I belted out Adele’s “Someone Like You” in my VW Tiguan. To be frank, I thought I sounded really good. Surprisingly and, dare I even say, Adele(ish) good. I suspected I always had a hidden talent, but allowed fear to get in the way of truly living my dream as an international superstar. So, that evening when I was alone, I took out my iPhone, opened the audio recording app and sang “Someone Like You” a cappella. At one point, deeply feeling the lyrics, my voice cracked as I fought back tears – Nevermind – I’ll find someone like you (I pictured myself pushing away a bare-chested Justin Timberlake in my video’s version).
If this was Adele-level talent, I needed to know. The world needed to know. After giving it my all, in my bedroom with the door closed, I played back the recording. I was shocked to discover I sounded exactly like Adele. If she was a young boy going through puberty, or a cat being murdered, or perhaps if she had been throat punched by a hooker after trying to steal her crack. My husband called out from the living room, “What the hell is going on in there? Are you screaming to an Adele song or something?” And just like that, the dream was gone.
I’ll never be Adele. Or sing like Adele. I might sing like a cracked-up hooker Adele after a cat fight with a fellow colleague – perhaps. But then my name probably wouldn’t even be Adele at all. Maybe a Tammy or a Crystal, but that’s not my point. My point is – I can only be me. I can choose to be a cranky, lazy, obsessed with Bravo TV version of me or the best, happiest, most generous version – but in the end, I’m the only thing I’ve got to work with. And that’s more than enough if we give ourselves a chance.
But but – we want to be Adele. Or Jennifer Aniston (older, yes – but wiser, adorable and seems to be the only Friend who isn’t aging). Or Anne Lamott (raises hand) or any [fill in the blank]. The sad part is it’s impossible to truly get where we’re going trying to be someone we’re not. It’s like a fake Prada purse. We might be able to fool some, but after a week the stitching is gonna fall out and the zipper will break off and the whole thing will just eventually be a bit sad and pathetic.
I remember buying fake Oakley’s from a man on the streets of New York. It looked nearly the same! But upon a close up, much cheaper. Real cheap. Like Dollar Store clearance bin cheap, And they really didn’t even block out the sun. In fact, I think the lenses actually helped deliver blinding light shards directly into my eyeballs.
My point – just like the fake Prada and the fake Oakleys – we aren’t fooling anyone and even if we do for a time, eventually the jig’ll be up, our integrity bruised and our retinas seeing black dots.
We live in a time where everything has to be epic or why even bother. So most of don’t bother because epic is rare. And who wants to invest so much time and energy into something that probably won’t happen?
So we do nothing. But what if epic is actually the accumulation of a lot of somethings? We don’t get fit with one brisk walk to the mailbox (trust me, I’ve tried). We don’t get a book deal with one blog post (trust me, I’ve tried). We don’t get our teaching certification with one class. We don’t even get vacation days after lots of working days! It takes a lot of somethings, sometimes a lot of seemingly meaningless nothings, to build up to epic.
And what is epic anyway?
I watched a documentary once of a man, let’s call him Tim because I’m too busy to Google it, who owned a popular restaurant in a very small town that people from all over the country would travel to. He was very famous in the town, not because of his restaurant though, but because of his generosity. He delivered food to the elderly and would sit down and spend time with them. He would take time to get to know his customers and would know them so well they wouldn’t even have to order from him anymore. But his beautiful restaurant – his dream – caught fire due to a gas leak. The entire town rallied together to rebuild it and shortly after it’s grand reopening, it burned down again due to some other freak accident. The man, although devastated, never stopped giving as much as he could to the people of his town. People interviewed said that when Tim died someday, the town would have to rent an arena for all the people who’d come to his funeral. That’s how many people he loved, spent genuine time with, and inspired.
I can tell you right now, I’m not positive I would even fill up a room, let alone an arena. What about you?
We’re not Adele (unless Adele is actually reading this – then call me, k?). But this man? He’s epic. And what’s epic about him? Not his restaurant – his love for people. The natural overflow of his epic love for people created an epic restaurant that I believe is up and running and better than ever.
Yes. Live your dream. Chase it. Fight for it. But I think the real, authentic way to be epic is to be the best, most incredible us, using our very special, God given gifts not to gain monetary success or virality or fame, but to serve, to love – filling up an arena when we die. Because of how epically we had loved.
Then and only then, that’s when the epic comes. Our best version of ourselves that I bet even Adele would wanna be. Okay, probably not, but maybe.