It feels both so long ago and not long ago at all that I first sat down to create RetroGrade Reviews. For those of you just joining me, I wrote about Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo. It was a day of firsts – I wrote my first review for my first blog about the first video game I ever played … and it was the first real writing I did after Monty Oum passed away. That’s all a story I’ve told before.
But I’m telling it again today. Just a little bit differently.
A little over two years ago, I listened to the Rooster Teeth Podcast episode about Monty, and when it was over I listened to Rooster Teeth’s tribute video for him. It was a cold February morning, I was scanning price tags at the Best Buy in Tualatin, OR, and I was crying. I am never afraid to admit to crying over things, but I do hate to cry in front of people, so I was especially thankful on that particular morning for the Great Wall of Refrigerators in the Appliances section.
I listened to the podcast, listened to the tribute, and then scrubbed back to hear the tribute again … and again … and again. And then at least four more times.
In retrospect, it was not my most productive day.
But the line that captured me most in the video was when Monty said, “Very few people have the luxury of doing exactly what they want to do as their job. There’s never a day where I forget that.” So that day I went home and I thought about it. What was the one thing that I would do if I could? If there was only one thing that I could wake up in the morning and happily do each and every day, even if money wasn’t an object, what would it be? I had studied to be a teacher, which hadn’t brought me happiness. I had joined the military to be a pilot, which I had been physically unable to do. I had tried a few different things after that, but nothing had felt right. Nothing had felt like what I was meant to do.
And then it dawned on me that there was one thing I was always doing, even while trying to do everything else – I was always writing. The one thing that I could happily do for the rest of my life was write.
After two years spent pursuing a life in writing, I have come to realize a few things – the first being that if you put all your eggs in the “this is what I’ll do even if money is not a thing” basket, then money will, in fact, not be a thing. Meaning that you won’t have any. I have no money.
My second realization is that something being a passion does not make it easy to do. I have struggled time and time again with my attempts at writing. I attribute this to a phenomenon I call “crippling perfectionism,” which is largely brought on by my third realization …
There will always be better writers than me.
This has been emotionally the most difficult thought to cope with. Growing up, I was always the best writer amidst my peers. Now that I am pursuing this life, I have realized just how big a pond this is and, consequentially, just how small a fish I am. It seems at times that there are somehow infinitely many other writers all trying to make their breakthrough, and I am struck with the painful fear that I am not as good as they are. But I find encouragement in my last, and most important, realization.
I don’t need to be as good as they are.
I look back at Monty Oum – how he helped me not feel alone, how his work drove me to tell the best stories that I could tell – and I realize that he wasn’t the best in the world, but he was the best at doing what he did. It might sound silly, but he was the best at being Monty Oum. He was the best at creating the characters that he could create, and telling the stories he told in the way that he told them.
I don’t need to be as talented a writer as the next person over. I don’t need to tell the stories they’re telling as well as they tell them. I need to tell my stories in a way that no one else can. I just need to be the best me that I can be.
And, if I can do that, maybe I’ll finally be able to create something I could have shown Monty.