So. The Big Day has arrived.
You know, had you told me a year ago, I'd be getting ready to attend my first official Meet & Greet/Book Signing, I'd have thought you were high. Add to that, it being Barnes and Noble, I'd def have asked you to pass the pipe.
But no, it's for absolutely, sobering REAL. I was perfectly fine right up until Tuesday of this week. The Prime Minister of New Camelot (my Lil Mini Me, my baby sister, Wendy) and I had gone shopping for some last minutes accessories (gotta dress the part you're playing, you know? 'Sides, despite my best efforts to bring pajama wearing into the daily mix of all countries everywhere as haute kewl fashion, even I know I must needs dress up now and again) and right there, in the middle of our excursion, I got clammy cold, my heart raced, my ulcers went Defcon 5 while I blinked and turned to Wendy.....
It's funny because it's true. I'd been waiting for it...the Panic Attack. Between the day I'd gotten the offer from Lady Shay at Barnes and Noble and that day...nothing. Nothing but proud excitement and a curious detachment as I had a thousand other things to keep me busy and pleasantly occupato. And honestly? There was the huge percentage of my inner doubt screaming it was just a lovely, choco induced dream from which I'd awake soon. Mini meltdowns in the middle of outside mall, in 100 degree heat wasn't on my agenda but hey, don't you know?
Let's backtrack a bit…
Once upon a time, in shady Santa Ana hospital that later turned into an insane asylum (which explains a lot about me, eh?), a bundle of squirming joy was born to the fairest princess in the land. The princess was young, beautiful, smart and elegant. Tall, blonde and blue eyes that sparkled like a shining, calm sea under the sun at noon. The eagerly awaited birth of her little one was sung through the land. She would be all her mama was; beauty and grace, intelligent and ethereal.
I'm pretty sure that was the drugs they gave my mom, talk about mind f*****g. The reality is that I was odd right from the southern gate, coming out arse first and pretty much telling the world to kiss my sweetly rounded baby bottom. The poor Princess was screwed.
I was nothing like my sedate, calm, together, Grace Kelly gorgeous Mum. Not in looks, deportment, coordination, personality, etc. I was the girl that got tagged by other kids in school. Chubby, freckles, a wild mass of frizzy, thick hair (I was River Songing it before it was mainstream….just saying!) and blessed with a curious mind that transcended anything this mere human world offered me. I was the girl who developed before her other gal friends, asked totally embarrassing questions out loud and in public. (Ex. Age 10, lunchtime, playground. Sitting at a table, reading something someone scratched onto the surface. "What the hell is a boner?" True story, people!). I was the Class Clown, the laughing girl with the sarcastic edge and ability to sub reference pop culture before I even knew what that was!
I cursed, wore sneakers with skirts and was some freaky hybrid of Goth/Steampunk/80s fashionista. I was the lass who clearly didn't belong on the junior high cheerleading squad but tried out anyway because I felt us Chubby Chicks needed representation. I listened to Duran Duran and went to hardrock concerts. I singly handedly kept Aqua Net in business for a good 7 years. I was no gorgeous Fairy Princess..but rather the Giddy Troll who lived under the bridge. Personally, I think we all have beautiful things about us….things that make us..well..US! But I'd wake every day, indulge in 2 hours of hair arranging and make uppery fun only to realize….yep….
I didn't have a hellish childhood. I treated life as a cosmic joke. I was the first to make fun of myself in any situation…but most importantly….I knew myself. And I was comfortable with who I was. For a very long time.
I was born knowing what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a magician. A witch. A Goddess. A Demon Hunter. Nancy Drew. Batgirl. I wanted to travel space and time. I wanted to have wild adventures with the monsters under my bed and visit far off lands where the grass was purple and the sky was pink. I wanted to fly, to leap, to dance and to sing. I wanted to be a lost duchess or a disinherited governess. I wanted to be Jane Eyre and fall in love with Heathcliffe. I wanted to paint and invent a time machine. I wanted to find the lost city of Atlantis and ride on the back of the Loch Ness Monster. I had a mission! I knew who I was!
I was feisty, in love with life and determined to live the dream I had envisioned. I could BE all those things…..I could. In writing. I wanted to spin tales of beauty and pain. I wanted to know true love and undying loyalty. I wanted to pain the sky with poignant anguish and unmeasured pleasure. Oh! I wanted it so bad. I could do it! I could be all that and do all that.
Ah, the arrogance of youth…the folly of the ignorant. See the thing is..when you challenge Fate like that, she feels compelled to give you what you need in order to get it. Not WANT..but NEED. Read the fine print, people.
You know that story…
I grew up. I got lazy. I forgot all those wonderful dreams under the harsh taskmaster of Wisdom and Experience. I got married, got divorced, did drugs….a LOT…got clean a LOT…did more drugs….oh did I. I stole from my family, friends and in a desperate attempt to escape being lonely, kept settling for fucktards who were sex addicts, drunks, druggies or commitment phobic. I took the great gift of life and fucked it to death. Yes, I did. I ruined my life…and the lives of some around me. I became the villain. I was a horrid person.
