The Asterisk

Who am I?

What do I want?

When will I make a change?

Where am I going?

Why am I doing this?

How am I going to achieve my goals?

Ahhh these six little questions… at first glance they might look like the outline for an English paper, but they are actually invisible demons that have poked at my brain with their fiery forks all my adult life. Since my senior year of college, I have asked myself these questions so many times that they start to sound like gibberish. And to be fair, sometimes my answers to them more closely resemble gibberish than a logical game plan. I tell you, Reader, without an ounce of shame (because I’ve learned that shame is a useless emotion, much like regret) that these questions have been notoriously answered with an asterisk in mind. That asterisk being:

*But what about him?

I’ll give you some examples…

Who am I?

I am an artist.

*But with him I am shy about my art because my success makes him doubt himself.

What do I want?

I want a marriage and a family.

*But with him I just want something casual because commitment scares him.

When will I make a change?

I will start today by looking into grad school programs, applying for that dream job, researching a new city to move to and a better apartment to live in.

*But with him I will wait and see what his plans are and postpone my own indefinitely for fear that making a decision will jeopardize our relationship.

Where am I going?

I am going to explore a bookshop in every city I visit, I’m going to study abroad in Ireland, I’m going to hike the Swiss Alps, I’m going to visit my brother in Japan, join my parents on family vacations, spontaneously take a girls trip somewhere basic, but fun. I’m going to live in Colorado, in Massachusetts, in Arizona, on the Finger Lakes, anywhere I want.

*But with him I’m going to wait and see if he can/wants to go to with me because I am fearful that this relationship will not last if there’s distance between us.

Why am I doing this?

I’m doing this because I want to, it feels good, and it will contribute to my personal growth.

*But with him I’m doing this because I know (or at least suspect) it’s what he wants and will keep him around.

How am I going to achieve my goals?

I am going to dream and work and grind and save and explore and commit and learn and grow and investigate and never stop trying until I’ve accomplished what I know I’m capable of— further still–until I’ve surprised myself with how far I can go.

*But with him I will passively chip away at my goals as long as they remain in the perimeters of our little world and don’t require too much risk.


You might be wondering or trying to figure out, “Who is the him in the asterisk?” I will say this right now: He is not a singular person. “Him” refers to every man I’ve ever dated. This man is the variable that has stood in my way since I was capable of making adult decisions. If I’m being completely honest with myself, I tried to push him out of forefront of my mind and always attempted to convince myself, my friends and my family that he was not a part of my decision making process; that I always chose what was best for me… let me tell you, I was definitely not winning a Tony over those real-life performances… I could tell that my family and close friends saw right through those lies, but I myself was stubbornly unconvinced. Only recently have I allowed myself to be brutally honest and confront the lies that I tell. And you know what? I’m not proud of all the truths that I’ve uncovered.

Here’s one brutal, ugly truth: I, Gina D’Arco, have been making decisions to please him, in response to him, and in hopes of changing him for far too long. This toxic, self-deprecating behavior pattern stops today.


When my most recent boyfriend broke up with me, I was forced to find a new place to live immediately and with family spread out in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Japan, I had literally nowhere to go. Perhaps I could’ve played musical couches for a week or so, but after my experience in Philly, my pride wouldn’t let me entertain that idea longer than it took to formulate a short list of potential friends I could stay with. My first thought was, “I have to move to Tallahassee and live with my parents”. I even went as far as searching for flights that night because in that moment I felt like I had to run away and get as far from Nashville as possible. I felt like garbage being kicked to the curb, not someone with a life, a job, a purpose, and a community of friends. I ended up staying one night on a couch and while I fitfully drifted in and out of sleep, I dreamt of having my own apartment. I dreamt of finally being able to own a dog, a collection of pots and pans, a couch to sit on. I dreamt of applying to grad school without guilt. I dreamt of feeling needed by my job and I dreamt of a community of people that sought out my friendship and quality time with me. I dreamt those things and the next day–instead of flying to Tallahassee with my tail between my legs– I made those dreams a reality. After living with my parents, ex-boyfriends and actor housing, for the first time in my life, I signed a lease… within 48 hours. The next week, I adopted a dog… and two weeks later, I started my application for grad school. I have reinvested in my preexisting friendships and have found some new ones. I have learned that there is no better teacher than necessity. I once thought I would never be able to achieve these things, but now I know that I had the potential to make all of this possible all along if only I hadn’t been so caught up in that insignificant asterisk. Now, I’m living my life for me and I’m never going back.

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