I've tried to write this post before. Many times before. I can never quite wrap this subject up with a pretty bow, so I usually step away from the topic. I don't want to write something that is lacking a resolution. Anyone else feel like that? Like there are ongoing elements in your life that need a resolution? And you know they need a resolution, yet you can't seem to muster it? I've been living without answers to some of these questions for years. This subject of dreams and failure, this is a tough one for me.
I am such a dreamer. I identify so well with dreaming big and loud. I haven't always been this way to quite this degree, but my husband has unearthed it and drawn it out of me more and more. We love dreaming about the future. We love dreaming without any restraints. We often pour ourselves a glass of something (coffee! wine! sparkling water!) and think of all the things we could do to change our world. We talk about business ideas, we discuss how to improve our lifestyle, ways to make mundane things more efficient, all sorts of endeavors that we would like to try out and explore. We dream about everything, from the minuscule to the major.
Not all of our dreams come true. We don't have endless time, money, talent or resources to make all our dreams come true, but we still allow ourselves to dream it. Because the thing is, if you can't dream it, then you certainly won't ever see that dream come true. But sometimes if you let yourself dream something big, you will see the evolution of that dream over time as it turns into something really impacting.
I'm still obviously mid-dream on so many things, but I want to shed a bit of revelation that I've come to about one of my own personal dreams.
Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be an actress. It's the first dream I ever remember having. My parents were ridiculously supportive, so I had no limit to my pursuit. When I was 11 I was selected for a theatrical apprenticeship program that you had to be 16 and older to even be considered. The director told my parents she just believed in me. So my desire for the craft was fed and cultivated by a great many people who rallied their support around me. I participated in school and community theaters, and as my love for acting grew I even switched schools my junior year of high school so I could focus more on performing arts. I did not get every part I auditioned for. There was a time when I auditioned for the lead role of Snow White, and was given an ample amount of reassurance from the director that I would be selected, only to have my hopes dashed when I was notified that I would instead be playing the walking, talking Magic Mirror. Oh, the horror. I was eating humble pie. I had to work through some bitterness toward the gal who actually won the part of Snow White. It's really hard when someone gets something you really wanted, and then they end up being really really good at what they do. I learned that you can't win 'em all, especially in the acting realm. But to be honest, I got most parts I auditioned for. By the time I was in high school, my amazing drama teacher Miss Karrie coached me an incessant amount and gave me the opportunity to play extremely mature and challenging roles. I was a lucky one. And I had some promise.
In college I did not pursue theater as a major, because, well, nothing against theater majors, but I just didn't want to be so niche-focused and rule out other potential job possibilities for the future. I settled nicely into a communication program and instead took acting classes at the Professional Actors Studio Atlanta where I worked on material alongside professional actors and participated in showcases for casting directors and producers. It was an incredible growth opportunity, and with that growth I gained more confidence to put myself out there. I began auditioning for professional roles and getting some traction. I worked on music videos, corporate industrials (training videos for airlines and brands) and short films. Flash forward to a continuation of this journey, where I continued pursuing acting when my husband as I moved to Boston and finally, the pinnacle of all dreams, to New York City. I kept auditioning and kept getting great parts in short films and industrials. In New York, I landed two talent agents and a manager and I was getting sent out weekly on auditions. I was participating in showcases and meeting tons of people and even got into a training program where I was working with industry professionals weekly. I was busy. And I was having the time of my life. I was incredibly uncomfortable and challenged every single day, but it was the good kind of discomfort. The kind where I really felt like I was living, because I was making myself vulnerable in audition rooms every day. A few months into my stint in NYC, I found out I was pregnant. To say I was shocked it was understatement. I was in such a good rhythm, so I kept auditioning, but it definitely made things more challenging. I remember going in for a birth control audition, and the commercial was going to be shot a few months later, which called for me to be in a bikini, and I remember praying I wouldn't get the job. Obviously there was no way I was going to be 6 months pregnant in a bathing suit advertising the pill! Oh gosh. The memories are really flooding back now. By the time I was pregnant enough for it to show, I was tired all the time and wishing I was back home, near my family. My husband and I packed our bags and did just that, relocating back to Atlanta 8 weeks before my son Everett was born. We literally closed that chapter of our life.
