CREATOR VS. VICTIM
As the year winds down and old things crumble away, I find myself reflecting on what lies behind and ahead. There is a strange mix of exhaustion, frenzy and bittersweet longing in the air. It was a year of endings and transitions. It was a year book-ended with fulfilling work but not nearly enough of it in-between. It was a year of wondering how to move past the the same predictable patterns that hold me back so I can grow into person I think I should already be. It’s the same every December but these are questions worth pondering as the New Year approaches.
The best thing about this year was that I finally made my short film after thinking it was never going to happen and feeling overwhelming frustration about the process of trying to get it off the ground. I made it because my career path continues to be elusive and winding and unclear. I am older than most actresses in Hollywood with so few credits and no representation. It’s a crazy and never-ending gamble of passion and stubbornness against the odds and grim reality.
Perhaps the battle I waged the hardest this year was against jealousy and envy- of everyone’s path but my own. Everyone else seems to have an easier journey or better luck or more support behind them. Sometimes I feel like I’m wandering through the barren wilderness with no guide, no water and no sign of any kind to keep going. I’d get so angry and upset when I thought about it. Why do they get the auditions; why do they get the meetings; why do they get the beauty, the charm, the opportunities, the money… That thought process is a very slippery slope designed to take one DOWN. And what I hated most of all was when someone who cared about me would say, “Their path isn’t yours and you have to walk your own path.” I hated it! I didn’t want or like my path. It was for suckers. I wanted a different path. Why should someone else get a better path than me? Why am I stuck with the path that barely qualifies as a path? (If you type “path” this many times it starts to look really weird.)
But I thought about it because I’ve heard that “walk your own path” comment my entire life and I’m tired of hearing it but not understanding it. Everyone says it but what does it mean? What does it truly mean to walk your own path? How are we supposed to be contented with keeping our heads down and taking the crumbs Life hands us when it appears that everyone else is invited to the feast? Rilke says, “…let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.” I think about that all the time- Believe me: life is in the right, always. What a statement! Whatever is happening, wherever you are, BE THERE BECAUSE IT’S RIGHT FOR YOU. My path is my own. I cannot walk, have, or be on another person’s path as much as I might want to. So if that’s the case, if I have to take this crappy old path, then why am I here? Where am I going and why am I going this way?
I started to realize that I was banging my head against a wall when I allowed jealousy to overcome me. Here I am, walking my stupid path, and over there someone else is gliding happily along on their yellow brick road. Nothing I do will take me over there. I can’t wish it hard enough or leap high enough. I don’t get to walk that path. I had to accept that. It’s a hard pill to swallow but it sure feels better once you do. Once you drop the “Poor Me” sob story, another story gets to emerge. It is a mysterious story and I have no idea where it’s going or how it will end, but it’s pretty damn interesting.
I found that creating my own work was incredibly rewarding, invigorating and exciting. I’ve produced many projects over the years but for some reason this was the first one that really came together the way I imagined it could. Once it started happening, I felt that every single cell in my body was vibrating at a higher frequency. I got to use my passion for great stories to find one that was just right for me and to get to know a new writer. I got to bring together a team of incredible artists to help me tell that story and meet countless other incredible artists along the way. I got to look around me the first morning of shooting with a surreal surge of adrenaline and know that I was the point of origination behind all of it. No random audition or low-level agent meeting could ever make me feel as empowered and alive as creating an opportunity of my own.
See, we are all born to create. No matter who we are, where we live, what we do, what we have or how deprived we are- we are each in possession of the innate and undeniable gift of creation. We can create our own thoughts which lead to feelings which lead to actions. We can let ourselves be whipped by our trials or we can breathe meaning into them. No one else gets to decide who we are or what we want to bring to the world. No one else gets to walk our path. Perhaps the darkest and most trying of circumstances are merely the tools in the creation of extraordinary lives. Perhaps we can put our hands on the hammer and guide it instead of cowering from it.
L.M. Montgomery wrote, “It’s not what the world holds for you. It’s what you bring to it.” I thought about that a lot, too, over the past few months. I want to stop whining and pining over what I think I should have or get… and I want to start thinking instead about what I’m here to give. If I think in those terms, my path expands into something wild, vast and unknown. It is no longer a poor substitute but rather an intriguing alternative to more conventional paths. My path is unconventional and I’m making my peace with that.
This coming year, I want to stop playing small. I want to stop following the “rules” and listening to all the other voices about “how it’s done” or “when it’s too late” or “how hard it all is.” If I’m here to create and to forge my own path, then I’m going to do just that. And in that case, there’s no rule-book and no right way or wrong way. I’m just going to start walking and see where it takes me.