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Posts tagged ‘success’

Lost: The Six Year Fog

Dear Loch,

There will be times in your life when you feel lost. When you look around and don’t recognize where you are. When you question the choices you’ve made and find yourself at a loss for which direction to go. I’m not going to lie, it’s a horrible feeling but, one I believe all those searching for true meaning in life find themselves facing at some point. Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about a crossroads or one of those moments where you need to make a leap of faith. I’m taking about a no man’s land of fog and oblivion. A place of near debilitating uncertainty where your path is nowhere to be seen and you’re dominated by fear and confusion. It’s an ugly time and I know exactly how it feels because I’m there right now. I may not have the answers to fix it but, I can tell tell you no matter how painful it is, it will eventually pass.

I know because I’ve been here before.

feeling+lostEvery six years or so I seem to find myself in a bit of a “what am I doing?” quandary. When I was younger it was infinitely less frightening as there was always a higher power I could lean on to get through…namely, my parents. No matter how despondent I felt, how scared or unsure I might have been, your grandparents were always there to pick me up. To love me while I struggled to find my place. My loss of direction and overall sense of confusion were always buffered by their protection.

As I aged, I came to realize – painfully, I might add – that this was no longer the case. Increased awareness and autonomy allows you to see your parents for the fallible, human people they truly are and, even with the best intentions, it’s impossible and honestly, unhelpful for your parents to protect you from everything. Your father and I want your life to be truly wonderful but your decisions are ultimately yours alone and, as much as we hope to help, it’s your path to follow not ours to dictate. If you’re true to yourself, you will find that some days – weeks, months or even years – will be truly difficult as you search for a life that means something to you.

etsy.com

etsy.com

How I feel now is how I felt after graduate school when I found myself in a job that wasn’t my calling. I’d ignored my dreams in favor of a life with less struggle and, ironically, was now struggling with the consequences of that choice. I’d redirected my path to conform to someone else’s standards and was, not surprisingly, miserable with the results. After crying every day for three months I came to the conclusion I must be clinically depressed. An acquaintance who had recently been committed seemed to be doing really well at a Toronto clinic so I called to see if they would take someone like me. They wouldn’t. So, instead, I partied, complained and worked out too much. I made strange decisions and found pleasure in very few of them. Ultimately, it was a movie that changed my life. Sitting alone in the dark on a hot, summer afternoon I realized I was unhappy because I was ignoring who I was and what I really wanted to do. It didn’t matter how “cool” my job was if it wasn’t the job for me and it didn’t matter how “amazing” my life seemed if I wasn’t happy living it. With the clear realization I was never going to be happy unless I wrote my own story and followed my own dreams, the fog lifted revealing the path I would follow without hesitation. Four months later I was living in New York, a student at an amazing conservatory and fully committed to my lifelong dream of being an actress.

It wasn’t until that dream began to falter that the fog rolled in again.

imgkid.com

imgkid.com

Living in LA, my career stalled, my plans adrift, my bank account empty and my face far older than was required for my profession I once again found myself crying every day. My shame compounded this time by the fact I now had a witness to my unravelling, your father. Things clearly weren’t working out. All the efforts and dreams and hopes I’d poured into my career were falling short. It didn’t matter how hard I worked or how good I might be, the fact was, it wasn’t happening. I just didn’t know what to do with that information. The reality was I’d become an incredibly overeducated, full time bartender who could barely look herself in the mirror for all the disappointment and self loathing. Who was I if I wasn’t who I thought I was going to be? Where was I going? To what purpose? I focused on photography because it made money but it didn’t reveal my path. I hid in the planning of my wedding, behind the success of my husband and in the excitement of my pregnancy but, I remained without direction. For a long time I tried to convince myself I could find happiness and fulfillment in other’s success. I wanted to believe I could be satisfied just raising you and playing a supporting role to your father’s dream but, when his dream started to waver and I allowed myself to finally admit my love of being a mother wasn’t extinguishing my own ambition, I had to face what I’d put aside and acknowledge how off track I truly was.

It was a painful time but, there’s a lesson in pain if you’re willing to look for it. Something to learn from unhappiness so you never have to deal with the same distress again. What-success-looks-like

Getting sick was the best and worst thing that could have ever happened to me. In the blink of an eye I was reminded, without a shadow of a doubt, who I was, what I wanted and what I cared about most. I recognized what was important and immediately stopped feeling sorry for myself because I wasn’t who I wanted to be. I realized, should I be lucky enough to live longer than expected, I was damn well going to live a life that mattered. I knew I wasn’t going down without a fight and discovered the best way to express that sentiment was through writing. Suddenly, there was my path again. I wasn’t just a sick person, a wife or a mother. I was me and I still had something to say.

