“”Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s looking for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.”—“Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”

Over the past year or two, one of the things I’ve struggled with the most in my life is the balance between establishing something resembling “security” in my life, while also feeling the freedom to be myself, and express myself and create myself freely. It’s odd, because I’ve never been one of those people who had to go looking to “find myself”. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, journeyed down a number of different paths, but I’ve always had this fundamental understanding of who I am. (I think it’s why my Meyers-Briggs and similar personality tests have remained almost identical over a period of nearly 12 years, while most of my friends’ have altered with their lifestyle changes and personal growth.) No matter where I am, what life I’ve chosen to live, what I choose to do with my time, who I choose to surround myself with, I’m largely the same person. I’m more than a little quirky, creative, colourful, insecure, snarky, outgoing with a definite need to escape into my own little world sometimes, a little demanding and outspoken at times, a little withdrawn and inaccessible at others, divisive and intimidating for reasons I’ve never understood, stubborn, charismatic, energetic, intelligent, quick-witted, funny on occasion, unconventional, naturally attractive to some and naturally repellent to others. I sense things about other people and situations that others don’t always see. Sometimes I see too much about others for my own good, or for theirs. I am an observer of human nature, inspired by the dark and idealistic alike, and have dreams and visions that are so vivid they seem a part of my reality. I’m extraordinarily passionate about everything except the daily, mundane, repetitive stuff I’d love to be passionate about. I’m not like everyone else, and I’m long past the point in my life where that makes me feel badly about myself, though I’d be lying if I didn’t say I often saw people who represent my vision of conformity and the road usually traveled and wonder if I’d be happier and life would have been easier if I’d only been born that kind of person.

Interestingly enough, another thing I’ve always been for people in my life is a muse. I don’t know why; I’m with myself all the time, and I don’t find myself particularly intriguing or inspiring. I’m not the smartest or the most beautiful or the most interesting or the most assertive person in the world. Although I’m different, I’m also fairly low-key and ordinary in many ways. Yet, a lifetime of surrounding myself with artists and intellectuals and unconventional people has taught me that others see something in myself that I do not.

Over the years, I’ve been the subject of short stories and poems, posed for sketches, and had my portrait painted. I’ve been, although to a minor extent, immortalised in book form (for which I’ll always be eternally flattered.) I’ve starred in a number of different plays, musicals, operas, put on a one-woman show, and learned that every director I’ve ever met has looked at me and seen a different person. I’ve worked with artistic photographers and appeared in exhibitions. I’ve had a number of people tell me I inspire them to live, love, grow, and create. I’ve had some friendships and love affairs with people whose names you might recognise, although there’s not that much recognisable about me.

On one hand, it’s very flattering. On the other hand, it’s a great burden, being the thing that inspires someone else. I’ve had too many relationships end because someone fell in love with the girl who was going to help them break out of their shell and see a wider, brighter world, only to abandon that girl when the mission was accomplished (and marry or move in with the next girl in their life, one who was inevitably much more focused, much less flighty, but much less passionate about life.) I’ve discussed this story before, in my entry about the role of manic pixies in real life, so this is not a story about that.

Neither is this a post about “You should like my stories; I am awesome.” In fact, it’s a reflection from a girl who has learned that stability has come at a price. While I’ve been busy over the last two years or so struggling for “independence”, “respectability”, and “stability”, all things I’ve told adults need and qualities I naturally seem to lack, I’ve put many of the things that make me who I am on the back burner. My self-confidence and self-image has suffered greatly, from the emotional toll of trying to figure out what I need from my life, and wondering why people often judge and disapprove of me, to the physical trauma and side effects from illness that have affected me mentally, physically, emotionally. I don’t have the energy I once did, and never anticipated living without. The 25 pounds that got added to my body left me looking at a person I don’t love, a person who doesn’t care to flaunt herself, a person who isn’t always flirtatious or interesting to others, a person who no longer wants to be photographed or put on stage or be the centre of attention. In my mind, I no longer have it in me to inspire anyone, including myself…and I can’t help but think that’s a great loss. In reality, I’m still finding I occupy space in the world where I encounter men and women who idealise me, are curious about me, are enamoured of me, want to know me better because I bring out some creative and imaginative spirit. Apparently, a muse does not have to be in good spirits, young, beautiful, or easy to get along with, something which fascinates me. What is it about people that “inspires” certain other people?

