Bold, Italic, & Unapologetic
I attended the CMT Awards last night for the first time in several years…only the second time I had attended since I lost my dream job at CMT in my mid-20’s. (That full story is in my second book, I’ve Never Been to Vegas But My Luggage Has, which just happens to be $1.99 on Kindle & Nook right now). Once upon a time I interviewed celebrities on the red carpet at those awards, a job I loved and cherished with all my heart and soul. But it was not where my destiny ultimately lied, and God knew that. Still…it’s always interesting to revisit key people and places of our pasts, if only to reflect upon how they brought us to our present. I like to think I’ve gained some wisdom and perspective over the years since my planned career path for my life went up in smoke to make room for my ordained career path. I’ve pondered this in my heart a great deal today in the wake of the awards show that briefly transported me back to my past last night, and one key phrase keeps coming to mind…
I’ve always been too much and yet not enough for some people.
When I started my job at CMT at age 24, I had just broken away from a church movement that brought me more pain than it did peace. I was in that church for five years: completely devoted, completely sold out, completely invested in the people and the movement. My entire live revolved around the church…until the day that it didn’t. The church was a wonderful, safe haven for me at first. It helped me come to know God. It brought new friendships into my life. It filled my days and nights with endless activities: Bible studies and youth ministry and conferences and serving. But as I moved up the ladder of leadership and came to see the inner workings of the church, I began to notice what at the time I was too young and naïve to identify but what I now know was extreme legalism. Guys and girls weren’t allowed to ride in the car to church events together because we had to “avoid the appearance of evil.” We were instructed to throw away entire stacks of CDs and DVDs that were not “honoring to God.” The women were harshly reprimanded if we wore spaghetti straps or anything that would “cause the men to stumble.” MTV was dubbed “Mucus Television” by my pastor. Not to mention the hate and judgment that was rained down upon gay people and Democrats from the pulpit. That church introduced me to God’s wrath with nary a word about Jesus’s grace. I can honestly say having an intimate relationship with Jesus Himself was never even something that was mentioned to me during those years at that church. It was all about serve more, do more, be perfect, don’t sin, don’t cause anyone else to stumble OR ELSE.
And I never quite measured up to that church’s standards of perfection. I had a little too much spirit…I laughed a little too loud…I dared to plan events that included both guys and girls because I knew how innocent and pure our friendships were. I didn’t agree that women should be seen and not heard and I even (gasp!) wore a spaghetti strap top to an event in sunny California. The final straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when they called a staff meeting to discuss my v-neck dress without bothering to invite me and then deduced that I “didn’t have much discernment in the area of clothing.” That sent me running and I never looked back. But for years after I struggled with how they had made me feel about myself. For a long time, I felt cheap and sinful and wrong for wearing miniskirts and sundresses. But while that church and the leaders there temporarily broke my spirit…by the grace of God, they didn’t break me. (And thank God all churches don’t reflect what that one did. It was extremism and legalism at its worst.)
When I arrived at CMT, fresh off the heels of heartbreak caused by my exodus from the church body I had been a part of for five years, I was feeling wounded but free. I was ready to embrace my new job and my new life with open arms. I felt like surely I had found “my people.” Creatives. People who were as passionate as entertainment news and music and pop culture as me. I just knew I would be welcomed and appreciated for exactly who I was.
But I wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong…my job was a JOY. 99% of the people I worked with during that time were a joy. But the two “powers that be” who sort of ran the roost over my department were older, somewhat shrewish and cynical types who were constantly nitpicking my actions. Granted, I was 24 and clueless about life and I know without a doubt at times I acted 24 and clueless about life. But I was also enthusiastic and energetic and darn good at my job. And yet, despite my work performance, my boss was constantly peering over the wall of my cubicle, retorting about my clothes or my shoes or my friendships with the guys at work. I wore heels too often/I dressed too cute/I was friends with too many guys at work (I had tons of friends; male and female, gay and straight at CMT.) Once again, I was too much and yet not enough. And once again, me “not quite fitting in” caused me to lose things dear and precious to me…ultimately, both my job and my self-confidence.
I’m not saying I didn’t do anything wrong during my time at both the church I was a part of and at CMT. I know I did. I was young and impulsive and still figuring out who I was. But the way society and the workplace and even the church often makes women feel…particularly single women…about themselves is incredibly unfair. We’re too pretty. Too ugly. Too childless. Too skinny. Too fat. Too flirtatious. Too sexy. Too chaste. Too uptight. Too loose. Too single. Too opinionated. We’re always too much and never enough.
Even today, as a grown, experienced, older and wiser woman, I’m still often caught between “too much and not enough” in my day to day life as a writer. Some people think I’m too “Christian.” Other people think I’m too “worldly.” It’s a never-ending battle to just be myself and to be content with that…and I think it’s a battle that most women are facing right along with me. We’re not supposed to simply be content with ourselves and celebrate who we are, because that would be “too arrogant.” But then when we’re left questioning ourselves and our worth based on some label society or our boss or even a holier-than-thou stranger has given us, we’re dubbed “too insecure.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m done fighting the battle of too much and never enough. I’m done. I’m just going to be ME. And if I’m someone who laughs too loud or loves my gay friends too fiercely or votes Democratic too passionately or wears a skirt that’s too short or talks about Jesus too much then you’re just gonna have to get over it. (Insert fist bump emoji here)
I’ve been in this season of really embracing and honoring and even celebrating my life and my singleness and MYSELF and I hope you’ll join me on that journey. Last night I walked into those CMT Awards with my head, heels, and confidence high (and wearing the boldest red dress I could find) because I know that two people who crushed my TV career in the palm of their hands all those years ago didn’t crush me. I went on to do exactly what God called me to do, by just being ME. So I encourage you to just be YOU, regardless of who has a problem with it. You can’t get to your destination in someone else’s lane. And you certainly can’t get there by constantly stopping to apologize for who you are. Being yourself is the hardest and scariest and best thing you will ever do. There will be lonely times. And disappointments. And falls and fails and tears and heartbreaks and dead-end roads and crazy bosses and stupid boys (in the words of Keith Urban, which feels fitting here) and dreams delayed and even denied all together but there will also be JOY and MAGIC and the unwavering confidence of knowing you didn’t sacrifice parts of yourself to fit someone else’s mold.
Until next time…let’s just be who we are. Messy and imperfect and flawed as it may be. Because we might be all of those things…but we’re also bold and italic and never, ever regular.
And that’s something to celebrate.
Has anyone ever made you feel “Too much” or “Not enough”? Sound off in the comments below!