
These days, I eat risk for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a double helping of rejection on the side. And instead of walking away, I face my fears head on and let them motivate me to stand up against seemingly impossible odds and never give up. Unlike Chloe King, I’ve only got one life to live, and I’m not going to waste it on fear or regrets.
Now it's your turn:

Are you a risk taker? What would you do differently if you had nine lives?


Melissa Landers said...

Amen! The same was true for me. In fact, I'd wanted to blog about this. The fear of rejection was enough to keep me from trying out for cheerleading and chorus and any team sport where acceptance wasn't guaranteed. Now I look back and think "What a waste of all those opportunities."

Lorie Langdon said...

Mel - I think the only thing we can do to redeem ourselves, is to never let fear keep us from doing something we want to do again! This is going to be my motto going into RT. ;D

Jennifer McGowan said...

Lorie, what a powerful story! I would say my biggest regret is "rightsizing" my dreams to fit the expectations of those around me. I was never one to want too much, aim too high, or be too bold--I had plenty of success, I reasoned. I was healthy and blessed, and not everyone else was. I didn't need to win, if it meant someone else's feelings would get hurt. (and I had plenty of empirical evidence to prove that people's feelings DID get hurt when I won and they didn't).

Good heavens, this annoys me just writing it. I always detested the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus" because what it really was about was Mr. Holland giving UP his dream and replacing it with something else, something everyone else felt was better, more meaningful, more valuable. I think it always upset me so much because I realized how easily I could become Mr. Holland; how easily my dreams could shift to accommodate others' expectations or issues.

Well, phlppbbt to that.

Thank you for such a powerful post to begin the new year!


Lorie Langdon said...

Thanks Jen! And thank you for sharing your regret. As a semi-reformed people pleaser, I can completely relate. I learned early on that playing down my talents/gifts would win more friends. Looking back I see how wrong that was, and how it had a long term effect on my self-esteem.
I’m so happy that now you're living your dreams, unapologetically. :D
You're an inspiration!

CareyCorp said...

What a great post Lorie. It's strange to think about what held us back in h.s. and how far we've come. And I LOVE that quote from Soul Surfer: "I don't need easy. i just need possible."

Keep fighting the good fight!

Lea Nolan said...

Great post, Lorie! It shows how fear can be self-fulling and divide exponentially. The same thing happened to me when I transferred colleges. Before I went to my second college I was brave and fearless, sang in front of crowds and didn't hold my tongue in class. But after I switched schools, I think I didn't feel smart enough to be there, and I was plagued by anxiety attacks. Full on, sweaty palms, racing heart, dry mouth. It took a while but once I got out of school and excelled at my job I got my mojo back. Now, I'm tough and powerful and no one's going to make me feel like I don't deserve to succeed!

Lorie Langdon said...

Carey – Thanks! I read over this post again yesterday when I was struggling to move forward with rewrites and felt a little ashamed of myself. I was reminded that achieving our goals isn’t just about talent and creativity--it’s equal parts inner strength and perseverance. And in our case, unity. ;D

Lorie Langdon said...

Lea – I love that! You are so right. We can be our own worst enemy or champion. :D

Athena Grayson said...

Man, I found Chloe King on Netflix and LOVED IT (also rooted for the awesome Alek, and crushed when I heard it was canceled--ABCFam puts out some good stuff!). I love your attitude, especially after reading that heartbreaking story about losing your nerve at the audition.

The most crushing thing is to see young women nowadays go from girls who can do anything at top speed and head first until they hit puberty and internalize all those horrible messages that tell them they can't.

I'm still a risk-taker, but I've realized some of the biggest risks I've taken--and so have a LOT of women--is living with the unrealistic ideals about our bodies and NOT TAKING CARE OF THEM--whether it's starving yourself or stuffing yourself with unhealthy crap, you're living with risks that even nine lives won't get you out of. So personally, I've let go of my fear of losing potato chips because I'd rather risk having more and better time with my kids and writing stories. ;)

Lorie Langdon said...

Athena – I love this! You’re so right about taking care of ourselves. I was just sitting here debating about going to an exercise class tonight, but you’ve inspired me to get off my duff and go! Thanks for sharing! :-)

PJ Sharon said...

I love this post, Lorie. I wouldn't do anything differently if I had nine lives...unless I could live them all simultaneously. Because there just aren't enough hours in one life to do all the amazing and fun things I'd love to do.

I'm a bit impulsive by nature and have had to work hard to temper that with caution and common sense. All risk and no brains isn't any better than fear and inaction. I'm quite certain I wouldn't be alive today if I hadn't learned that lesson.

Lorie Langdon said...

PJ – It’s great to hear about the other side of the coin. :o) It’s all about that ever elusive balance, weighing the cause and effect of our risk taking. One question I like to ask myself when I’m reluctant to do something is: If I take fear out of the equation, is this something I would want to do? If the answer is yes, then I take that step outside my comfort zone and pray for the best. :D

Sonya said...

Great post! I have a quote hanging by my desk that for me kind of sums up the fear of rejection. It's "If you want to succeed, double your failure rate." Thomas Watson-founder of IBM.


Lorie Langdon said...

Thx Sonya! I'm kind a quote fanatic. I'm adding this one to my bulletin board!

Melissa Landers said...

Oh, and Lorie? I still think the dark-haired guy is cuter.

Jo Ramsey said...

Great post, Lorie! I was taught from an early age that I wasn't good enough, wasn't smart enough, wasn't ever going to accomplish anything (thanks, bullies!), so I never bothered trying. I knew I'd fail.

It took me till I was 31 before I submitted my first thing for publication (a phonics-based reading program that was accepted and is still in use here and there around the US), and four years before I submitted my second. And another four before I started writing and submitting in earnest. Even now, with eight YA and over 20 romance publications under my belt, I'm still afraid every time I hit the send button that I'm going to be rejected. I just stopped letting that fear control me.

Lorie Langdon said...

Jo – Thank you for sharing a piece of your past. I think we all have defeats that could hold us back if we let them, but it’s what we do with those experiences that defines our future. I’m very glad that you didn’t let those bullies keep you down! :o)

Mel – You’ll have to watch Nine lives of Chloe King before you make your final judgment. ;D

Kimberly said...

Fear of rejection can really hold us back. I know there were many things I tried when I was younger because we think we can do it. Now, I hesitate so much. I hate all my hesitation. When it comes to writing, I'm a big scaredy cat. I've only sent out one submission in more than a year, and when that one was a rejection, I quit. I'm trying hard to let 2011 go, and look positively to 2012. Hopefully I can put on MY big girl panties and go out there without fear of rejection...
Thanks for a post that motivated me. Let's just hope it holds. LOL.

Lorie Langdon said...

Aww, Kim. It’s easy to talk a big game, but after I posted this blog, I was hit with some huge waves of doubt. I’m blessed to have two fabulous critique partners, who I trust, that know when to pull me out of the riptide. But ultimately the decision to move forward is up to me.

Just remember, there’s no one else on this earth that can write your stories, and if you don’t get them out there, they will never be heard.
“The woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except those who sang best.” (Not sure who said that, but I love it. :)

CareyCorp said...

Kim - you are a Golden Heart finalist, I believe in you, And I've read your stuff, and it is very good. so much of this industry is luck and perserverence. Fight the good fight - Don't give up!