Donald Glover (or Dong Lover, as many like to affectionately refer to him) is the dude you might know as Troy from Community, or Childish Gambino. As the latter, he rapped one of my favourite lines : “69 is the only dinner for two” – which I may have drunkenly texted one night to several ex-boyfriends as a “hilarious” non sequitur. Not my proudest moment.
Donald Glover, at 30, has a career to envy: writer on 30 Rock, star of Community, and successful rap career. His next album is due out this (Northern) winter, and after the success of Camp, is pretty hotly anticipated. If I could achieve just a third of what he has, I would be an amazingly content and happy woman. Maybe.
He posted the above instagram, plus several others that all talk about fear of failure, fear of not living up to potential, fear of being called a phony, fear of being disliked, fear of not being loved. It’s scarily familiar territory for me. Except I obviously don’t worry about what people say about my rap career, which is best known for for my Form 2 epic about the school canteen: Yo! Gurt / Fruit loaf / Sally lun and cream/ Mince pie, pizza / and rye / bread. I think we can all agree I didn’t miss my calling there.
It’s both comforting AND disconcerting to know these fears and self-doubts are shared with someone as talented and adored as Donald Glover. One the one hand, it makes me feel like maybe I’m normal to feel this way. On the other, what if it never goes away and I’m never happy no matter what?
Every time I write and push something out into the world with my name attached, it’s a scary undertaking. Even something an inconsequential as this blog. I’m constantly judging myself by how I think people will receive it. Success is almost more scary than failure. At least if I fail without ever succeeding, there’s no one there to witness it. I delete more blogs than I post because of this kind of self-censorship. What if people hate me? What if they think I’m being an attention whore? What is this blog even supposed to be? Is it a feminist critique of feminist critiques of racism in pop music or is it a place to whine about my feelings?
While researching a story about design thinking for NZ Marketing magazine recently, I came across this idea of rapid iteration; that it’s better to push something out into the world that’s imperfect and unfinished – and improve upon it through feedback from real-world users – than to keep it to yourself until it’s perfect. Because nothing’s ever perfect. I’m trying to practice that with this blog, and my writing in general. Let go of the idea that achieving perfection is necessary to avoid criticism (because it won’t), or that perfection itself is achievable (because it’s not).
Now that I’m officially full-time freelance again (aka unemployed), it’s even more important for me to force my way forward despite these fears that want to hold me back. And in a way, I’ve put myself in this position – where my actual ability to put food on the table is dependent upon my ability to create opportunities for work – because I know that I will never confront those fears and doubts otherwise. Is it okay to admit I really, really want to be a successful, prolific and respected writer? Is it okay to admit that I think I can be one if I can get out of my own way long enough to actually write?
So, to bring it back to Donald Glover. It’s really important that people speak about these fears because we need to start talking about the bullshit standards we put on ourselves and each other. There’s also something to be said for depression and anxiety and our experience and denial of them. I’m in awe of DG for opening himself up publicly like that. But then I’m in awe of anyone who ploughs through and does things that scare them because the alternative is a life crowded with what-ifs.