I had a huge, revelatory moment with Tammy, the ebullient and creamy-complexioned event coordinator and production genius at Nancy Zieman’s here in Beaver Dam:
When I get done at the end of a day on a gig, I am bone-weary. Missing a number of internal organs has something to do with it (and my low hemogoblins don’t help) — and in a day I will typically meet hundreds of people, sign a lot of things, and smile for a whole bunch of pictures, which is all pretty intense — but it’s something else, too.
Proving myself in the quilt world takes an extraordinary amount of energy. Since I began doing this quilt world thing for keeps, I have committed myself to knocking it out of the park every single time I do anything: editing a magazine, hosting shows online or or TV, lecturing, speaking, teaching, etc., etc. I know for a fact I have failed at all of these things in various ways over the years, but boy, I will take extraordinary measures to not let that happen. I am nearly obsessed with taking everything through and past that finish line because I have to prove that I am not riding on Mom’s coattails, that I have my own point of view, that I know what I’m doing, that I’m not an imposter. Sticking around for a bunch of years has done a lot; I can’t be a dilettante if I’m still here.
But if people leave an event with me feeling disappointed, if they don’t have a good experience in class, any feelings they had about me being lame or a phony, well, those feelings are suddenly validated for them. “Hm!” they might say, “I went to see/take a class from Mary Fons and it was just awful.” I fight, fight, fight hard to “catch” every last person and create happy customers so that doesn’t happen. A lad in Buffalo last weekend said, “You know, when you first came on the show, I thought you were just a spoiled brat. I told my husband, ‘I won’t watch this show anymore.’ But now I think you’re great!” These sorts of things haunt me.
But my thinking on these things is ridiculous — cannot possibly change what a person thinks about me; they’re gonna feel a type of way whether I bend over backwards for them or not. But look at my profile: I’m a middle child whose dad left early on in life and I have a born interest in doing stuff onstage. I’m perfectly set up to be an over-achiever; add to that a fierce need to prove I’m not just glomming onto my mother’s success… It’s a recipe for dragging myself to my hotel room and getting horizontal as soon as possible after a day of work.
Mary: get over it. You’re starting to get circles under your eyes. I think that’s supposed to start happening at forty-something. Don’t push it at thirty-six.
**Crucial note: I don’t just try to do a good job because I need to prove something. I genuinely want people to have a fabulous day, an a-ha moment-rich class experience, to laugh and ponder stuff I share with them. That is really important to understand.