We're all writers in essence. Gifted our beginnings. Birth, being our pen and paper. We create the middle, of course, living out our chapters, page by page, moment by moment, breath by breath. Last, we experience the great mystery, the grand finale. The end.
Chapter One - The Beginning
November 3rd, 1980. It is morning, about a quarter past nine in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A woman lays in a hospital bed, legs spread, sweating profusely, putting on a brilliant display of breath work, no doubt a cum laude graduate in lamaze. She's not quiet. Yes, she has an infant working it's way out of her, but that's not why. She's never quiet. As the unassuming spawn will come to know, she has no inside voice. Let's call her Mom. One last, long push, and... there I am.
Things were swell until the circumcision. Rumor has it, I blacked out after that and didn't wake up until around age four, when a cat scratched my face and scarred it for life. With the first two memories of my adolescence being painfully traumatizing, I can only speculate that the Universe was leaving me no preconceived notion that the experiment, also known as life, would be easy. Lesson one. The Universe is a sadist.
Years passed, embarrassing things occurred, and I recall somewhere around the age of nine asking my grandmother why my pee pee was sticking straight out. I expressed great concern because, as I explained to her, no matter how hard I tried I could not get it to go back down. Little did I know, this problem would be considered a great achievement in middle age.
Lesson two. One man's problem is another man's opportunity.
When mysteries of my own anatomy were not occupying my mind, I took solace in sports. I discovered great joy in healthy competition. Baseball was my favorite. Beyond the physical and mental aspect, I found a poetry within the game. Whether I was playing or watching my favorite team, I never wanted it to end. I just wanted to keep playing.
I imagine that informed my affinity for stories. Back in the days when quality trumped quantity, television and movies were hypnotic. In the small town, blue collar world I grew up in, they taught me it was okay to feel. That it was okay to think different. They were so well told back then, I never wanted them to end. I just wanted the show to keep playing.
Lesson three. Like Wallace Hartley and his band on the Titanic, play until the very end.
Chapter Two - The Middle
Let's skip through puberty, high school, and even college (I've been instructed these events are not suitable for children...and in these crippling days of offense culture, some adults, too). So, fast forward, I fled the nest. With pennies in my pocket but diamonds in my heart, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue one of my childhood dreams; to be an actor. Knew no one. Had no job. Had no clue what to do. The internet was barely a thing back then, so I had to utilize the ancient lost art of figuring it out. What's that you ask? Just this thing we used to do before there was texting.
It wasn't long before I learned that Hollywood is not for the faint of heart. It can be a brutal business, the entertainment industry. Rejection is a franchise and it's bigger than Starbuck's. But in my third year, I got my first "yes". It was a network tv show! What an amazing feeling! I had one scene with a few lines and an action sequence. There were about a hundred background actors there, one of which, I knew personally, and I had to perform my first scene on my first network tv job in front of all of them. So, ya know, no pressure.
If I were to draw you a diagram of an artist's career path, it would look like a heart monitor. Spikes, dips, and plateaus. Some regular, some not so much, but all of them unique and unpredictable. What is important, is not the shape of the path, but that the path continues.
Lesson four. If you got a pulse, you got a chance.
There I was, in my twenties, living this exciting, spontaneous, and often painful journey of trial and error. I had messed up a lot in order to learn how to succeed a little. But the good news was, that anatomical "problem" I had as a child had begun to show it's promise.
I found success in acting and writing. As my twenties were fading, I learned that I was a director and a teacher. It was a newfound love affair. Like many new relationships, there was a honeymoon phase. But soon reality set in, reminding me how challenging it was just to get someone to pay me to be in movies, and now I need to get them to pay me to make them. I was never much for taking the easy road.
Lesson five. I might be a masochist.
I felt anxious about turning thirty. I had these ridiculous goalposts that had I set for myself; things I wanted to accomplish and experience by a certain time. In hindsight, I saw this result oriented approach to my life was fallible and diminished my efforts. Effort, I believe to this day, is the only thing anyone has control over in this life. The result of those efforts are not things that can be controlled. All anyone can control is their effort. Direction, healthy. Goalposts, not so much. There were many things I deprived myself from because I told myself I would do them "when". "When" I get that job or have that security or that body. The flaw in doing things "when", is the reality that "when" might never come. Turned out, my thirties ended up being a great phase of my life without any of those things that I thought I needed by that time. All I needed was a fresh perspective.
Lesson six. "When" may or may not ever come. So enjoy the process.
I can't say the pain stops and things get easier. I won't claim that the more I've matured, the more that I know. Because as Socrates said, "All I know is that I know nothing". That paradox feels more and more apparent as I continue to write my story. Life, to me, is school for the soul. I'm here to learn, experience, and feel all of the emotional colors of the rainbow, not just the ones I prefer to feel. Life is a song that might play off key sometimes, but I still don't want it to end. I just want the music to keep playing.
Lesson seven. You know what you know, you know what you don't know, and you don't know what you don't know.
Chapter Three - The End
No spoilers, please.
Naturally, there's a lot I left out. If any of this has piqued your interest, feel free to inquire. I'll do my best to answer.
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