The fact that six years later I’m still alive but once again lost is pretty classic. I have a blog that doesn’t make money, a book that’s yet to be published, art pieces I can’t afford to make and a political itch I’m unsure how to scratch. I’m also fully ensconced with your father as he goes through the exact same thing. It’s an uncomfortable time for us. One full of uncertainty and, in my case, quite often despair. I’m questioning everything: my talent, my direction, my mothering, my marriage, my history, my path and every time I come up wanting.351333

My friend Betsy says you “have to ride the horse in the direction it’s going” and though I don’t currently know which way that is, I rest in the knowledge that if I can just hang on, keep working, keep believing, keep listening I will eventually learn the lesson the universe is trying to teach me and all will become clear. I’d LOVE IT to just be easy but, history has shown me, it never is.  Despite the draw, the option to sit down and give up is not one I’m interested in. I know the fog will only lift if I continue to move forward, if I don’t make decisions based on fear and if I stay true to myself and the life I want.

Maybe we’re all phoenixes and, in order to create the ash to rise from, we must allow ourselves to burn. I’m in the fire right now but I know something new and better is coming. I just need to hang on until it does.

Even if it takes longer than you want, if you listen to your voice the path will always reveal itself. Pain and uncertainty are simply a necessary part of growth and rebirth.

I love you always.

xo Mommy

life

 

Throwing in the Towel

Dear Loch,

How long do you wait before you throw in the towel? How dearly do you hold onto a dream before you accept it’s over and move onto something new? Is there a difference between making the “safe” choice and giving up?

Whether you want a spot on a team, acceptance at a specific University, the love of a particular person or tangible success at a chosen career, these questions will come up again and again. When you’re young it’s easier to move on, to shake it off and find a new dream, challenge or person when your first choice doesn’t work out. One of the beauties of youth is that the stakes are lower and more options are available as you discover who you are, but as you age, these questions become heavier because they refer to a finite and more important collection of things – the direction of your life, your career,  your spouse.  Not making the volleyball team, for example, will be replaced by rethinking how you’ll make a living, and though it’s possible you’ll succeed at everything you put your mind to, never having to deal with disappointment, it’s unlikely. There’s a chance you could choose a stable, clear cut career where hard work equals success but every day those jobs become less and less likely. Even doctors are struggling to make ends meet today. Realistically, I believe there’s a much stronger chance you’ll follow your heart into a career that speaks to you but has less than guaranteed results.

lumbertonpolitics.blogspot.com

lumbertonpolitics.blogspot.com

As your mother I want you to be happy. I hope you follow your dreams and do what it is you want to do. I’m a firm believer in “do what you love and the money will follow” and “choose the career you want and it won’t feel like work” but I’m also a current student in the school of hard knocks and I know first hand how discouraging it feels to live on the periphery of your dreams, to be so close that you can look through the window at the buffet but be starving outside. Your father and I have a wonderful life but it’s not the one we imagine and every day we struggle to rise above the disappointment to hold on until our persistence and hard work finally pays off.

acelebrationofwomen.org

acelebrationofwomen.org

Your Dad is better at this than me. His optimistic attitude serves him well in the world of the arts. As you know, when we met we were both actors. I was part of a successful show moving from NYC to LA and he was a reoccurring role on Star Trek about to be cast as a lead in an ABC pilot. Our dreams were within our grasp. Our time was coming. When I was fired from my show and your Dad’s pilot wasn’t picked up we were disappointed but not discouraged. We understood the business. We were young, talented, hungry. We’d been down before. We’d be up again. There were opportunities ahead and every job brought us one step closer to our goals. When your Dad was cast as the lead in a CBS show just before our wedding it felt right, as if everything had lead up to this. Our life and our choices were finally falling into place. We enjoyed our honeymoon that much more knowing Sean had a full time gig when we got back. When we returned to LA to find his role had been recast by a celebrity it was a big blow to our projected bank account but also to my faith that everything would work out. Just like that we were back to square one and over the next six months I became very discouraged. I was married now. I was 30. I had certain expectations that came with those titles that didn’t match up with my reality. I didn’t want to be a bartender married to a cater waiter. It no longer felt exciting to be a struggling actress. My dream of making a career doing what I loved was drowned out by the noise of my own disappointment. I felt unhappy all the time. I became jealous (and bitter) of other’s opportunities and luck. I had no experience with failure and here I was at the beginning of new decade, the decidedly adult part of my life, unable to look at myself in the mirror without seeing a loser.

bestlifeministries.com

bestlifeministries.com

Your Dad on the other hand was able to let everything slide off his back. He never questioned his career. He was so confident that everything would work out that my uncertainty stood out in contrast. I realized if I was no longer sure of my inevitable success I was in the wrong line of work. Almost every sign in an artistic career points to “you’re not going to make it” and if you start buying into that, it’s the beginning of the end. I was no longer happy. I’d lost track of who I was. I didn’t recognize myself amidst my insecurity. I could have hung on but it wasn’t worth it. I needed a new dream.

