03/23/2015 06:44 EDT | Updated 05/23/2015 05:59 EDT

You Can Do Anything -- But You Don't Have to

Portrait of young woman dancing, studio background
Thomas Tolstrup via Getty Images
Portrait of young woman dancing, studio background

All these powerful females are making me feel bad about myself.

I've spent the past year devouring the memoirs of my heroes -- Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling. I have read about how precocious they were, and how they put on plays in their living room for their parents, and how they are all now successful comedians, and how it's through hard work and belief in themselves that they finally made it.

And at least three times per book, I have to stop reading and hide it under my mattress because it terrifies me more than when I watched Leprechaun for the first time as a kid.

When I read Bossypants (Tina, how did you know my childhood nickname?) I thought I was in my first trimester, because I always became slightly nauseous reading it. When Mindy was asking if everyone was hanging out without her, I made an appointment to see my doctor, convinced I was having those sneaky "women" heart attacks that we don't know how to identify (don't worry, council on women's heart attacks. I go to the doctor at the slightest sign of literally anything). And I've only said kind of, maybe, to Amy's Yes Please, because my hands have been shaking too much to turn the pages.

These women have done it. They have successful comedy careers, and some of them have had children, and although I'm sure there are days when they're sad and scared and angry, they are still combing through the pages of my dream diary and deciding to live out my fantasies. I imagine they'll get to the one where I play Keanu Reeves the song I wrote about him any day now.

I believe the intention of these books is to empower and inspire other women into actually doing things, whether that is comedy, motherhood, astronauting, or becoming a tax consultant. To stop thinking and worrying that you can't or you shouldn't, and just start doing it anyway. And that is a wonderful, important task.

But what they have really done is to convince me that I have wasted valuable years on nothing. That every hour I've spent on reddit or beating Diablo has been an hour I could have been practicing my tap dancing, or writing jokes -- something, anything to help me get where I want to be instead of just where I am, caught in a cycle of just average living. This haunting idea of wasted time makes me feel like I've been caught stealing money from the family whose house just burned down. I feel guilty enough for events in my past -- and now I'm feeling guilty for things I haven't even done.

Sometimes it's just as hard to hear that you can do anything as it is to hear you can't. It's an intense amount of pressure that lives inside your heart and constantly wants to take you over and confine you to your bed because it's too much work. To be honest, it can be exhausting being told to follow your dreams.

I might be the only kid in Southern Ontario whose parents, I think, are disappointed that I didn't pursue acting and comedy. They were 100 per cent supportive when I got into theatre school, and surprised when I made the 'responsible choice' and chose to go to university for a BA instead.

I made the grown-up, smart, financial choice, and every day I regret it a little bit more. I was told I could do anything, so why the hell am I doing this? The more I progress in my 9-5 job, the more I worry I'm disappointing everyone -- including myself. It's a warped world when I can illicit pity from myself because geeze, everyone is just too supportive of me.

I'm not blaming Amy, Mindy or Tina. It's important that these smart, funny, and successful women are telling their stories and sharing their accomplishments. As much as I was told I would grow to do something great, there are too many kids out there -- as well as adults -- being told that their only option is failure. To those people, I promise to lend you my copies of these books (please excuse the margin notes where I draw my name and Sarah Silverman's together in a heart, because she is possibly my future best friend/soul mate).

It's amazing and wonderful to tell your child or your friend or your lover that they can do anything they set their minds to. But somewhere in that confidence-building speech, please remind them that while they can, it's okay if they don't. It's okay if they start late, and it's okay if they never start at all.

As for me, I'm starting late. I'm rescuing my books from beneath the bed. I will pray every day to my holy trinity of Amy, Mindy, and Tina, and I'll either succeed or I'll fail, but at least I'll go out swinging. Because failing big, and failing hard means at least you got up, put on your big girl sweatpants, and tried.

Besides. I can do anything.


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