“You’re lazy.” I remember someone close to me, someone who’s voice rang too loudly in my head, telling me those words when I was six. (No worries Mom, it wasn’t you I still owe you for the nights I literally peeled your eyelids open to tell you all the things in the middle of the night). At first, I didn’t know what to make of it. I thought, no, that’s just not true. But then I started to wonder. And you know what, I began to see it. Looking in the mirror. The subtle shadows along the edges of my face. Just a little left of my nose and a bit below my chin. I was starting to see what they said. I had lazy elbows, fingers and my walk oozed of lazy implications somewhere around the knees. I wasn’t sure of how broad the lazy spectrum spanned, so I just assumed that I was already somewhere near the dire end. After all, the lazy that I was proved to be visible by this point, too far gone to hide. I was only sure that I had to undo it.
The issue of how became my next endeavor. How did I become what they saw in the first place, and how would it be possible for me to become something else, something less useless, something more busy? That was it. I would simply get busy. I would be so busy that it would change my name, change the edges of my face and the lethargy near my knees. I would prove how lazy I was not. At six years old I couldn’t exactly go out and get a job, not because of child labor laws, I knew nothing about those, but because I didn’t yet know how to drive a car. And busy people drove cars. They drove cars to places that kept them busy. Deterred from “grown-up” work, because I didn’t have a car, or 10 more years added to my six, or any semblance of the requirements for a driver’s license, I decided to just stand. Well, it was less of a decision and more like paranoia. I figured if I were always standing I would be readily available to act on anything, immediately. I would always be ready to act on not being lazy. Dishes. Dusting. Special requests to turn the channel on the huge, wooden, box furniture we knew then as a television, back when one literally turned the channel with knobs and not remotes. The objective was to never give the appearance of leisure. So, yeah. I had figured out the how to denouncing my laziness, but I could never quite settle on the extent of my commitment, which rose the question, was I ever doing enough?
When I was about eight years old, I remember sweeping the driveway, chasing after every leaf attacking their onslaught with the broom. Hours and even days would pass and they would just keep falling, one leaf over here, another one over there. And though there may have only been fives leaves that escaped the piles and piles my brother and I collected to be burned, I would think it wasn’t enough. Sure there were things I hated to do and tried to avoid, like any kid, but even that made me feel anxious. How am I to prove that I’m not lazy, if I’m not proving that I’m not lazy? My inclination to stand soon evolved into a mini dance recital, to curb the sheer boredom of just standing, which lead family and friends to comment on how busy they thought I was. Busy? I thought, there’s a twist of fate. Being busy became my living mantra. I signed up for every after-school, before-school, and/or during-school activity I could find, with dance being my “busy-ness” of choice.
Dance was something I always loved and knew nothing about, outside of the kitchen-tile tap solos I used to do in my noisy church shoes. After dabbling in dance as an elective in middle school, I auditioned for the Seminole High School Dazzlers. It was God’s grace, 14 years of kitchen tap solos and the head coach’s, Maureen Maguire, eye for potential that got me a spot on the team. Mrs. Maguire and her daughter and assistant coach, Shannon, would push me way beyond my belief in myself. I’m not sure if they ever saw me as lazy. But whether they did or not, they would always say they thought I had potential. I guess I wore that around for awhile, because by my senior recital I was in 14 different numbers, including a solo I would often neglect to practice. Lazy.
College happened. I became a full time business student at the University of South Florida, a four-year member/two-year captain of the dance team, SunDolls, and performed in a beautiful show called Katonga, at Busch Gardens. I was busy. In spite of this, a co-worker of mine revealed to me that someone had spoken to our supervisor, claiming that I did not perform all of my shows full-out. But I knew he/she had to be wrong. I was covering shifts and doing up to five, 45 minute shows each work day, writing papers, studying for exams, practicing dance team routines… I was busy, how could he/she possibly know I had once been lazy? I was too exhaustively determined to be busy for them to see lazy. I was pretty fierce and mostly killing it. Wasn’t I? I’m pretty sure I was, because we settled the issue when I suggested they check the tapes. Every show was recorded and if they could find one minute in even one of the countless shows I performed in, then I would give credence to his/her complaint. Like I said, I was killing it! (Check the tapes, Boo)! But was that enough?
Fast forward to when opportunities allowed me to travel the world performing. One such opportunity landed me Off-Broadway. Business degree now in-hand, I had just earned a promotion in a show, a show I happened to despise but that’s to detail another time, and landed a spot as a singer, dancer and percussionist in the Off-Broadway production Between Worlds: Entre Mundo. Just a second. So, she plays drums now? Well, apparently I had a new skill to obsess over. Working as a dance show captain in my full-time position in Tampa, I would be flown out to Miami on my days off to learn the show and rehearse. Then I would fly back and work my regular job until I was finally able to leave my position. Endless hours of what was probably the most grueling and intense, and yet most satisfying rehearsal process I had ever been a part of, including the weeks I learned to play whole movements on the snare drum, whilst simultaneously singing and dancing, all amounted to my New York, Off-Broadway debut. I was soaring.
One day in our routine drum rehearsal, one of the percussion directors told me I was lazy. (Oh, you dreadful nostalgia). Playing the drums was such a huge challenge for me. I don’t think I blinked the entire experience, afraid that I would literally miss a beat. I had blisters on my hands and countless broken drumsticks from practicing, but he still managed to see what I was trying so hard to undo. Could I really not shake this thing? Drumming was fun, exciting and challenging, but it wasn’t me. Or should it have been? I can’t say that I know for sure, but the struggle to busy myself from laziness persists.
Since that day when I was six, I always thought about how I was doing, about how I was measuring up to the standards set in place for me. Honestly, it was not that I was so positive about my being lazy, but that I could never quite disprove it. I could never end a task confident that I had reached the absolute end of myself. Unsure if I was choosing to be less than anything good or if I was simply eternally tied to a characteristic too legible for onlookers to ignore, I raged against myself, against the lazy that was mine either by nature or given to me by someone who I trusted to define me. We are what people say we are, aren’t we? Not everything someone says about us could be entirely untrue. A hyperbole, yes. A complete understatement, certainly. But specs of truth are evident in both versions of the story. When given a compliment it is polite to accept it, even if we at the embarrassment of being complimented play coy and want to shy away from it. But what are we to say of our critiques? Are we not supposed to, with a similar but slightly more painful embarrassment, consider their truths? But was lazy my critique, or was it a badge given to me by someone else to wear?
I still stand everywhere I go, even now that I am married and am Mommy to infant, twin boys, which has made me busier than ever and has turned sleep into one of those apps I was sure I downloaded on my phone, but now can’t find. I’m still busy. Still a bit anxious. Still wondering if I should have, but was too lazy to, become a fierce, symbol-smashing, sun-orange-hair-rocking drummer for Beyoncé’s Run The World Tour. I wonder if I’ll ever know. I wonder if we all are what we were told we were. I wonder if lazy isn’t just an adjective. I wonder if for me, lazy is a noun.