With the unemployment rate here in California surmounting 12%, the search for success has turned into a search for survival for many people. Having been unemployed myself since mid-March, I have flirted with the notion of defining my own success by my ability to rule the Wild West in Red Dead Redemption and making my friends jealous of my summer tan. That’s the beauty about success…it takes on different meanings from individual to individual.
Growing up, I always idealized success as being world renowned for whatever your passion was. For me, an aspiring actor, I always dreamed of seeing my name in lights on a Broadway marquee or performing Shakespeare to adoring fans at the Globe Theater. When you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, it’s always a fireman, or an astronaut, or a professional baseball player. You never hear kids say they want to grow up to work at Best Buy, be a janitor, or an animal masturbator (and yes, that is a real job.) The latter professions seem slightly less glamorous and don’t fit into the traditional archetype of success, but they are all jobs that someone has to do, and some probably even consider themselves quite successful at.
So here’s the million dollar question…Should we continue teaching kids that they can grow up to be whatever it is they set their mind to or should we be scaling back their delusions of grandeur and realistically preparing them for the inevitable bombshell that there can only be one Alex Rodriguez?
This is an issue that I have wrestled with quite a bit during my recent stint of unemployment, seeing as I’ve had lots of time on my hands. Upon entering college, I shied away from my pursuing my acting dreams because it didn’t seem practical. I had heard the horror stories about the starving actor, living off of Top Ramen in a studio apartment while going out on countless auditions without so much as a call back, and that didn’t scream success to me. So I instead decided to study law. There’s always a need for lawyers, right? They get paid buttloads of money, and it’s a profession to make your Jewish mother and grandmother proud. However, the chances of me delivering closing arguments in a courtroom were short-lived as I couldn’t deny the creativity bug. I eventually double majored in Film Studies and decided to pursue my new dreams of becoming a successful screenwriter. Ironic right? From scrapping my aspirations of becoming the next Lawrence Olivier due to the inevitable hard road ahead, to now being a starving screenwriter living off Top Ramen (and the occasional Cup of Noodles because you have to treat yourself every now and then.)
Having been at this screenwriting thing for five years now, how do I define success? Well, I have yet to sell a script, I do not have an agent, and I have not won any writing contests. So to many and myself at times, I could be considered a failure. It’s even easier to feel that way when you’ve been unemployed for the last four months. But, I have come to the realization that success/failure is not defined by how much money you make, or how people know your name in a myriad of different languages. No, success to me, is one’s ability to continually chase their dreams in the face of adversity.
Frankly, I refuse to give up my pursuit of success because the alternative, spending twelve hours a day submerged in various legal case studies sounds downright depressing. Have I at times wished I would’ve taken an easier road? Of course, but at the end of the day, what defines you as a person is doing what makes you happy. There are a laundry list of things I hate about working in the entertainment industry, but the ability to lose myself in a script I’m working on, creating a world from my imagination, that’s success for me.
So should we keep teaching kids that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up? Yes, because who are we to trounce on their hopes and dreams? Let them follow their passions, because without passion, life ain’t worth living. Every person will travel down a different road to their success and it’s up to us to let them find their own way.
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.” — Vincent T. Lombardi