“You’ll read things and say, ‘this is a really good project and it’s probably going to be a hit, but I can see 20 other people playing that part.’ You have to have some sense of ownership to do a good job and be married to it forever.” Eric Bana, actor
Fun fact: Eric Bana and I are the same age. That doesn’t relate to this blog at all, I just found it interesting.
However, I totally agree with the above quote. And I’ve recently come to understand what it really means, what ‘ownership’ really implies.
Without going into the gory details of my private life, let’s just say that between 2001 and 2007 I had a series of personal shocks, including 9/11, the loss of both my parents and my last grandparent, a rollover car accident, and a separation followed by a divorce. These things happened fast. I am tempted to say ‘too fast’, but now I don’t think that’s the case. You see, such personal chaos forced me to grow in ways I didn’t really want to but sorely needed to.
I went through a lot of soul-searching (I hate that term: So over-used), and I had to ask myself who I was, what I wanted, and what I was doing with my life. I have two beautiful children, and some enduring friendships, but I felt unfulfilled. I reflected on my life.
I’ve been a tabletop role-playing enthusiast for, well, a long time. For Christmas 1980 – just before I turned twelve – my parents agreed to get me the now venerable and venerated “Red Box” Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) rules. They went to their graves regretting that decision because they never really understood what I loved about that game, and the other games I bought and played in later years. I bring this up because I realized role-playing games were the first thing I took ownership of. They were the first things that a could really call mine. This interest helped to shape who I was, and my identity grew to encompass these games.
Later, when I went to college in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I studied vocal performance. I had been singing with a children’s choir at my parent’s church since I was five or so, and I knew that I loved it. But I only took ownership of my singing in college, when I was able to take lessons and perform in front of my peers. This too became a part of who I was.
More things followed through the 1990’s. My love of the theater, my fascination with history and my passion for science all followed. I was learning more about myself by learning about the world around me, and what in that world spoke to my heart. Then 9/11 happened, and things began falling apart.
My soul-searching was my way of working through the pain of all these losses. It took several years and another bad relationship (one of my friends said the relationship ended like an atomic bomb going off. That’s pretty close to right.) before I was able to identify the two things I needed that I didn’t have. I think it’s no coincidence that I met my wife right at the culmination of these years of struggle, what I now refer to as my “depression era”. She was there just in time to help me find the faith I had been lacking. And for those who poo-poo faith in a higher power, it’s really quite empowering. But don’t worry; I’ll never try to convert you. It works for me, and has made me a better person (I think) internally. I’d like to think others see the change as well.
So I found a faith in God that had never really been there before, and I “owned” it. I chose to make it a part of who I am, to take it into myself. And then there was the second thing.
Going back to the role-playing games, I realized I had been telling stories all my adult life. Whether as a player, or as the storyteller in a tabletop RPG, you are a part of the creative team that makes up the story you are all sharing. But I was most often the storyteller in these games, leading my friends through stories born in my feverish brain. I had “owned” my role as storyteller within the context of these games only. All these changes made me realize I was a storyteller in a broader sense. And so it was that in the winter of 2008/2009 I made the conscious decision to write seriously. I “owned” my storytelling nature, and accepted that I should write. I finally, after 40 years, took that into my soul and made it a part of me.
I am a writer.
You may not be a writer, but I hope you understand how my story can apply to your life. You may not be able to force yourself to be something you fancy, but if you enjoy something, and you let it become a part of you, you may also come to own it. And it took me a long time to reach this point, so don’t get discouraged. Please. We all have something to offer the world that wasn’t there before. You may believe it’s because God has a plan, or you may choose to believe it’s because of your unique set of random genes, but either way, you have something that never existed before. You may never be a movie star, or a president, but you can still have meaningful impact on the world. Be positive about it, and “own” it. Because I, for one, am waiting to see what you’ll come up with!