But I’m Completely Unprepared! — Fear of Success

But I'm Completely Unprepared

So I had this dream...

I was walking around at a local convention. I'm going to assume it was a sci-fi convention of some variety because I was headed to a panel that was something about storytelling, and the book I had in hand was my first fantasy novel Vision Walker. I arrived out of breath because three hallways ago I suddenly realized I was on the panel. So were my mom and dad. I didn't know until that moment that I was a guest at the convention. I had no idea that my mom and dad were there and I could not have told you why they were on the panel with me. Apparently the convention staff at the door didn't know either.

Now, this being one of those dreams that is sooooo vivid you wake up trying to fill in the blanks, I would venture to guess that dad was there to discuss storytelling in classic comics and/or the history thereof — he could totally ace that topic! But I digress.

Anyway, when i mentioned to the people at the door who I was, they said, "Oh, thank God you're here!" But they had no idea who I was or why I'd been selected for the panel, except there had been some kind of mixup of lists and would I be willing to be on the panel anyway?

"I guess so," I replied, "but I'm not qualified to speak on this subject."

I don't recall their exact words, but the gist was that they had someone coming who'd cover the history part and I'd be fine. I looked in the door, down the space to the panel platform. Holy cow there were a lot of people in that room! And they seemed to be expecting me... yikes!

Dad saw me and waved, then said something to mom, probably that I was there. She started telling him over and over how I couldn't get to the stage from the front and I'd have to go out and around to the back of the building. Dad (in typical Dad-fashion) just kind of ignored her while he and another unnamed panelist moved a screen to the side of the stage so I could come straight up onto the platform. At which point I woke up.

My first thought... well, my very first thought was WTF? But the first thought after that was "I am totally unprepared for success while taking care of my aging parents." The thought terrified me. Not the aging parents part — that is what it is. No, what terrifies me is the success part. Aging parents in or out of the picture, I feel totally unprepared for success. Period. The idea of success scares the hell out of me.

A while back, a dear friend of mine told me I could already be on Oprah if I just... Funny how I don't remember the rest of that sentence. I expect it had to do with faith and confidence. Waking up from this dream, I thought of that. Lying there in the dark at one in the morning, I could just envision what being on Oprah would be like. Just like being on that panel with no idea what to say. Only about a thousand times worse.

I mean, can't you see it? There I am on Oprah and the only things I can see myself saying are things like, "I have no idea what I'm doing here!" or "I really don't see why you wanted me on your show" (more about that later) or, best yet, "Hey, I'm in weight watchers too! Only I got there before you." Could I possibly sound any stupider?

"What would I say?" alternating with "why would I even be there?" over and over and I sense that I'm trying to tell myself something important. So, ok, I'll play along. Why might I be there? In my dream I was carrying my book at the panel, so maybe that's why. Let's pretend...

"Ashley," says the ever-poised Oprah, "tell us about your book..." And me, "Well, there's this King, and she's a woman... and there's one of her guards... and she's a woman too..." Off to a great start, right? So now I'm lying in the dark having a panic attack.

At this point, part of me says, "Oh, for God's sake — get over yourself! Why would you ever be on Oprah anyway? Go back to sleep!"

Then there's this little, stubborn, stamps-her-feet-hands-on-hips voice that says, "Well, why couldn't I be? I'm a writer, an artist, a photographer, a santera, an espiritista. One or a combination of any of those things could thrust me into the limelight one of these days. I'm unique, I'm interesting. Why not? I want to be successful, don't I?"

Don't I?

Well, yeah, but...

And that's when it hits me, sleep deprived though I may be, I suddenly realize — there really isn't room for "yeah, but..." I want to be successful or I don't. That's it. If I don't, then ok. Go back to sleep — literally and figuratively. If I do, then I'd better define what that really means for me and embrace it.

I'm not saying that being on Oprah equals success (though who am I kidding? It would sure beat a poke in the eye!) But as someone who wants to prosper by my creative works, public exposure, recognition, and appreciation are certainly part of the equation. And as far as I'm concerned, so is handling success with grace and poise. Modesty has a place, self-denigration does not. (more on that later, too)

The dream was so rife with symbolism that I can probably get several more posts out of it as I reflect on it further. But my immediate take-away was this (and it's certainly easier said than done)...

I cannot achieve true success unless and until I can speak about myself, my talents, and my work confidently (not boastfully), honestly, openly, and with clarity. So I guess I'd better get cracking. That is, of course, if I want to be successful.

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