What Would You Be Without A Day Job?
I remember the exact moment it happened. I was a Theatre Arts Major at Penn State University. During my freshman and sophmore years the only thing more important than the next keg party and a pack of Marlboro lts. was whatever play I was currently featured or starring in.
I rarely showed up for most of my other classes. As a matter of fact I can barely recall what those early classrooms looked liked.
However, for Acting classes, rehearsals, performances, and performance related activities I was always front and center. A combination of yearning passion for the spotlight, and having a lot to say was the inspiration that kept me dedicated in a time of my life where sitting down to eat was too much commitment.
I was blissfully engaged in my life's passions and more than that, I was great at them, because I believed in myself. I also believed in the importance of what I was doing and how I could one day use my life to make a difference for other people. I knew back then that I was destined to have a public voice.
Then it happened…
I was chosen to perform for the Irene Ryan Competition. Ms. Ryan was the actress who played Granny on "The Beverly Hillbillies". For those of you who have not been around longer than the Internet "Google her."
Anyway, it's a major acting competition for scholarships funded by Granny's estate. The pressure was on.
I had a monologue and a scene prepared. I had practiced and I was dedicated on the weeks leading up to the competition. I knew all my lines, I understood my character, I even had costume pieces (even though they weren't required).
When my turn finally came out of hundreds of performers I felt nervous but ready. I just knew that this was the fulfillment of my destiny. When I got up there under the previously welcoming warm stage lights, I began to feel... Inadequate.
Perhaps it was always being reminded by my parents that I was chasing a useless dream. Maybe it was my inappropriately-involved acting teacher who was constantly nursing his own unfulfilled performance desires, like a manipulative surrogate stage mom. Maybe it was a build up of all of my fears finally coming to a head in one crucial life changing moment. Whatever it was, I got under those hot lights and I completely forgot what it meant to express myself despite fear.
I instead concentrated on remembering the lines and getting it over with as soon as possible.
Which, if you've ever been subjected to a lot of community theatre, you know is not exactly the road to a TONY award.
I botched it...
So why am I telling you this seemingly self-pitying tale? Because after what I considered, at 19-years-old, to be the biggest failure of my life I left acting. I decided instead to become a costume designer so that I could still stay close but cloaked under the safety of being "backstage".
Cut to today, it's been about twenty years and in that time I've made consistently safe career choices that have kept me "backstage".
I've since re-visited my performance passions through singing and taking some classes. I even wrote and performed a one woman show.
I won't lie though, after years of neglect, my chops had lost their once energetic effectiveness. I also robbed myself of the level of commitment that fosters mastery.
So I always maintained the "safety" of being employed as support staff rather than starring in my own purpose.
Here are ten lessons I learned…
1. It's important to have emotional commitment for whatever you do. If you don't really care about it, it won't really care about you.
2. It's up to you to discover your passions. What other people think is unimportant. Even when they are your parents.
3. The only way to inspire others is to be inspired.
4. You can't love yourself and limit yourself at the same time.
5. The courage to stay committed to your dreams comes from the true understanding that one day you will no longer exist and NOT knowing what day that will be.
6. It truly is never too late because your purpose never stops existing, even after you're gone. The key is flexibility.
7. Sometimes the "dream killers" are actually the circumstances that will bring out your most amazing self.
8. Your spotlight may or may not be on stage, but wherever it is you have to find it.
9. Failure is like superstition it only comes true when you believe in it.
10. There's no such thing as uselessness. Every single soul has a reason.
So here I am twenty+ years later and the time has come to make a definitive decision. Continue to pursue a career that (while I've always been grateful) is merely a safety net, or stay committed, finally to once again being center stage in my own life and the star of my purpose.
For me that means, finishing my book and my coaching website. Amping up the look of this site right here. Getting more and more 'Nistas published and most importantly getting back onstage or in front of the camera and spreading my message of self-acceptance worldwide.
I'm making a decision to be held accountable to you, my readers, that I do everything possible to be ready for opportunities to live in my unadulterated purpose.
I owe it to myself and most importantly anyone who feels they need, love or want what I have to share.
What does "being backstage" look like in your life? What would it mean for you to be under the lights again? What would you have to be doing?
Here's a hint… Think about some of the things that you have been most passionate about and most afraid to attempt. Also, consider all of the opportunities that you let go by because you told yourself you weren't good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough, wealthy enough, or just enough.
BE the Love of your life.