It was what Oprah would call, "A defining moment."
It was early days in the love story that is me and J. We had just moved to Scotland together (as you do after five weeks together) and were looking at places to rent. The estate agent turned to us and asked what we did for a living. J listed off the field he was studying and named the company he had recently worked for before leaving Ireland.
Then it was my turn.
In the millisecond before I opened my mouth, I took a quick inventory of my life so far and this is what I came up with;
Age 15: I enter and place second in the Juvenile division of the Provincial Arts and Letters Competition for a Watercolour I'd painted.
That same year, I published two pieces in the largest province wide Newspaper in Newfoundland and also performed my work on Canada's National Radio Station, CBC.
Two months shy of my 18th birthday, I packed my bags and moved 1022 miles away to study at one of Canada's most prestigious Journalism schools.
Even though I never finished the course, I did spent an additional two years living and working in Ottawa where I starred in an Independant horror film, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Yup that's me in the catsuit...
I then upped and packed my bags again. This time it was off to the wild, wild west where I spent five years living and working in the Canadian Rockies. It was also where I got my first ever job in retail. Within a year, I was promoted to floor supervisor, I was then put in charge of shipping and three years after I started, was given my own shop to manage. Not bad for a beginner!
I couldn't stay put though, and so in 2004 hatched a cunning plan to tour the World. May 2005 found me in Ireland with a one year working Visa in my hand and a few hundred Euro in my pocket. Again, I worked my way to a managerial spot in one of the first jobs I got.
I taught myself to play guitar and write songs, to paint and write and take beautiful pictures. I did the photography work on a friend's album and performed in countless theatrical productions. I campaigned against landmines and raised money for charity. I spent 12 years in the guiding movement and can tie knots and put up a tent like nobody's business. I can even cook chicken underground!
All of this and more went through my head, but this is what came out;
" Oh, I'm pretty useless! Ha ha!"
The estate agent gave me an odd look and then continued on explaining how the sitting room converted into a bedroom when you moved the couch and pulled the bed out of the wall. J was horrified, both by the sitting room cum bedroom as well as by my less then stellar self description.
Useless. Twenty Five years on this planet and I didn't have the confidence to say one positive thing about myself.
What's worse is that I didn't see anything wrong with the statement. I tossed it off with a laugh and would have forgotten all about it if J hadn't called me on it there and then (and for the next four years, seriously, the man won't let it go!)
What was wrong with me that I couldn't talk about my accomplishments? That I couldn't be proud of what I'd done? What was it that made me look at all of the pieces that made up who I was and come up with "useless?" Why couldn't I credit myself for anything?
Because I didn't have a degree. I didn't have any "qualifications" for the things I did. I had no training and therefore, no validation.
Yes, I could paint wonderful pictures that won awards, but was I an artist? NOOOOOOO! Artist's go to Art School silly! Doesn't Count.
I'd been published, surely that made me a writer? NOOOOOOOO! I dropped out of Journalism School and besides, I hadn't published anything in years! I hadn't submitted anything either because of that... Doesn't Count.
Well, I play piano and guitar and write my own songs, surely I must qualify as a Musician? Again, no. No Training? Doesn't Count.
Even the position I had earned, that of Shop Manager, I couldn't declare myself as, because I no longer worked there, so it obviously didn't count.
That was my way of thinking. I didn't have a piece of paper, so it didn't count. Therefore, neither did I.
I passed up a lot of oppurtunities over the years because despite having the skills, I never had the qualifications and because I didn't have the qualifications, I didn't have the confidence to say "Hey! I can do this!"
Or even to try.
I'm writing about this today because even though I've come along way since that day at the house with the Sitting Room cum Bedroom, I still have moments of doubt, moments that hold me back from doing the things I want most.
I am in the process of editing 250 pages of a manuscript I've spent the last year working on. I still have more to add, but the bulk of the work is done and I know that if it's published, it will do very well.
And therein lies the problem...
Getting my book published means selling myself. My still (technically) unqualified self who hasn't submitted anything for publication in over ten years.
It means sitting down at my computer and writing a few hundred words about how great my work is and how deserving I am of their time and money. Look at me! Look at Me!
It is Me vs. The Estate Agent times a million.
I'm scared shitless.