I wanted to be many things when I was younger. And while I’m not any of those things, that doesn’t mean I wasted my time.
When you’re younger, you have a lot of dreams. I remember wanting to be a cartoonist-inventor-actor-palaeontologist, certain that I’d have the time, and the willpower, for all those things. Inventor eventually fell off that list, as did palaeontologist, as I realised that I didn’t really have the aptitude necessary for scientific pursuits. It took a lot of straining for me to learn anything and more effort than I felt I could muster to retain. Besides, those things had been replaced with a bigger, grander dream.
A cartoonist I eventually let go, too, not just because I was discouraged at the progress my drawing was making, but that I wasn’t really willing to put in the hours of drawing improvement necessary to draw the same things identically twice. That seemed a nigh-on-impossible goal to me. And then I picked up a guitar.
The dream of writer-actor-musician has lasted since I was at least 16. Every 16-year old, I think, has some vague dream of being a rockstar, and even more concrete dreams of being famous in some way—a feat which has become easier to achieve, if somewhat harder to hang onto. Social media has allowed wannabe musicians, artists, writers, poets, commentators, and everyone else under the sun, to access a wide audience for their content, more than has ever been possible.
But what hasn’t changed is the fact that not everybody will make it.
I recall doing an acting class a couple of years ago with about a dozen other people. Of the lot of us, some were good, some not so good, but what was consistent was the desire to Do The Thing, to act, and, to an extent, to be famous for it. One day, listening to the teacher talk about embodiment or technique or some other such thing, I remember thinking, “We all think we’re the one that’s special, that’s going to make it. But the truth of it is, probably none of us are.”
And I know that might sound bleak, and it is, but it’s also unflinchingly true. As you can no doubt tell, I am not a famous actor at this very moment. Nor am I even an up-and-comer. The teacher from the class called even minor success in the acting game, “a waiting game”. Actors have to have the drive, and the ability to pick themselves up from failure time and again, just to stay in the game. Eventually, after years, some will make it in some way. Most will have dropped out by then. It becomes a process of elimination, of cost-benefit.
I still have an agent, and I still go for commercial auditions, but I have no real belief that it will “happen” for me. And that’s okay. I’ve never been lucky, nor an avid schmoozer.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t essentially given up. And that’s okay.
Giving up on certain aspects of your dreams, especially if you don’t have the energy, or the singular focus, to make them come true, is a natural part of life. And it, honestly, doesn’t really bother me. Yes, it kind of sucks. I still have an agent, and I still go for commercial auditions—but I have no real belief that it will “happen” for me.
I’ve never been happier with my writing, or with my music, as I am now, though. Things have only gotten better on that front as time has gone on. People are reading, people are listening, and that’s all I can ever ask.
So, in a way, although I’ll never really let it all the way go, this is kind of my way of saying goodbye to a dream, and of apologising to young me for not going at it harder like maybe I should have. But who knows, right? Dreams have a funny way of coming true, if you stop trying so hard to make them.