Why Did I Do It??
When I was in 5th grade (cue violin music) I said to my parents, "Guys, I'm going to be the best doctor in the world!" Strong words right? Well I meant them. On an unrelated note, I also said I'd be a basketball player for the Chicago Bulls at night, and a professional soccer player on the weekends. What can I say, I've always fantasized my life's possibilities to the extremes.
The crazy thing is, after decades of planning and nose-to-the-grindstone levels of effort culminating in a Bio degree from the university I slogged to get into - the closest I get to the sciences these days is casual browsing on the tech side of the #WJS or youtube videos of #becausescience featuring Kyle Hill. My days are spent in the pursuit of a dream that is the complete antithesis of the first two decades of my life - the dream of a creative.
Don't get me wrong. I didn't hate the academia focused, cognitively driven lifestyle of a premed student. I was actually good at it. But the honest truth, the thing that most of us don't recognize until scheduled midlife crisis... is that I was doing it all for the wrong reasons. The thing that was driving me into the intellectual masochism of taking the most difficult course loads possible wasn't passion or purpose; it was pain. It was the pain that so many of us carry that says our personal value is dependent on our accomplishments. It was the pain that hid behind the ego I'd assumed that identified me as the smartest guy in the room - but really just meant that I needed you to be impressed by me - so I could feel valuable.
You know what that meant? It meant that all the decisions of my career trajectory were fear and pain driven, not passion driven. I wasn't connected to the purpose of medically helping people; and that meant that pursuing medicine would never really satisfy me.
So what did I do? What did my 24 year-old self do when I realized the medical field wasn't for me? I jumped onto the entrepreneurial train and tried to be impressive by coming up with the coolest ideas for businesses. Ugh, it actually makes me chuckle just thinking about it. It seems so simple now. But at the time, I could tell my heart wasn't in it, I just didn't know why.
But fear not, the universe is fully equipped to break your fragile little interpretation of the world and yourself. And that's exactly what happened when I found my acting coach. It all began on a whim after I was asked to model a men's fashion boutique photoshoot. That was my first gig. I enjoyed it way more than I expected. The wardrobe, the ambiance, the sense of personal power and confidence. It was a breath of fresh air - and I immediately started hyperventilating. I figured, if people are asking me to model, maybe I can improve my skills and make some money from it.
And this is when God, the Universe, whatever you want to call it, grabbed me by the hair and started to steer. For some reason I'm still not fully clear on, I started looking at acting coaches within driving distance. I found THE ONE almost 2 hours away. From then, I started driving to Dallas once or twice a week to take lessons from an acting coach with too much history for me to rationalize her reasons for being in Dallas, TX. I didn't understand at the time because I was still accomplishment driven.
It was in those classes that passion was ignited in me as unexpectedly as it was violent world shifting. That first time I performed for the class, all the voices in my head disappeared. The space around me was all that existed. The tactile sensation of existing, being connected to my body, made it seem as though the air was a part of me. The thoughts and feelings organically unfolding in my head weren't mine - they were this character I'd immersed myself into. And when the scene was done, when I returned to myself, there was a vibration in my chest some powerful, I feel it to this day. That was passion. That was the moment my previous world shattered and a new one unfolded in front of me. That was the moment I chose to leave behind everything I knew, everything I'd come to rely on, and all the safety and predictability of my uninspired life.
I knew there was risk. I knew there was uncertainty. I couldn't have picked a more unpredictable trajectory - but I knew I'd regret it if I went back. Sometimes, the Universe shows you something you weren't looking for; something that could redefine everything. And when it does, you have to make a choice. You cannot un-know real passion. You cannot un-know real vision. You can only choose to run from it, or run to it.
I no longer define my value through accomplishment. My value is intrinsic. My journey is about the craving of my soul for the manifestation of the vision. But what all that is, what all that means - that's a conversation for next time...