Doing it On Purpose

So, yesterday I watched the Netflix movie Dumplin’, based off the book of the same name…


Not gonna spoil the movie, except to say, I liked it a lot…it’s very good and well written and well done…I love the message…I cried a lot…and…it features Dolly Parton music, and some of Dolly’s most quotable one-liners over her long career in entertainment.

I know. Say what you want about Dolly Parton…she’s in on all the jokes, though.
She’s platinum (bottle) blond. She’s hyper feminine in style and dress. She’s country. Big time. She’s had work done to stay looking virtually ageless for several decades (except for the boobs…those are real…and she knows they draw a lot of attention too).

We spent part of The Boy’s Spring Break at Dollywood…yes…an amusement park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee created by Dolly filled up with stuff Dolly likes. Dolly and my son apparently have ‘thrill rides’ in common on their ‘likes’ list. Sigh.
There’s also a Dolly museum there with all of her awards and outlandish outfits and photos of her with everyone from sitting presidents in their term of office to truck drivers to drag queens, and she is wearing the same genuinely friendly ‘happy to meet you, happy to be here’ smile in every shot. It’s not fake. Believe me, I know fake photo smiles. I’m an expert at them. Dolly’s isn’t fake. Her eyelashes probably are. Maybe her hair is too. The smile though? That’s totally real.

The Boy said, ‘How old is she? Does she get older?’
And you know what? She doesn’t.
Dolly never gets old, and it’s not because of the work she’s had done (that she’s not ashamed of or trying to hide even a little bit, which makes her all the more bad ass if you ask me). It’s because she lives out loud, exactly who she is, and she’s not nasty about anything (Dolly is super positive…and NOT phony…Dolly on the soul level doesn’t have any artificial parts or embellishments, which I love about her), but she sure doesn’t give a damn if you don’t like who she is or what she does, either.

“I’m not going to limit myself just because people won’t accept the fact that I can do something else.”
~Dolly Parton

I loooooove that about Dolly, too. I always have. Even though I am not and never have been a hyper feminine entertainer by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, I’ve always admired Dolly. She’s a damn good writer. Listen to those songs. You listen to Jolene and tell me you don’t feel that pain. Or I Will Always Love You (Dolly wrote that song, for you young Whitney Houston fans out there who have maybe never had much if any country music exposure…Whitney is possibly THE ONLY person who could do justice to it as a cover). Dolly never has let anyone else tell her what she can be, or because she was this one thing, it meant she couldn’t be these other things over here, or she couldn’t be this way and this other way at the same time. She kinda refuses to be pigeon-holed. She’s done a lot of varied things and walked down a lot of different paths and even paved some of her own, but she’s NEVER deviated from being herself doing all of that. I dig that about her. I kinda wanna be Dolly Parton when I grow up.


Anyway, a quote of Dolly’s that got hit in the book/film Dumplin’ a few times is my all time favorite one of hers (and she’s got some beauties…):

“Figure out who you are, and do it on purpose.”

Talk about a gal practicing what she preaches, am I right? One can say many things about Dolly, and she can be critiqued for a lot of things if you’re into criticism, I guess, but one thing no one can ever say about her is that she’s unoriginal. Dolly is one of a kind. Unabashedly. And that’s heroic in my book.

It took me a while personally, to figure out who I am. I wasn’t a kid who had a specific passion or aptitude growing up. Even when I graduated college and got a job, my first boss told me he hired me because my education history and employee testing showed him I’d be a perfect ‘jack of all trades; master of none’ (his exact words).
I mean, great and everything, but that kinda sucked for a young woman who didn’t know who she was or wanted to be. I mean…if formal education and standardized testing couldn’t tell me, who would? I wanted some kind of aptitude test or personality test to give some me definitive answers. I wanted to take some class in elementary school…or high school…or college…that would ignite some kind of passion so I’d know who I was and I could start doing it on purpose. All I ever found out from ‘objective’ measurement was that I could be decently good at and reasonably happy doing a whole bunch of shit. Which again…nice. I guess. But I felt lost.
I kind of envied Dolly. She knew from the time she was a little girl who she was and immediately started doing it on purpose. And she’s won awards doing it. She’s written and sung some of the all time great songs of the last 50 years, regardless of genre (see above). She’s acted in some of the most celebrated films about women of all time (watch Steel Magnolias or 9 to 5 and don’t fall in love with her…I dare you).  She’s got a style that’s hers; a personality that’s wholly likable. I mean…she built. An. Amusement. Park. Who does that? Name a celebrity other than Walt !@#$ing DISNEY who does that. There’s only Dolly. I wanted to know myself so well and do so much of it on purpose that I could have a thought one day like, ‘Think I’m gonna build me an AMUSEMENT PARK and the theme will be: ME.’ You know?

No tests told me anything though. And randomly trying this and that didn’t get me better results, either. I’ve worked varied jobs; tried different hobbies. Hell, I’ve tried personalities on, based on facets of mine, trying to make them my ‘whole,’ and discarded them like some people do outfits because that’s how much I didn’t know who *I* was.

I finally started figuring out who I was when I met J. He didn’t try to pigeon hole me. I could be a multitude of different things…a ‘jack of all trades; master of none’…I could be two things simultaneously that were seemingly contradictory on the surface…and he was alright with all of it. He never told me I was too loud or too much or didn’t make any sense.
And I figured more out about who I was when I became The Boy’s mother. I know that’s a cliche. But I mean…I have to type them here. ‘Sense of purpose.’ ‘Looking to the future.’ ‘Reason to follow my dreams to set an example.’ ‘Saw myself in this other person and…’ You know the drill, but it’s all true.
And when I started letting other people look at the things I wrote. The things I’d always written. I’ve always been passionate about storytelling. I just had to find the right environment to feel safe doing it and let it go. So I could figure myself out.

It took me a while. Longer than a lot of folks claim it should. So to quote another ‘one of a kind’ lady I admire just as much as, but for totally different reasons than Dolly…

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”

“I was 32 when I started cooking. Until then, I just ate.”

~Julia Child


Now I’ve pretty much totally figured out who I am. I was in my early 30s too, before I really embraced being a mom and a wife and a homemaker and a writer. Those are the things I’m passionate about and tremendously interested in. And I know that’s what I do, not necessarily who I am, but…I mean figuring out what I’m passionate about and interested in…what I wanted to put all of my soul and energy into…that is a huge part of who I am and it was the most difficult part for me of figuring out who I am.

So you bet now I’m doing it on purpose.

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