And be who you are.
By Geoffrey Kidwell (actor)
I remember wanting to be the best Hippity Heart. Okay, maybe I didn't want to be the best, but I definitely remember wanting to be better than Jamie and Amber, my two cousins who were older than I was.
Every week, I would throw on my Hippity Hearts t-shirt, red sweatpants and velcro sneakers, and head down to the local gymnasium in Hawthorne, California.
The three of us - Jamie, Amber and I - would meet up at Hippity Hearts - a dance and gymnastics program for kids - and spend an hour tumbling, twirling and twisting.
I was the only boy in class and I loved every moment. Oh, and I was the best in the class.
It made me feel pretty. And I'm not using that word, "pretty," as a substitute for some other word. I mean I actually felt pretty.
It was magical.
From Hippity Hearts, I went on to take ballet, tap and jazz. I played with my Barbie dolls and imagined fabulous scenarios in which I was a star.
And then one day, probably around fourth grade, this kid in my class, Shea Something-Or-Other, asked me, "Why do you always do the girl stuff? You're a boy."
I remember exactly where I was when he asked me. I remember how it felt. I remember feeling ashamed and surprised. Did I, in fact, always do girl stuff?
Hm...I guess I did.
This was the fork in the road moment for me. Turn left and go down the screw you, I'm gonna do what I want path. Turn right and go down the stop right there, everybody's making fun of you path.
Guess which way I turned...
And so, when adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would tell them that I wanted to be a lawyer instead of a figure skater or a dancer or a fabulous star like Whitney Houston. If a young kid like Shea knew that I was acting outside of what was proper, just imagine what the adults were thinking.
I didn't stop performing. People still knew I wanted to be on the stage. But I was always looking over my shoulder, hoping that no one was raising an eyebrow. I figured that people would accept the things that made me different from the other boys as long as they weren't too different. And maybe I realized that I would only accept the things that made me different if they weren't too different.
But the trouble with not embracing your own passions is that it stops you from actually pursuing them. Denying your dreams is a sure-fire way of ensuring that they will never come true.
I did that for a long time and I still do.
Look. I'm not at all where I'd like to be professionally. I'd like to have a Broadway credit to my name. I'd like to not have to wait tables in order to pay my rent. I'd like to be the sort of artist he leaps before he looks - the kind of artist who follows his passion with a sense of wonder. Where will this take me?
My life has changed tremendously in the past year and, in some ways, I've opened my mind to the possiblity of real success. But then some mornings, my eyes open and there I am, that little kid feeling ashamed because Shea told him to stop coloring outside the lines.
And you don't have to tell me that the past doesn't exist. I've read, The Power of Now. I know all about the dangers of living one's life with one foot in the past. But I'll be damned if it isn't difficult for me to let it go, to accept the boy I was in order to be the man I am and would like to be.
In a year from today, I don't want to still feel like that scared kid. In one year from today, I want to have found a sense of peace about the past and I want to have a gained a sense of true joy about the future. But most of all, I want to be the sort of guy who wakes up in the morning feeling grateful for all that he has been, all that he is and all that he will be.
I want the same for you. If there's a Shea in your life then thank him for coming but let him know that he is no longer invited to the party. Don't want him. Don't need him.
AND NOW...THE WEEK IN WHITNEY HOUSTON!!!
Here is Miss Houston singing, I Look To You. It's a performance from 2009. The voice is not what it used to be, but there is something so lovely about the performance. She couldn't sing the way she had been singing ten years prior, but she still gives it her all. It's as though she's saying to her audience, "Here's where I stand. Take me or leave me." I love it. Enjoy.