I have a bit of a first-world problem. I’ve recently found myself in a very privileged position, I just landed a great acting job that fulfils me creatively and has brought me quite a bit of attention and a modest amount of fame and yet I can’t help feeling “is this it?” I thought it would feel…different, you know? What’s wrong with me?!
Mate. What is wrong with you? You’re living the dream and it’s not enough?! Shame on you!
I jest. The truth is there’s nothing wrong with you, this is actually such a normal and predictable response that I’m really surprised it’s not talked about more. It’s very, very common. I think perhaps we don’t hear about it because people are worried they’ll seem ungrateful, particularly in an industry where opportunities are so few and far between, right?
Truthfully, I’m not sure it’s ever what anyone expects and I think it’s probably always a bit of a letdown but here’s the thing – you’re standing at the top of the mountain you’ve climbed and you’re looking at the view and blaming the mountain because the view isn’t what you expected. It’s not being at the top that’s the amazing thing, my friend, it’s getting there.
Take a moment and look at what you’ve achieved to get here. OK, there’s a certain amount of luck involved – right place, right time, right opportunity, right look. There’s always a degree of serendipity but what people usually forget is that what we call luck is simply the intersection where hard work meets opportunity. Just because the stars seemingly miraculously aligned to hand you a job that’s perfect, and fulfilling, and creative, (and well paid!) – that doesn’t discount the years of hard work that led you to it.
Let me go back to the analogy of the mountain for a moment. If you’re climbing Everest you begin acclimatising yourself in Kathmandu. You climb to Base Camp (about 5,000 metres above sea level) and then there are five further camps to reach. From Camp VI it’s STILL another 2000 feet to scale the summit. It takes about ten weeks to climb Everest and years of training. Imagine doing all that and getting to the top and thinking that it was the view you came for! As Miley Cyrus sang, ‘It’s the Climb’. Oh, and guess what? Everest isn’t even the tallest mountain! There’s always another mountain to climb. So why not pat yourself on the back, acknowledge everything you’ve done so far and realise that just because it doesn’t feel the way you thought it might, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t an incredible achievement.
Your feeling of “is this it?” may also stem from a good old-fashioned dose of impostor syndrome. While the job of acting do is hard work and takes discipline and skill it cannot be denied that to a lot of people on the outside it might seem, well, as if you get paid to play around! If you’re good at what you do it might come so easily and naturally to you that even you don’t think about how difficult it really is. So when a life-changing, enjoyable and fulfilling job comes up it’s natural to wonder, “Do I deserve this? Why me?” The only answer to that is; why NOT you? You have as much right as anyone else to have your dreams come true and if they come true a little sooner than someone else, well, your journey is your journey and no-one else has been on the unique and individual path that you’ve been on. As I said to Melanie a few weeks ago, you’re not in a race with anyone else, nor are you responsible for how long their journey takes.
It might be worth questioning whether expecting outside circumstances to change how you feel inside is one of the problems here. At the top of a mountain or at the bottom, it’s still the same you. It sounds like the cheesiest, most self-help-y statement imaginable, but if you’re not happy within yourself then no amount of mountain climbing is going to change that. All the fame, all the money, all the accolades, they are not rewards for your hard work, they are simply welcome little bonuses. They won’t last forever, sadly, but the knowledge and development that you have gained as a person, as a creative – that will last forever – and that is the real reward for all your hard work.
No matter how amazing the view from the top, it’s nothing if you cannot see the power and strength and determination that was in you all the time.
You were the mountain all along, Pete.
Stay connected. Stay creative.
Got a question? Email JBR at [email protected]