Then I woke up one day and decided I was never going to be the princess in the tower, that lovely and unreal girl who had princes lining up ten deep to climb up her hair and save her world. Because I DID inherit something from my Princess Mother. I inherited strength. And stubborn persistence. This wasn't going to be how my story ended….no way.
I wanted to be the Queen. I wanted to save myself.
It was hard. It took a long time to get to where I am today. I have lost things I will never get back. I have severed relationships that will never be fixed. I have lost the love and trust of a lot of people. Because there are some things that sorry can't fix. Ever. And I had to accept that, let go and move forward. That little girl I once was…she died. And sometimes the girl must die in order for the woman to be born. I turned 18 a vereeeee long time ago….but its only been in the last few years that I fully embraced my womanhood. When I took back control and said…No More. No more wasting time or this beautifully flawed life of mine.
Is life perfect?
Um fuck no.
The last two years have really opened my eyes further to the world around and inside of me. I've struggled with relationships with people, both in friendship and lurve. I have shared secrets with the wrong people who turned around and betrayed me. I have embraced enemies pretending to be friends. I have seen myself shredded and maligned by little people with little minds whose own lives are so viciously ordinary they can't deal and instead turn their inner misery and pain outward. But I didn't get this far only to wimp out and let anyone win. Being optimistic isn't always about being happy. It's taking what gets thrown at you and saying "I'm not letting this get me down." It's falling down seven times and getting up eight. Look, this world is dark and scary. Lot of bad things and people in it. You can let it destroy you, and I did for a long time….or you can get right up in the world's face and spit in its eye. Be what YOU want to be, not what others THINK you should be. You have so much to offer and rise to. Don't let naysayers drag you down…..
I am so thankful for my struggles because if I hadn't had them, I wouldn't have stumbled across my strengths. I had a choice to make….stay on drugs and die a miserable lonely death by overdose most likely. I would be mourned by a few, damned by the rest. Or…I could rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of my own destruction and MAKE MY MARK IN THIS WORLD. To be what I knew I could be if I just stopped listening to fear and the opinions of sheep. I was lion….time to act like one.
Yeah…I finally grew a nice set of lady balls and took the road less travelled. Bumpy as hell and full of detours but I am on my way. All those things I'd dreamed of being? All those adventures? I am finally taking them. I'm finally fulfilling my destiny. I once, long ago in a dark moment, asked the Universe...why? Why was this my life? I hadn't planned this...this Mongolian ClusterFuck of pain and disappointment.....the Universe answered....
I didn't keen to that answer well. And then I remembered someone. Some....thing.....
Torie James was born shortlyt after my 13th birthday. I remember that day. It was after school and my crew and I were sitting in this little park we hung out at afterschool sometimes. Big ol' shady trees and stuff, green grass. We'd always swing by the store and pull together our change, buying cans of soda and choco donuts...then we'd sit a spell and divvy it up and just....talk. This day, I had kind branched off and was sitting under a tree, the sky was pale blue and the wind was fair. I took out my journal and was writing in it (i was forever scribbling in that thing!). I'd known at age 7, that I wanted to be a writer. By age 10, I knew I wanted to write romance. (Shush...I was reading a LOT of Barbara Cartland...she was totes prim and proper. One kiss throughout the whole book and that wasn't usually until the end!). I was just doodling with names. At the time, my given name was Teri Schuffert which sounded totally dull and booooorrrrinnnng to me. I wanted something that would have pizazz and mystery. Something cool and chic. I loved the name Victoria..Tory. Nah. Torie. Yesh! Ohh I like that! Now for a last time. It needed to flow. I happened to be in love with Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran then...still am...shut up...and his middle name was James. Hm. Torie. James. Torie James.
It wasn't too late. I wasn't too old. Dreams....amazing things...they have no expiration date and generally die due to lack of neglect. I couldn't die with that regret over my head. I had survived drugs and health crises....I could at least ....try....take the leap....make the move...
And I did. I took myself right out of that tower of fear and the unknown. Opportunity didn't knock on my door. I kicked that shiz down. Nothing to lose really at that point.
And everything to gain. A newfound sense of confidence, a hard fought for respect for myself and watching my dream become something that resonated with ....
My worlds....you like them, too!
I couldn't be happier. Even if I never write another word...or have another book published. Its about the climb.....only THAT is real! And I climbed that mountain! I sure fucking did.
*deep breath* Today, in a few hours, I'll be sitting in Barnes and Noble. People will be shopping. Conversation will be made. Maybe some will buy my books....or they won't. It's all golden! I never thought to have what I have..right now. So..anything else is just icing on the cake of my new life.
Thank you. Thank each of you reading this. For believing in me. For having my back. For supporting me. For always being honest and encouraging. You helped me find the courage....to fully and without hinderance...to find myself. Guess I was heading home after all...just the long way around...
And many years from now...when I'm a blue haired, old curmudgeon with wrinkled skin and dentures I constantly click in and out of my mouth just to annoy people, when I'm asked about this ...feeling, this unparalleled joy, this beautiful dream.....