Letting go of the idea of being an actress was like saying goodbye to the person I thought I’d be and opening my life to the person I might be. It was heartbreaking but not nearly as painful and difficult as I thought. I missed being happy I wanted to find it again. My biggest problem was I had no idea what to do. My life had been mapped out for years and suddenly I was sailing without direction. It was simultaneously frightening and freeing.

Not knowing what you’re going to do with your life is scary at any age but changing course as a full fledged adult is particularly unnerving. How do you choose wisely without being swayed by your desired lifestyle, your current bills or growing list of dependents? What if you choose poorly and have to start again AGAIN? How do you stack up against your friends? Your contemporaries? How do you not feel embarrassingly left behind? For a while I was able to hid my lack of plan in my pregnancy and early days with you. The value of a stay-at-home mom was legitimate enough to start rebuilding my self worth and temporarily negate the question of what I was doing with my life.

wittytitlehere.com

wittytitlehere.com

When I found my way into writing my life opened up. I finally understood what it meant to work with joy. I felt value in myself I hadn’t in years. I was able to use my skills again, my brain. I found I could write for hours without feeling the least bit burdened. Being an actress was wonderful but with hindsight I saw what I really loved was entertaining people, making them laugh, and I could do that as a writer without the same burdens I felt as an actress. It turned out I was better suited to my fallback career. I like being attractive but resented it as a job requirement. I’m committed to hours of hard work but like a flexible schedule. I want to be a present hands-on mom and I have a tendency to let people know exactly what I’m thinking – a detriment to a young actress but real worth to a writer. The take away being: had I not “failed” at my original plan I never would have discovered the thing that made me happier. That Plan B is ok, provided you aren’t choosing it out of fear.

Now, I threw in the towel and got a whole new life, your Dad refused to do the same yet still found his way to a new passion. Having no desire to give up acting, he realized he also was no longer happy simply trying to afford to keep up his dream. He had a family now and wanted to be a part of his life not just a visitor too busy to enjoy it. At a crossroads he took a leap of faith and opened a production company. Just as my bottom line was to entertain, his was to create, and he realized he needed to make his own opportunities rather than continue to passively wait for them to come along. Instead of abandoning his dream in search of another, he added to it. Which career takes off only time will tell.

kendrickshop.com

kendrickshop.com

Lochlan, I believe your future, and the future of your peers, will be a less traditional route than the past. I think they’ll be less, “I’m going to be a lawyer” and more roundabout discoveries. I believe many of you will forge your own course and find yourself in careers and fields that have yet to be created, and in many ways, I believe your father and my irregular journeys may be of service to you as you navigate those uncertain waters. It won’t be easy but your Dad and I are firm believers that it’s ultimately a mistake to make the “safe” choice. Don’t choose the “sure thing” you don’t care about over the risky thing that would fulfill your dreams. I want you to be responsible, to protect yourself and your family but never feel you have to walk some predetermined path in order to be a success. You must do what fulfills you. You must follow your heart in all things. If you’re no longer happy or want or need things you can’t achieve on your current path, adjust, but never give up because holding on seems too hard. I changed courses and found something I love. Your father held tight to his dream but added to it. Either way we’re better people and parents for liking what we do.

mysignatureblog.com

mysignatureblog.com

The hardest part of an uncertain career is dealing with the disappointment of the wait. The pain of which is only counterbalanced by the happiness you surround yourself with. In our case: family, love, friends and you. If you work to secure all the important things when the rest comes it’ll be gravy. (Gravy your Dad and I are dying for like dried up turkeys, but gravy all the same.) The point is, create a happy life and success – financial or otherwise – will only add to it. Your father and I know plenty of “successful” people who are nowhere near as happy as us and we don’t want that for you, no matter how nice their houses might be. Follow your dreams without fear. Only by being true to yourself can you find real happiness without which success, in itself, is irrelevant.

I can only hope when you’re old enough to read this, our family’s prosperity will render the above advice prolific and inspiring…

Be happy. Make others happy. Carve your own path. Success will eventually follow. I’m counting on it.

Love you forever.

xo Mommy

dale-carnegie-quotes