Don’t Be Afraid to Become Who You Were Meant to Be

I’ve faced a lot of criticism in my life so far. Probably more than most people who live in my part of the world. Since as far back as I can remember, my family has basically disagreed with everything I think, say and choose to do. When I was younger, this was very frustrating.

Perhaps it had something to do with the generation gap between myself and the grandparents who raised me. Whatever the reason, I have had to live with disapproval from my entire family since I was young enough that it still made me feel pretty bad.

Drawing From Personal Experiences

If you face any kind of adversity in life from those close to you, I can’t blame you for being scared. But you shouldn’t let it stop you.

I remember in the seventh grade, we were matched up with another student and our assignment was to pick an issue to debate, whether political or social. I ended up with another girl in the class named Bianca and our issue was abortion. We were on totally opposite sides of the matter as well, I might add.

While she argued that it was morally wrong and should be illegal, I stood my ground and believed it was a woman’s body so it was still her own choice what she did with it. I know where this position originated in myself too, which was equally as important.

For as long as I could remember, I had always thought that my mother should not have had children if she was just going to abandon them and didn’t really want to bother with them. People are a big deal. They matter. It seemed to me that you should not just go around carelessly breeding when you had no intention of being a responsible parent.

In my mind at that time (and still now, to an extent) abortion seemed like the more humane thing to do than bringing someone into the world who was unwanted. Why doom someone to live their life knowing that those responsible for them had no desire to know them or care for them?

You Will Know It When You Feel It

Backing up even further, I also have a very vivid memory of watching a soap opera with my live-in nanny at around the age of seven or so. I remember that one of the female characters was pregnant and she was injured somehow, I don’t remember the details.

At some point, there was a scene where one of the male characters either had to save the life of this unborn baby by doing something, or he had to instead save the life of one of the other adult female characters in the show. I remember asking Melanie (my nanny) about it and she asked me something that really made me think, even at such a young age. 

She asked, “Who do you think he should save?”

And I answered with the name of the adult female, then followed it up with something about how the other lady could always get pregnant again and have another baby, but they couldn’t replace the other character. She already had a name and they knew who she was. That seemed more important to me.

It still does. 

You Don’t Always Grow Out Of It

I think I had a misconception that perhaps my family would better understand me as an adult. That’s hardly been the case, however. My grandparents in particular disapprove of my choice to work as an escort.

While I don’t need them to agree with how I choose to live my life, I feel like they are missing out in many ways by judging and discouraging me. Sometimes, you have to let go of people who are supposed to be important and close to you because quite frankly, they give you no other choice.

Yes, it’s kind of sad. Yes, it’s also unfortunate. 

But there is something worse that it can turn out to be if you let it.

It might be the reason you never become who you were meant to be. Personally, I have learned to thrive off of the disapproval of others, rather than let it slow me down. The more they shake their heads at me, the stronger I stand my ground. It’s become easier over the years, but it takes practice.

The Courage to Stand Alone

And I mean all alone. If you were in a room full of people who would think badly of you if you told them who you were and what you did, would you have the courage to stand up and tell them? Could you handle standing there completely alone like some sponge for their negative reactions?

No one likes to be the only one in a group of people that doesn’t fit in at all. But it’s an important skill to have and you need to be able to do it when necessary. It’s not easy. It’s pretty fucking difficult. You need to have the balls to do this. Without it, you’ll never get very far.

Most people would like to think that if a group of people was picking on someone and had singled them out, they would intervene to help the victim…right? But ask yourself honestly if you would have the courage required to do something like that?

Remember that it would be you and the victim up against a large group of people who want to attack you, either verbally or physically. You’d be scared. But you’d know it was the right thing to do. 

Just like you need to stand up for what is right to help others, you need to do it to help yourself. 

Split Personalities Are Not The Way To Go

While some people seem to have no problem living double lives, it’s not really something I can make myself do. When I first set out to market myself online as a freelance writer, I faced a unique challenge.

I could write well, but obviously my clients came from several different industries and so they required writing that catered to an equally as wide range of topics, most of which I knew little or nothing about.

Okay, so what’s the big deal? Nothing, I guess. I just did the necessary research or they gave me something similar to what they were looking for to model the writing after, which worked well enough. 

Doesn’t this work just fine? Sure. But it’s not how you take things to the next level. It’s not how you infuse your writing with passion and true firsthand experience. 

As it turns out, there is something to be said for specializing. Not only can you demand higher rates for your work, but you become an authority in whatever niche it is you know most intimately.

Speaking of intimate niches, mine has turned out to be pretty easy to guess. Since most of my experience comes from working as an escort, I have a unique perspective on adult topics of all kinds.

For the longest time, I was pretty much convinced that since it doesn’t totally fit into any existing niches (like porn, for example) that are 100% legal, I was probably out of luck when it came to finding writing opportunities where this knowledge would be useful. 

So what did I do? I tried to create two separate identities. One as a writer. The other as an escort.

Big mistake. Not the right way to become who you were meant to be.

