Butthead. Not such a nice word. Not the kind of thing you want to be called.
And yet I was called it, on my birthday when I was feeling kind of low, feeling old and worn out and used up. Feeling about as middle aged as a great hunking chunk of cheese that’s turned a bit moldy.
Yet when I saw the Facebook post, “Happy birthday, Butthead,” I smiled. Not only that, I giggled in a most juvenile way, causing my tense muscles and gritted teeth to relax for the first time in a very long while.
Being called “butthead” by a high school friend I haven’t seen in twenty years made me feel more myself than I’d felt in a long time. It reminded me of a time when I did not take things so seriously.
In my heyday I was known as a butthead, a goofball, a veritable pain in the “you know what”.
In truth, I was a lot of fun.
Twenty plus years later I’m a lot of things, but fun isn’t at the top of the list. Not like it once was. Not like I’d like it to be.
I miss laughing so hard my sides hurt. I miss the sheer luxury of being silly and confident and hopeful all at once. I miss not worrying about the future; where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing.
As a child I possessed an unshakable certitude that I would grow to be a writer of books. It was all I needed to know about the future. I’d write the best books ever written, be rich and famous, and a frequent guest on the David Letterman show.
This was my child’s idea of being a writer.
I’ve since learned what being a writer means: years spent crafting a vision only you know or see or believe in, years laboring unceremoniously under the blasphemous delusion that your story might actually be of value to the world.
Straining and striving and writing and rewriting only to rewrite some more. Pushing and pushing even when my confidence wanes, even when my efforts begin to seem foolhardy.
Coming up for air for brief periods to look around and wonder what being a writer has cost me as a wife, a mother, a friend? As a person?
Wondering if I am still myself.
Now, thanks to my friend’s birthday message, I can answer this question without any doubt. Even if I’m not as much fun as I used to be, I haven’t veered too far off course.
I am a butthead and a writer of books.
And all is well with the world.