May 12, 2014

the ariel effect

Such is life, girlfriend.

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the major influence a certain Disney princess has had on my 20s. Belle from Beauty and the Beast dared me to want adventure in the great, wide somewhere. Oh, how I did and do crave that adventure.

If she's my inspiration, than Ariel from The Little Mermaid has been my spirit animal since age 3.

TLM was my movie growing up. I watched it more times than I can remember, and it never lost that magic. I had a mermaid-themed birthday party when I was 4. I named my male stuffed animals and imaginary boyfriends Eric. (I don't even care that he's a character, he's ruined me for men.) I walked around the neighborhood mournfully singing "Part of Your World" (which sometimes turned into a mash-up of "Somewhere Out There," because I didn't have a good grasp on lyrics at this tender age).

It still gets me as an adult. The soundtrack makes regular appearances in my daily musical playlist. The theme music from the end -- which is called "Happy Ending" in case you didn't know -- causes me to instinctively well-up. Every. Single. Time.

I even gave my favorite prince and sea princess shout-outs in my debut novel. In Hard Hats and Doormats TLM is Lexi's go-to comfort movie. Prince Eric is her yard-marker for measuring male perfection, even wishing for a man with a boat. (This may have been a case of art imitating life a little too closely.)

Hey, girl. Wanna hear about my beach-front property and boat?

I love this movie for the fact that it will always remind me of any number of sweet and happy moments from my childhood.

The new, revamped HD version of the movie has been airing on TV a lot. And while I won't sit down to watch the whole thing, I try to catch a few minutes of it -- especially if it's at a favorite part. It's comforting to watch and recite the lines and sing a long. But now that I'm older, this experience feels different. It's not the remastered color and sound, though they're awesome. It's not that I'm watching with a more critical eye. It's that I'm different.

It's the way the song -- my song -- makes me feel.

At 27 years old, as I watch this scene unfold, I heard the song in a completely new light. Rather than being a pretty tune about a girl who wants to explore a new world, it's more. For me, it's about a girl who wants all of that, but she can see it right there, just beyond her grasp. And it's devastating to not be able to follow the dream she can practically taste. It's one thing to dream, it's another to watch it happening, but not be able to do anything about it.

As a grown woman, I better understand what the favorite character from my childhood really wanted: to be part of a world she could almost touch, but couldn't reach.

Every time I check Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, I see a friend writing when I'm lacking the motivation to open my manuscript. I see someone living somewhere I dream of living. Doing things I want to do. It's all too easy to watch their world and desperately want to join them. In our world of high speed Internet connections, mobile web access and social media -- three things I love -- we watch the world our friends are projecting and can envy them accordingly.

Let's loosen the belts and get honest for a moment. ("But Laura, isn't that what we've been doing all along?" "That's what you'd like to think, bwahahahahaha.")

We all have something we desperately want. Sometimes, we can practically feel it. But we also have something holding us back. For Ariel, it was the whole being a mermaid without legs situation. For others it's insufficient funds or courage or any number of issues. We're all grown-ups now. ("I'm 16 year old! I'm not a child!") We understand we don't always get what we want. But that doesn't make the desire matter any less.

Don't worry, buddy. Everything will work itself out.

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  1. I have a lot of "can see but can't reach" issues with my writing. I'm published, but I don't see a lot of revenue from my books, definitely not enough to make it my full-time, bread-winning job. I spend a lot of time writing and publishing books, so I know I'm a writer, and I know I'm an author, but I don't have the time or the funds to participate in activities with other writers (conferences, get-togethers, etc.), so I feel very isolated and like a poseur much of the time. Also, as an indie with the above-mentioned financial limitations that brings, I don't do book tours or signings, so that makes me feel less credible and less legitimate, as well. But I try to tell myself the parts of writing and publishing in which I *do* participate are enough. I try to be content with what I have, because just a few years ago, I didn't even have that and would have given anything to be where I am today. Now, I'm here... it should be enough. Some day it is; some days it isn't.

  2. I was TOTALLY in love with Eric too, Laura! I knew that I liked you! It is amazing how much your perspective changes as you get older. I was hoping to be a lot wiser than I am, but what can you do? ;) My mother always reminded me to manage my expectations, but it is REALLY hard to do. I am experiencing a lot of what Brea mentioned, but I have just started my writing career, so I am hoping to be where she is one day. (Your library is impressive Brea! Really enjoying Let's Be Frank.) Perhaps if we all take one day at a time and just do the best we can, count on each other and eat chocolate, we will get where we want to be. In the meantime, I am truly grateful to have so many incredible authors to talk to every day. You mean the world to me!

  3. Great post - so true about seeing that "other world" that you so want to be a part of. I have to remind myself frequently that it's the journey, not the destination! So better enjoy the ride! (Now I need to watch TLM again!)