Keep Looking Until You Find It

daveyduke_0829v201As it turns out, there are opportunities to use both my writing skills and escorting experience all in one place. A while back, I started writing regularly for dating.com about many different topics related to escorting. Not only did I approach them with confidence, but I knew I had the right knowledge and the right words to write for their site.

I actually discovered it by pure accident, in fact. Like it was just meant to be. 

Now I’m getting offers to write for other sites in the same niche. Ones I didn’t even know about. Maybe there are more out there than I had previously thought. At the end of the day, my advice is to keep looking until you find the right opportunities for the person you really are.

Not who you are trying to be. Not who others want you to be. 

Instead of all that bull shit, become who you were meant to be. Be fearless. Don’t wait around for things to work out, find a way to make them work on your own terms.

How I Made it Into The New York Times

This post is going to be difficult to keep brief, so bear with me.

Let’s start with the story, which appeared in the Sunday edition of the New York Times on August 26th, 2012.

The title was “The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy,” and it was written by Mr. David Streitfeld who is a reporter for the newspaper.

In order to understand my role in this story, we’ll have to back track a little so I can explain in as few words as possible.

Finding Reviewers for Self-Published Books

I self-published my memoir in November of 2010. In the search for publicity and book reviews, I stumbled upon a paid review service offered by Kirkus. They had a long history in the publishing industry and seemed reputable enough, so I figured their reviewers would be objective.

Alas, the price tag on their reviews for self-published books was upwards of $400 – a bit out of my budget at that time.

I figured there must be others like them at more reasonable prices, so I did a Google search. I must say that until that day, I’d NEVER clicked on a Google ad. Boy, did that turn out to be a mistake.

I saw a single ad on the right side of my screen for a site called GettingBookReviews.com. They offered reviews for $99 instead, which I decided to take a chance on.

Can Paid Reviews be Written Fairly?

That’s where it all started. The site was run by a guy named Todd Rutherford. He did what I refer to as “dicking around” for over a month, when the review was promised to be delivered in 7-10 days. That wasn’t my main issue with him, however. Upon further research, I learned that Mr. Rutherford’s company was recruiting freelance writers from Craigslist and only offering to pay them for five star reviews.

Being a freelance writer myself, that was a huge turn off for me. I was having second thoughts about this already. What troubled me most about it all was that I heard nothing from this guy after putting in my order. Every time I exchanged emails with him, it was because I took the initiative to contact him first. After a couple of weeks, he still had no update for me unless I bugged him about it. Not how you treat customers, in my opinion.

Finally, after all the unsavory things I discovered about Mr. Rutherford and after waiting several weeks, I simply wanted nothing to do with him. I asked him for a refund and wished to be done dealing with him. He responded by refusing to give me my money back, which pissed me off pretty bad. I didn’t want his review. I wouldn’t use it. I just wanted my money and hoped to never speak with this guy again.

The Power of One Pissed Off Customer

So I wrote a nasty rant about his service.

I informed him that I would be posting this letter on all the consumer complaint sites that I could find, which was a threat that I more than followed through with.

I spread it as far and wide as I possibly could. So far and wide, in fact, that on August 8th, 2011, I received an email from Mr. Streitfeld of the New York Times who said he wished to speak to me without telling me what the email was regarding.

I honestly wasn’t sure why I’d get an email from a reporter for the Times, but I was terribly curious and so I called the phone number he left in his email and once I had him on the phone, he told me that he had found my rant and explained that paid and fake reviews were topics he had been covering a great deal.

Meeting In Person

Nearly eight months passed and I was edited out of another story written on the same topic by Mr. Streitfeld. My part shrank until there was no room for me at all, he explained. I understood. But he did keep telling me that it would happen eventually.

Then on April 3rd, 2012 I received another email from him telling me that he would be visiting Portland soon and wanted to know if I could meet up with him in person to talk while he was in town. I said yes and we ended up meeting at a coffee shop near my house on the 10th of that same month.

We spoke for probably a couple of hours total. We talked more about paid reviews, the ethics involved and about writing books in general. It was a thought provoking discussion to say the least.

So after we parted ways, I waited some more. I next heard from him on July 19th. All he said was that he was still writing the story.

The Photo Shoot

Less than a week after that, they sent a freelance photographer named Leah Nash over to my house to shoot some photos of me. We took some of me on my couch in the living room and then moved outside to the deck. The one that was in the newspaper was from the second group, and wasn’t my favorite of all the ones taken at all. Oh well.

She was a very friendly and interesting lady and it was fun talking with her.

Check out the photos on her website.

Over A Year Later…

So it might have taken over a year until it finally happened, but the story was finally published in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times in August of 2012. I went downtown to buy a print copy and was surprised to see Mr. Rutherford’s face looking at me from the cover of the business section. The piece is very long for a story in the newspaper. But man did it shake people up!

On the New York Times website, the story has over 300 comments. Most of them express pretty strongly worded opinions about the whole concept, from both sides of the fence.

So what do you guys think about all this? Share in the comments.