When It’s Time to Step Out On Stage

It is not a prerequisite of a meaningful purpose to have a history of bad experiences- only a future of good ones.

You know when something happens in your life that is so profound, so mind-altering, path-changing, that every thing else that used to scare you, hold you back, weigh you down or keep you planted to the earth just fades away into the background of an old life you no longer recognize?

Last night while watching America’s Got Talent a wounded soldier named Sal Gonzalez auditioned. He looked like a pretty regular guy, early thirties I guessed, around the same age as I, with such a tangible positive attitude it nearly radiated through the screen. He seemed so relaxed, so comfortable up there by himself in his jeans and t-shirt and overall unpolished look. I felt like one of us should be nervous for him. He appeared totally at ease, so much so that I found his absence of nerves and happy go lucky demeanor captivating. He was pretty good looking sure, in a regular joe sort of way. Nothing spectacular, not trying too hard, but yet spectacular at the same time because his face glowed with a smile that said “I’m me, and I’m just happy to be standing here.”

This regular guy had caught my full attention and won me over– before he’d even opened his mouth to sing. And then he lifted his pant leg to reveal a prosthetic and let us all in on the fact that he is much more than just a confident easy-going regular joe. The producers proceeded to show a one minute clip of his war story and the tragedy that resulted in him arriving to that stage ten years later as an amputee; a true wounded warrior with the best attitude and biggest smile I had quite possibly ever seen. I sat glued now, crossing my fingers that his voice would match his radiant personality.

It did. He delivered. He had nothing to prove except to show off his pure joy for life to the world. He was the “whole package.” A normal looking guy who exuded such a confidence in his love for being himself and a comfortableness about himself, imperfections, scars and all, that the entire audience and everyone watching from home couldn’t help but return the love he was giving out by smiling right back and hoping with every ounce of love we had that he had the talent to make it. No shame, no bitterness, nothing hidden or held back- it was a really beautiful thing to witness.

The lesson I received? Do something that you really, really love. No excuses.

Not the first thing you love, unless that’s the thing that makes your heart skip even now at the thought of it. Do what you come back to loving, even after circumstance, time or hardship has tried to make you forget that you loved it. If you truly love it, then the talent, ability, opportunity will be there to back up what you are willing to love openly and diligently, despite all the reasons for it not to.

I believe our mindset is our most powerful weapon. It can either tell us we should be scared and hide, or we should be brave and conquer. Life has thrown some enormous roadblocks in my path the past couple of years, but so what? People I once loved and trusted have hurt me and hurt the people I love and couldn’t protect. I’ve been betrayed in unspeakable ways. Life has shown me it can be cruel. I’ve spent a lot of time being brave, being strong, being sad for my circumstances. Being jaded by this sometimes immensely unfair life. I have had moments along my journey where I forgot what I love, feel that I no longer deserve it, can no longer handle it, or should no longer want it. It’s as if the hardening scars had consumed my heart so that all it was capable of doing now was beating- slowly and steadily as it was created to do, but without its true purpose.

The truth is, life doesn’t get to make these choices for me- I do. If that wounded warrior can stand there on a stage in front of thousands of people staring at him exposed, and millions more at home, being proud of who he is and show real joy for simply still standing, and for the gift of being alive, then surely I can too. Any of us can.

My scars, while not as visible as that warrior’s are, have amputated a piece of me all the same. My gift to myself is that I am still here, standing. And that is also my gift to the world. I am stronger in spirit than I have ever been before, and I deserve to do what I love. That is the real power; believing in yourself and that you deserve what you love no matter the roadblocks that have kept you from it or thrown you off course and left you scarred or weary. Get back up. It’s only your mindset that is keeping you there on the ground, and only your mindset that will lift you to any height you can imagine.

Circumstances will never hold any power over your life once you believe that. I write things now for you and for me to draw power from this inner girl who used to genuinely love life. Who used to be so naive with hope and so full of joy for being alive that she thought her words and her determination would take her anywhere. Somewhere along the way, life taught her to be afraid, to be bitter. to doubt what she loved and love in general. To expect that good things don’t happen to hearts that are scarred over. Shame on me for listening to anyone but that little girl within. She knew what she loved and she knows still. Life is hers for the taking because she is still standing. That is a beautiful thing.

Never sit around waiting for your ship to come in.

Go out and gather every board, branch, stick, twig and splinter that crosses your path and build yourself a raft so strong and capable, that when you push off the shoreline in search of that ship, you realize it found you instead.

Does it really matter if that warrior wins a talent show and gets his big break? Of course not. He’a already won.

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