Four years ago I got hired to teach a class at a local Christian university. Saying “yes” to part-time adjunct professorship felt like the end. “Goodbye, Hollywood. The dream is over.” Maybe the dream had been over for a while. Hollywood ageism probably eliminated me years ago; I just hadn’t accepted it.
You know the Eric Liddel quote from Chariots of Fire: “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” That’s how I felt performing or writing. How was I supposed to encourage young, aspiring comedians to pursue their dreams, when I knew how it could turn out for them: like it had for me.
I sucked it up and took the job.
Then I was asked to teach screenwriting, then sketch comedy writing and acting. My sketch comedy class writes, acts in and produces an SNL-type show at the end of the semester. We are now working on the third annual show, and it’s a huge hit.
I got asked to direct a mainstage play. Guess what? I loved it! I loved focusing on the big picture. (An actor focuses solely on his character.) I got to collaborate with others: lighting, set and sound designers, theater managers, actors, crew, et al. We put on a fantastic production.
Saint Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is Man fully alive.”
Driving back from a performance one night, I caught myself laughing. I felt fully alive. So, I was working in a small theater at a private Christian university. But my heart was full, and I experienced joy. I almost didn’t experience it. I’d been so focused on one thing: getting the next acting job that might grant me a nanosecond of feeling alive (or at least a paycheck). I never allowed other abilities a chance to grow. They’d been held hostage by my expectations.
My friend Sara saw a life coach when her career tanked. The life coach got Sara to identify the specific tasks she loved about her previous career: Being creative? The field? The relationships? The point was for Sara to separate the specific actions that brought her joy from the field or circumstances in which she was accustomed to working.
If you live long enough, you will experience failure and heartbreak.
CS Lewis said, “The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” That’s true of any risk you take in your life. Get up and do it anyway. As Anne Lamott said at the Point Loma Writer’s Symposium, “The hard thing is, you just gotta do it. Keep failing. Fail better.”
What thing makes you feel like you’re alive – that you’re doing what you’re born to do?
What specific actions are at the root of your joy?
Is that activity held hostage by your expectations (how or when or with whom you should do it?)
Where else can you do that thing?