Recently, I was having drinks with a friend of mine, and he said he didn’t know why others found him inspiring. In fact, he felt soul-baringly self-conscious about the idea, as if there were this fear that at some point, everyone would see he was just a scared, ordinary guy, and he’d be accused of being a fraud, a poseur. Really, when it came down to it, he didn’t see anything inspiring about himself at all. I’m not sure he even is at a point in his life where he knows who he is, or if he likes himself.

However, when I look at him, I see someone extraordinarily inspiring. He’s a person who once weighed over 650 pounds, and 2 years later, has lost over half of that. He’s been so inspiring to other people that, after finishing a tough obstacle-course type race here in Atlanta, he received an offer to spend the next 6 months training for a marathon. Not only that, he’s going to have the right kind of people to get him in shape, and help him reach his goal weight.

You see it on TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” all the time (transformations that are not always the healthiest), but to know someone with the sheer amount of willpower he has, someone who not only knows what he wants to do, but has the fortitude to battle against obstacles to get there, that’s true inspiration. When I felt too dizzy to be able to go outside and walk for five minutes without having a panic attack or worrying I’d have a heart attack, thinking about all he’d conquered gave me the strength to keep going, little by little. I’m a naturally impatient person, so accepting what I wanted was never going to happen overnight was the hardest part, but accepting that it wouldn’t happen at all if I didn’t start taking those little steps was what kept me getting out of bed on days it didn’t seem worth it to do so.

I’m telling this story today because my friend is leaving for his 6 months of training today, and although I haven’t known him for that long or gotten to know him as well as I’d have liked to, the few serious and thought-provoking and downright funny conversations we’ve had have made me an instant fan. He’s been nothing but supportive of me in the time I’ve known him, but in that honest, “It’s not really my job in life to flatter you and you can handle some constructive criticism” way that I need, but can only accept from certain people without being too emotionally impacted. There’s no doubt about it, I’ll truly miss him, and have no doubt he’ll be out there accomplishing everything he puts his mind to for the next six months.

People never really know when they inspire others, and when they discover that they do, the reaction to that is usually one of feeling flattered, mixed with “Why on Earth would you think anything special about *me*?”. For much of my life, I’ve felt a bit like the creative and often romantic “inspiration” I’ve evoked from certain others in my path has been unwarranted; the work of overly idealistic people who look at another overly idealistic person, and grow attached to a reality that isn’t there. I’ve always felt the need to shake people and say “Don’t you see there’s nothing special about me? I just pretend because you can’t go through life letting the world know that.”

Yet, what I’ve come to realise is that, like my friend, my own lack of self-confidence and skewed perception about the power I have to affect other human beings in this world, has kept me from seeing things that other people see in me….and those things have little to do with whether or not I’m in a positive mood, whether or not my body is in ideal shape, whether or not I feel like putting the effort into being charming or I end up being just downright impossible. I don’t know what people see in me, what inspires them…but I also know the people in my life probably have no idea, as an artist, who or what inspires me.

For years, I’ve kept a series of poems called “Intrigue”. It is not, as you might imagine, a recounting of all my various flings and fascinations and relationships. It is a collection of emotionally-based sketches, people who were able to evoke a response from me that inspired me. There are friends, lovers, acquaintances, enemies, people I no longer know, even people I’ve never met, detailed in these poems. There are people with whom I’ve spent years of my life, yet never wrote an “Intrigue” about.

Recently, a friend of mine who is a writer and all-around creative individual urged me to collect these, to turn all my “Intrigue” poems (and subsequent spin-offs) into a small volume of poetry. It likely wouldn’t be more than 30 pages, and few of the poems are any good; they’re merely emotional sketches. When I told her this, she repeated her encouragement for the project.

I again asked why, and she said “Maybe I just want to know what really moves you, what makes you tick. And if I do, so do more than a handful of others.” (I decided that, in my free time, I’d work on this and perhaps end up sharing with a handful of people who like reading my stuff.)

Everyone is inspired by someone, in some way…and in return, everyone inevitably inspires someone else.

I suppose it’s the circle of artistic—and emotional—life.

And I hope my friend remembers that when he’s missing home a bit, and off changing his life for the better..there’s simply no shortage to the amount of inspiration you can offer, even to your friends and family back home.

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