Lessons from Erica Strange

At some point along the way this summer, I told someone out loud that I was a writer.  I remember the moment well, and probably commented on it in this blog at the time.  I was dropping something off at an office downtown when I ran into an acquaintance of mine who works there.  She politely asked me what I was doing these days, and I blurted out,  “I’m a writer,” shocking myself as I said it. It struck me as an audacious attempt to “fake it ’til you make it,” to declare myself that to which I aspire, knowing full well it was a total stretch.  I’m just starting to accept the premise that for some of us, the “impostor syndrome” is actually a legitimate part of the road to success when we’re learning something new.

The thing is, outside of the occasional post to this blog (to which I have become increasingly less attentive as other projects have surfaced over the last couple of months), I’ve done very little writing of late.  Now though, thanks to a recent episode of  a kind-of-goofy-yet-deep TV series, that’s changing.  I’m focusing more on taking action to make my dreams turn into my reality.

For those of you who’ve never heard of “Being Erica” (and I imagine there are many, considering it’s on CBC), it’s a bit like therapy for the masses disguised as an episodic television series.  The main character is the aptly named and adorable Erica Strange, a woman in her early 30’s who gets to go back to relive a regret from her past each episode, in order to come back and make a positive change in her present.

Now in its third season, the show’s  current theme is “transformation,” so you can imagine that has some appeal for me.  Erica’s moved from individual to group “time travel” therapy, so now we have a whole new cast of characters to learn about.  A couple weeks ago, the episode focused on Adam, the hunky Irishman in the group who’s sure to be a romantic interest for our Erica.   Adam used to be a thug, but it turns out that he’s actually a really brilliant and talented guy who just made one wrong choice a long time ago that set him down a dark path.

After being sent back in time to relive a key moment of regret, Adam gets the unprecedented opportunity to see what his life could have looked like if he’d made a different choice in that moment. In his view of the future as it might have been, he’s a successful business owner, living in a gorgeous house, driving a fancy car, married to a beautiful woman, and the father of a baby girl. (In the background, David Byrne sings, “Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down,” so perfectly matching the scene.)

It’s clear to us that this is everything Adam really wants but has never allowed himself to imagine.  Once he sees his “dream life,” though, he feels like it was just a cruel trick, because he doesn’t believe he can ever really have any of it.  He is convinced that he has to live with the consequences of the bad choices he made in the past, and has a million excuses as to why that dream can never come true.  That is, until Erica confronts Adam and explains to him that the only thing stopping him from having what he really wants is his fear that his past still defines him.  Really, she reminds him, we always have the power to choose a new direction.  By the end of the episode, Adam has realized that Erica’s right, and goes to sign up for classes that will help him move into his dream career.

When the show ended, all I could think was, “I need to get moving.  I need to take action.”  I still don’t know what my “dream” looks like exactly, but I know that I love to write.  And I actually love to read what I write out loud.  So I started putting out feelers for places in town where I can read my stories out loud.  I thought I’d start by just showing up at some open mics and seeing how they work, but suddenly a chance to sign up to read at a “legitimate” writers studio appeared, and I just went for it and got a slot.  So now I’m going to be reading out loud.  Woah and wow and yeah is all I can say.

So thank you, Erica Strange, fictional though you might be, for helping me to see that we can make our dreams come true.  Sometimes all it takes is a little bravado and some action.

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4 thoughts on “Lessons from Erica Strange

  1. Just in case it helps you realize your dream by hearing someone other than you say the same words, Hil, here ya go: My dear, old (as in of many years) friend, you are, indeed, a writer and a very talented, funny and engaging one at that, I might add.

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