They say you should never meet your heroes because you will inevitably be disappointed. I suppose that’s true in some cases. If your hero was Superman I don’t know how you could possibly meet him without being dumbfounded by his bulging man-panties. You might not be disappointed, but it would definitely be weird.
I’m lucky though, I got to meet my hero once and it was everything I ever wanted it to be. In fact I have seen him every year now for four years. He doesn’t know I’m there, but I sit back in that audience and I listen to him read and inside I sparkle.
My hero is David Sedaris. I had a brief, yet perfectly awkward, conversation with him once. I had taken my mother to see him read at a theater down town. We stood in line to have our books signed. I barely remember any of it because several thousand butterflies seemed to be participating in a fight club inside my stomach. I was so nervous I shook. Literally shook. I remember feeling sweat drip down my back as we waited, overdressed in the April heat of Texas.
When we reached the front I could hardly form a sentence. I remember telling him I wanted to be him when I grew up, prompting him to inscribe my book with simply, “Dream Bigger.” He asked me if I had any tattoos, which from reading all his previous essays, I knew to be a common query at his book signings. I was disappointed to tell him no, I was uninked. He said that was refreshing. I can’t remember what I babbled back to him, but I do remember thinking I could never possibly be more star struck.
It took a long time afterwards for me to come down from the interaction. I had actually spoken to my hero, not well, not clearly, and certainly not meaningfully, but I had done it. I can hold those few moments in my pocket and know heroes are real.
David’s writing changed me. When I first read his work a whole new world opened up around me. What he wrote, and how he writes it is what I had always wanted to do, but never before known was possible. He was really doing it. Making people laugh, experience joy and grief right along with him as his told the stories of mundane, yet somehow miraculous every day events from his past.
His stories made all of the fish and pencil sharpener obituaries I had written make sense. David’s writing made me realize the story about the marshmallow spit I managed get stuck to my ass and unknowingly wander about the house with could be real art someday.
So even today I sit behind my computer. Clicking away at the keys trying to dance my way around the page with nouns and verbs to paint a picture worth reading. Maybe someday with enough work David Sedaris may even read something I wrote. Maybe. I’ll keep trying.