I pursued the dream that way I was supposed to. I took the classes, got the degree, moved to the city, put myself “out there,” and, before I knew it, the dream started coming true.
It felt like magic. It was magic.
Years and years of holding on to a dream were finally paying off! I was on my way up! Meeting people I'd always wanted to meet! Making connections I'd always wanted to make! Rocking auditions I'd always wanted to rock! I had an agent, a union invitation, my films screened on big screens! It was happening! I was happening!
I was ecstatic! Triumphant! Absolutely, absolutely thrilled!
Then, unexpectedly, things started to change. I started to change. I am still not sure what, exactly, brought on this change but I suspect there were a few factors at play - the books I was reading, the age I was turning, the friends I was making, the inner-work I had started doing.
After some time, I came to a startling (and devastating) realization: my dream was no longer making me happy.
I was not completely unhappy. I enjoyed the applause at the end of the show. I thrived on the accolades. I was proud when old friends from high school (even elementary school) wrote to me and said, “Congratulations! You are the only one actually achieving their childhood dream.”
All of this filled me up with a great sense of accomplishment. And not just accomplishment, but worth.
But it was all, I eventually came to understand, very, very superficial.
I was smiling on the outside, but not on the inside. The pursuit of my dream was no longer fueled by true passion and joy, but by an ego desperately thirsty for recognition and praise.
My ego was ruling my life. And all aspects of my health were suffering because of it.
So, I stopped.
(I did not quit. I chose to stop. The difference between the two is huge. Quitting is giving up - giving up our power and our pride. Choosing, on the other hand, is growing up and learning to listen to the knowing in our gut.)
I participated in a few minor projects for friends whom I admired and respected and enjoyed working with. But I stopped all the rest - the headshots, the submissions, the auditions. I dropped my agent. I did not join the union.
This was not easy. But it was easier than the other scary thing I absolutely had to do: tell people.
I worried about what they would think - they, the wonderful people who had supported my dream from the beginning. They, the ones who cheered the loudest when I landed a role. They, the ones who never, ever said, “Don’t try.” They, the ones who allowed me to believe that I would one day have my star in Hollywood.
They, my family.
I felt like I had failed them. And this is what hurt the most.
But I did tell my family. And my friends. And myself. I spoke the words I never thought I’d speak. I gave myself permission to change my mind. To change my dream. To speak the truth.
My ego did not like this. It tried to make me feel ashamed and guilty and defeated. It tried to fill my heart with doubt. It laughed when I stumbled and it roared so loudly some nights that I could not get to sleep.
But this, I knew, was exactly the kind of life I no longer wanted to live: a life controlled by my ego. So in its pitiful attempts to confuse me, my ego gave me the special gift of clarity. The more it tried to suck me back in, the more I fought against it. The more it tried to drown out my intuition, the harder I listened to the voice deep within.
And now, here I am. Living and loving a different kind of life. One that gets me excited to jump out of bed every morning. I am learning to enjoy the the process, the voyage, the moments. I no longer need the end result to be one of praise and accolades. It’s not about that anymore.
Someday, in the near or distant future, the perfect project may present itself and I may choose to embrace it and delve into the world of performance once again. But this choice, I know, will be guided by genuine excitement and enthusiasm rather than a distorted notion of success and a crippling fear of letting people down.
The past two years have taught me so much about the world and my place in the world. One of the key things I have learned is that dreams change. And that is ok.
Nothing in the world is fixed, it is all fluid. As we go through the cycles of life, we change, we grow, we expand and our dreams change, and grow, and expand with us. A childhood dream should never start to feel like a life-sentence and, when it does, it is time to take a good hard look at the reasons for this.
I have many dreams. Big dreams. I am a small-town girl and I am “making it” every single moment of every single day.
This week's affirmation: I live my dream.