One of the nicer things about the internet is that you can quickly learn about things you never could as easily before.
A while back, I was able to find a track from an obscure album that my friend bought just for its absurd title and send it to him by doing a search on YouTube. My sister passes time with my infirm father by locating songs he knew in India growing up, and playing them through her computer – he’s 72 years old. Just by entering the parts of song lyrics I know, I can locate a song, and as you can see above, I can even show you the cover to my one published comics work. For all of its faults, I think the internet is pretty amazing.
Something I like to do on the internet is find the titles of episodes of old TV shows I watch on Antenna TV, and then go to the Internet Movie Database (which has television information too now for some reason – what a country!) and find out the names of people who appeared in them. Oftentimes, I will see character actors and actresses I really liked growing up, and used to be disappointed when I’d look up their credits and discover that at some point they called it quits. That is until today, when I realized that I don’t think “making it” means you made it – doing what’s right for you does.
See, I’ve spent my whole life – and I can honestly say that, because I dreamed about it since grammar school – trying to break into entertainment. IMDB also has an entry for me which, with Robotech: Escape, pretty much represents how far I got. I’ve been on the top radio call in show (which I won’t name, because I might lose friends) twice; I was on TV after I got an organ transplant from a coworker, been published in Time Magazine, and done a lot of other groovy things, none of which made entertainment into my permanent career, just as few of these character actors’ experiences made them stars for life either. I spent most of my life feeling like a failure because I didn’t make it, but it dawned on me that if you appeared as a regular on a TV show that ran for multiple seasons and still called it quits, “making it” means nothing. Just ask this guy.
So what is “making it?” Though I don’t know any, I imagine all of those character actors would tell you they reached a point where having a life exceeded “the dream,” and that’s why they gave up acting. Don’t get me wrong – I am sure people like Tom Hanks or Sandra Bullock or Eddie Murphy have few regrets about how things turned out for them. The thing is, they represent a small number of talented people in entertainment, which I know for a fact from when I was making no budget shorts, and actors who were just as talented would show up and do our silly little shorts for no pay. One of them was a friend of a friend of mine, and when I learned that he moved back to where he was from, I was heartbroken, because I thought he really was amazingly talented. I now realize that he likely decided that he wanted to have a stable life for himself and his family, as he was very happily married. So he left, and likely found something that he could do.
And that’s what I’m planning to do now.
I’m not leaving Southern California, because I just love Southern California. Instead of beating up on myself for not making it in entertainment though, I’m going to take my writing ability, originally intended for me to “make it” in comics or some other entertainment medium, and channel it toward getting a regular job. Why? I’m 40, and now I know better. I don’t see that as failure or selling out, because I’m not looking for a job that just pays the bills, which I’ve wasted many years doing. Instead, I’m looking for a job where the primary function is writing and / or public speaking because I know for a fact that I’m genuinely good at doing those things. The extent to which I “made it” confirms that. But becoming Sandra Bullock is really hard, and when you’re not healthy or young anymore, it’s not terribly practical. Better to be able to say that you know you could if you had the opportunity, but in absence of that, use the skills that would have made you great at that and let them make you great at something else, something that you can actually get. Will it happen overnight? No. But it will happen a lot sooner than making it in entertainment would.
I’m old enough to realize now that being an adult means being able to let go of what’s beyond your reach, hang on to the part that isn’t, and move forward, not on. I like to believe that all of those character actors and actresses who threw in the towel went on to something else that they were just as good at, but it took them much further and gave them more satisfaction than acting did. To me, that’s success. It’s not as big or as glamorous as what I envisioned, but it’s life. And I can deal with that.