I have had a lot of time to wonder about that chapter. What was it all for? Did I fail because I didn't "make it big" during the time when I had the opportunity to try? Should I have stayed up there and tried harder? Should I still be trying now? Do I want to be auditioning now? Do I still want to be an actress?
Did I fail??
I've wrestled for a few years with these questions. And honestly, nothing has really given me peace except for the measure of time I've had to let questions fade in their intensity. Only since the emotional charge has lessened, have I been able to have softened conversations with myself that aren't so harsh. Isn't it silly that we can be harsh with ourselves? It's really no way to live. Time has been the gift of this whole scenario. It's allowed me to talk myself through everything, to tell myself and believe myself that it wasn't all for nothing. Of course I wasn't a failure. Of course my journey had great purpose.
Friends, the only thing that helped me, really helped me, is time.
Time has given me more perspective, more energy, and more kindness. It's helped me recognize that my training as an actress - the vulnerability and the thick skin I developed via lots of rejection and the tenacity of going after it - those characteristics haven't left the building. They have made me who I am, shaped the way I approach challenges, and given me the confidence to try again. Failure doesn't have to be scary, because you don't really fail if you never stop trying. Listen, I'm not saying that I don't have disappointment. But I'm saying that disappointment is no longer the only feeling I have associated with this particular dream. I finally have a sense of pride, of ownership and gratitude for that season of my life. I don't have all the answers, but time has let me finish asking myself questions before jumping to conclusions about failure and hopelessness. I'm not scared of failure, but I also don't think I failed. I didn't always believe that, so time has really been my friend in showing me that truth.
I know that I could go back to that life if I wanted to. There is a growing amount of film opportunities here, with a huge new movie studio down the street (yes, Marvel is basically camped out in my hometown right now), but you know? I feel such a sense of peace with what I'm doing. I love being home with my son. I love writing. I love blogging. This venture has opened up so many unexpected, fun opportunities, and I am happily exploring and learning. I'm grateful to you, my friend, for reading, for recognizing my voice and letting me share with you. This has actually been a surprise dream (that I didn't know I had!) come true.
My friend Blake once said that dreams are like seeds. He explained that we are given lots and lots of seeds, and we should sow all the ones we want to to see grow. But he also postulated that perhaps, its not meant for all the seeds to grow. Some will grow partially and some will grow all the way. I really identify with that he said, because my dream has been a long-time-coming seed that I've sown carefully. For a long time. Perhaps it will keep growing. Perhaps it's done. I'm grateful that time has passed since I was in NYC, and with that time the pressure has passed, too. Time has been the most gracious kind of host, who has encouraged me to let go of the self-induced pressure. So that dream - it's still there. But it's not hard on me anymore. It's sort of shelved for now, not because I'm sad about it or desperate to go back to it. Its there because its still a part of me, and one day it might be an active part of me again.
Do you have something in your life, a previous pursuit or dream, whose memory haunts you? Even a little tiny bit? It can be hard to relive the experiences. It can be hard to have a level-headed kind of perspective. But I encourage you to give that experience a second glance. Can you pull out the gold from that memory, and pinpoint something sweet that is still serving a positive purpose in your life today? I bet if you give yourself lots of grace to overlook your so called "disappointments" with how that dream turned out, you could find a silver lining. I dare you to do it. Your little heart needs some positive closure just like everyone else. Just like me.
I want you to know that your dreams matter, they have a voice in your life, and they are part of you. Sometimes its okay to let a dream go. Maybe it will keep growing. Maybe not. Maybe it will lend all its lessons learned to a new dream.
Friends, this one dream has made me who I am. And it a lot of ways, it's still happening in me. Permission is granted for it to be what it is in my journey. :)