Finding Hope…

This past Saturday night, my husband and I met up with some good friends and joined thousands of other New Yorkers for an evening of Kelly Clarkson at Radio City Music Hall.

Now, we’ve been long time fans of Ms. Clarkson. We watched her on American Idol and voted hundreds of times every week so that she would make it into the finals. When we missed her Breakaway tour at Jones Beach, we vowed we would never miss her again, and therefore, we’ve seen her My December, All I Ever Wanted and, now, her Stronger tours.

And while both of the previous concerts were amazingly mind-blowing, this one meant something more to me…something different.

I had just received another glowing (read sarcasm) review on one of my books a couple days before the concert, and as a result, I was having trouble working on my newest project. Doubt wasn’t simply creeping in — it had pitched a permanent tent in my head, and it wasn’t letting go. And the harder it became to write, the more I started to think of myself as a failure. I know, ridiculous based on one bad review, but that old adage about sticks and stones…it’s crap. As a writer, I know the power of words, and they have a lot of power.

So anyway, I had put it from my mind (I’m not the type to wallow, but I am the type to walk away, so this could have been the end of my writing career) and went about my merry life with my family. And went on my way to the concert Saturday night with all the enthusiasm of a 5-year-old kid on Christmas morning.

Before the concert, we grabbed some drinks in the upstairs lounge and as we sat there talking, I couldn’t help people-watching a bit too. And I started to notice a trend…the vast majority of the concert-goers were either homosexual or overweight. This struck me as interesting before the concert, but as soon as the concert started, I had a revelation.

Kelly opened the concert with the song “Dark Side” and she sang it behind a massive screen upon which were displayed article clippings of nasty things people have said about her in the media over the years, and accented with words in giant red letters like FAILURE and FAT. The recurring lyric, “Please remind me who I really am” struck me so hard that I was already tearing up a mere couple of minutes into the show.

So many thoughts were going through my head in that moment, as I reminded myself of who I really am. I’m not my novels. And I’m certainly not my reviews, good or bad. Deep down I know that I am a human being, flesh and blood. I’m defined first and foremost by myself, and secondly by those who know me and love me. In the list of things that I am — wife, daughter, mother, sister, cousin, niece, aunt, friend, employer, philanthropist — writer is waaaaaay down the list. It’s a chosen career. Something I enjoy doing and have been fortunate enough to make money at…but by no means does it define who I am.

And then it made sense why so much of the audience consisted of people who, in some cases, might be ostracized by society. People who have self-esteem problems or who are told they aren’t entitled to the same rights as the rest of us. They can look at Kelly Clarkson and see that she has been hurt and torn down and publicly humiliated, and that eventually, she gave a big giant finger to those who said “you can’t” or “you’re a failure” or “you’re fat,” and then made herself into something beautiful and poignant.

Besides the fact that she delivered some of the most stunning live performances I’ve ever heard, she also delivered something a little less tangible: hope. And not just to struggling 20 and 30-somethings in New York. She’s also giving hope to millions of orphans in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Halfway through the show, we got to see a video montage of the children Kelly visited on her trip to Africa. Hearing about the 1.9 million orphans in South Africa alone was enough to have me bawling again, and yet another reminder of how insignificant my little Amazon review is in comparison.

So, in honor of my new found hope and my redefinition of who I am as a person, I’m going to donate $5 for every unique comment that’s left on this post to Houses of Hope Africa. All you have to do is comment!

Now go forth and be the best person you can be today 🙂