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“I Think That I Would Give Just About Anything to Have Known Then What I Know Now.”
I never knew then what it meant to work hard. I never knew then how much strength it would take to walk my own path, nor did I know how much strength could be found by walking my own path.
By doing my own thing. In my own way.
I never knew then that if I truly wanted to get somewhere – do something that I cared deeply about – then the best place for me to start looking was inside. That inside me resided all the information and resources I would ever need to get where I truly wanted to go. And I never knew then that I would have to fight for it – and fiercely.
When I talk about “then”— I mean Toronto. Toronto over twelve years ago. And before that – New York City. I went to those two cities—NYC first to study, and then T.O. to live—because I wanted to be an actor. I wanted, finally, to bite the bullet, move to the big city, and realize my dream of becoming an actor. I had spent about seven years in my hometown as an actor, studying and taking classes, and felt I was ready to make my leap to the big [Canadian] pond.
So I did. And, to be honest, life didn’t change much.
I still took classes. I still worked on my craft. I auditioned here and there. I met people. I sent out some letters. Some headshots. Some resumes. I went through all the motions.
And yes, I took my hits. And yes, they hurt.
And I kept taking them, until I couldn’t take them anymore.
And then I did what every down-hearted, defeated person does:
I went home.
And, once I was there, I gave up for awhile. I wandered around aimlessly and tried to forget about this thing that I had once wanted to do. I told myself I didn’t really want to do it. I convinced myself that it was just a phase I had gone through—that it had all been in my head really—and that it was now, thankfully, over.
And then ten years went by.*
*[well, actually it was more like seven – but ten sounds more dramatic].
And I found myself, at my desk last night, watching the opening credits from the rough cut of a short film I shot last summer.
I watched my name flash on the screen. I watched my performance.
And then something significant happened:
I woke up.
I realized that this dream—this little inclination of mine—is, in fact, not dead. But neither is it fully realized—not to my satisfaction—and if I were on my death-bed tomorrow, I would undoubtedly be disappointed with the current state of things.
I would be disappointed because I don’t think I have worked hard enough.
That’s right. I woke up to the realization that I need to work harder. That I need to fight like I have never fought before. That if I want to make this part of my heart exist in my world – in the everyday ordinary world that I live in right now – then I’m going to have to work for it. I’m going to have to figure out a way to make it exist in a manner that I can live with, and on my own terms. I am going to have to protect it, nourish it, and grow it, as fiercely as a mama bear.
Because there is no other way to do it.
There is no other bloody way to do it.
Commit or regret.
Acting is hard work, my friends. Hell, realizing anything that you care deeply about takes hard work. Looking inside and taking an honest look at yourself and your individual needs is hard work.
I know now that I spent all those years looking outside. Looking waaaay outside at others doing what I thought I wanted to do. Watching others in different places [*cough, cough*- L.A.], with different outlooks [*cough, cough* – famous ones], and different rules to play by [*cough, cough*- Hollywood’s].
I looked at them, and judged myself and my environment by their standards. And I bought into the story they were selling. I walked around in dreamland dreaming of big things—money! fame! fortune! magazine covers! Oscars! Oprah!—and ignoring the prosaic reality, which is this:
My home is here—in Calgary—in this tiny market, where I freeze my ass off for approximately 8 months of the year. I live here with my partner, in a ramshackle house, in a funky neighbourhood, with a little brown dog that I adore. I have friends here, and family, and a passion for hockey that thrives in this place. I don’t want to leave here. Not yet, anyways. And people are fond of saying that there’s not a lot going on here. Because there isn’t, really. This place, clearly, is not on Oprah’s radar. But you know what? I don’t give a f*ck about Oprah’s, or anyone else’s, radar anymore. I care only about mine. I care only that I am firmly centered on my own radar. I care only that I feed my own creative soul in the way that works best for me.
Because, in the end, there is only me. I, truly, am the only one here.
Think about that.
For I tell you the clock is ticking!
I lost sight of that fact for close to ten years – if, in fact, I was ever really aware of it.
So yeah, that’s ten years. Ten years of productivity that I could’ve had IF I had known then what I know now, which, again, is this:
YOU, like me, are the only one here. You have NO definitive proof that anyone else exists here, in the same way, that you do. Life is not the fantasy that you see on TV or in the movie theatre. It is not the fantasy that someone else says it is. It is only the here and now of your existence, and it is your responsibility to take an honest look at yourself, at who you are, and the life you want to live, and then go out and create it to the best of your abilities, with the people you hold dearest, because once you die, that opportunity will be lost. It will be gone—who you are, what you wanted to be, who you wanted to spend it with, the you that is you—will be gone forever.
So what are you waiting for?
Look inside, find that thing you love, and go do it. Make it work in your world somehow—in the place where you live—in an honest way that truly satisfies you, and leaves you with no regret.
And work hard for it, dammit.
Because it is a part of you, and it deserves nothing less.