Lighten up Ernest

I saw this guy on a social media site who posted, "The best perk of being a writer is having alcohol with breakfast."

I am a writer, and have been most of my life. I have never had alcohol in the morning. Except for maybe one or two bridal showers where they served mimosas. In fact, I drink very little at all - even at night. I have been truly drunk maybe twice in my life. Once when I was around 13 and my brother got married, someone thought it would be fun to give me champagne and to keep filling my glass all day. And then once at the 2001 Club (yes it was in the 70s and that was a disco, with a shiny mirror ball and everything) I was doing the hustle all night and drinking rum and Cokes just because I was so thirsty.  I've never even gotten drunk enough to vomit. Unless you count that time in 2014 when my novel debuted in Italy and I - ignorant of the fact that I am allergic to vodka - drank a vodka martini and then proceeded to engage in many gastronomical hijinks in general on the Italian Rivera, but specifically all over my sister's patio. But these have been exceptions.

Writers are not a tortured, hypersensitive lot who cannot cope with real life and so must escape by either making stuff up or inebriating themselves into oblivion. That's just bad behavior, and you don't get to do that and then say that we are in the same club. Why would you want to brand yourself that way, and then plaster it all over the Internet? It doesn't make you more talented. It actually only makes you look like you lack individuality.

And yet we all do a version of that. We do it to others, and we do it to ourselves. It's a form of stereotyping. When we stereotype other people, we merely limit the way we see them. But when we stereotype or label ourselves, we limit what we can become. We draw a circle around ourselves with everything that we do not think we are on the outside of that circle, and then we refuse to step over the line.

What labels are you living up to? If you are honest with yourself, you'll probably find them - at work, at church, at home.

If you ever say to yourself, I am __________ so that means I should (or shouldn't) ____________ then your labels are running the whole show. Some examples might be "I am over 50, so I should wear my hair short," "I am a stay-at-home Mom, so I should be a better housekeeper," "I am not musically inclined, so it would be a waste of time and money to take guitar lessons," "I am a female executive so I have to learn to play the game,""I am a Christian, so I should know how to recite fancy Bible verses," "I like yoga, so I should be OK with spending $100 on a pair of synthetic stretch pants," or, like my writer friend, "I am a writer so I should have a penchant for alcohol."

Labels do make life simpler, negating the need for all that thinking and self-discovery and compassion and communication and other such nonsense. Let's face it: It's much easier to make choices when you can clump yourself together with other people who have placed themselves into the same category. Instead of saying, "What is the best thing for me to do in this situation?" you can say, "What do other people like me do? What am I supposed to do?" But when we do that, we are acting as though our roles ARE us, that they define us. How much cooler would it be if instead we allowed our uniqueness to define the way we carry out our roles? Instead of using labels to limit yourself, use your own personal beauty and individuality to shatter the labels themselves.

I challenge you to be the "soccer Mom" who drives a Mini Cooper, the artist who is good with money, the CEO who doesn't compromise her integrity in the name of business politics, the IT guy who is an extrovert, the Christian who is isn't afraid to say, "I don't get it," the 50-year-old who wears long gray hair, the 20-year-old who knows that "ur" isn't really a word,  the writer who doesn't get sloshed every day and who posts a profile photo of himself smiling.

When we let our labels dictate our choices, we miss out on most of the fun, and all of the adventure that comes with forging our own path.

So, to the guy on social media with the I-must-be-a-really-good-writer-because-I-look-like-I'm-in-pain-all-the-time profile photo: I challenge you to stop posing so you look like a writer and just be who you are.You might even enjoy yourself. Sober. So lighten up, Ernest.

And you lighten up, too. Go make it fun. Go make it yours.


Julie Scipioni is a writer, speaker, and the co-author of the #1 Amazon bestselling novel, Iris & Lily.