God Bless Dolly Parton
The Patron Saint of Hustle
Trying to build a career out of basically nothing— no degree, no “network”, no bonafides— is tough, there’s no denying. I was feeling kind of overwhelmed and sad about it of late, honestly. I went so far as to build a whole narrative in my head about Capricorns like me, how we’re built for climbing the ladder at established institutions as opposed to the hustle of building our own ladder. This story explained why it is so hard for me particularly to not just show up to write (which I love), but also to self-promote my writing constantly (which I do not love at all).
I even went so far as to write a whole newsletter about it, thinking I had discovered something profound. Then I went to Google “Capricorn artists” to prove my profundity to myself, and who should pop up in the first handful of Capricorn artists dying to prove me wrong, with rhinestones and sequins to make sure I didn’t miss the bright, sparkly point? Dolly Freakin’ Parton.
That’s right, my friends. Dolly Parton, the Patron Saint of Hustle and Hard Work and Rhinestone Ladders Straight to Heaven, was born on January 19, 1946. Also, lest I forget, David Bowie, born January 8, 1947. Oh, and Annie Lennox, born December 25, 1954. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Eartha Kitt, Janis Joplin, and Zora Neale Hurston, too, while we’re at it. So, yeah. There goes that story.
Basically, I’m sitting here telling myself I’m super insightful when really I’m just building a story to give me an excuse to feel a little, teeny-tiny bit persecuted by the life I choose; a story which is even more false than Dolly’s eyelashes (and nearly all her other parts, god bless her).
Why do I tell you this? Because, honestly my dear ones, this is the sort of thing we all do at one point or another. We get confronted with something that is hard and uncomfortable and we start concocting stories to back out of that discomfort reflexively. We blame our personality, our Sun sign, or our Meyer’s-Briggs type, choosing simple answers over complicated realities. We point to our parents, our partners, or anyone, really, just so long as it’s someone else’s fault. We bemoan circumstances, fate, or karma, despite the fact that most of us don’t even understand what that word actually means, for goodness sake.
We expend so much energy building false stories to avoid discomfort and the vulnerability that comes with it, but what if we stopped? Not because it’s shameful or weak. Not because it’s wrong. Simply because the stories aren’t true.
Creating is necessary for me; this is true. It is also true that capitalism is a racket that sets the vast majority of us up to scrape and scratch at the edges of the feast for the entirety of our lives, all while convincing us that accolades and success are just around the corner. And so it follows that to submit my creativity to the indignities of the marketplace, to dare to think I might actually make a living out of this life, is perhaps a particular kind of suffering. But every other job I’ve ever had involved suffering of one kind or another, so suffering is not particular to this choice of employment nor to work generally.
Not to be overly dour about it, but we don’t get to choose hard or not hard. We just get to choose what kind of hard, and then we could maybe stop fussing about it? Or at the very least give our human, fussy selves a nice cup of coffee and a snack, maybe a warm blanket and a chair by a window, and then get back to work.
Imagine what we might be able to accomplish if we spent as much energy doing the hard, uncomfortable things as we do avoiding the hard, uncomfortable things?
I’ll tell you one thing that got made because folks didn’t retreat to false stories or waste time bemoaning reality when there was creating to do— the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Brought to you through the hard, creative work of an army of researchers and Dolly Parton.
I just got that exact vaccine this last Friday. Thank you, Dolly and Moderna, with all my heart.
In order to honor Dolly’s work (and the work of all those researchers), I’m going to stop sitting over here acting like this hard thing that I’m doing is somehow harder for me than other people, or that there’s some reality in which work isn’t, y’know, work. I’m going to try and get over my poor, whiny self— with the aid of second coffee, a little nibble, and a walk in the sunshine— and give my energy to the work, even though it’s pretty excruciating and uncomfortable sometimes.
I’d be worthy of love and mercy even if I didn’t manage to focus on the work I believe I was put here to do, but it would be a disappointment to the Dolly-God stand-in that has now inserted Herself in my conscience. And, I don’t know about you, but I can’t disappoint Dolly.
What helps you to show up for the hard things?
Y’all! I now have well over TWO HUNDRED SUBSCRIBERS! Can you help me get to 250 by the end of April?
Thank you to each and every one of you for being a part of making it this far. Please help this project keep growing. If you enjoyed this piece, like it (click the heart!), share, and comment! I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you want to support my work at Let Your Life Speak and you haven’t yet subscribed, you can do that below. Thank you, thank you, thank you!