Growing up I always wanted to be a performer. This led me to become a musical theatre major at Catawba College and later at FSU, where I also spent some time as a vocal performance major. I love performing (well singing). But I gave up that dream to pursue the safe route of being a teacher. I began listening to the voices in my head that said I’d never make it to Broadway (my ultimate dream, one I still secretly hold) or make any money performing. When I switched majors and entered the Education department at Florida State I convinced myself that I could still perform. I even went so far as to tell myself that I could teach drama and still have the best of both worlds.
Fifteen years later I am teaching World History to 11 year olds and the last time I sang in public was for my uncle’s funeral five years ago. Prior to that was my brother’s wedding. The only places I perform are family functions. What is key to remember here is that I did this to myself. The person that held me back is me. No one else can be blamed for this, though I have tried. In the beginning I blamed my mother who planted the seeds of doubt about surviving as an actor. I blamed college professors that told me that tenors are a dime a dozen in New York and that they’re all working in restaurants as servers. In recent years I have worked several times as a production assistant for a friend that is a casting director for broadway and movies. This cemented my own doubts to completely shut off any chance to perform. I love working for this particular friend and I love being involved in the casting process. But, I kept telling myself, “I’m not good like these people.” “Broadway requires dancing, you have no rhythm.” I had numerous excuses.
I fully admit that part of my issue is a deep seated laziness that as I approach forty is beginning to finally dissipate. However, much of my problem has been believing my own negative PR that my inner critic has been spouting to me since I was little. Thanks to myself I fear rejection, I fear being laughed at, I fear the possibility of even minor success.
What I have discovered recently is, I’m not alone in this self sabotage. We are our own worst enemies. Each day I receive a daily dose of Buddhism from, Big Happy Buddha
. It is a quote from a guru, or monk, or nun, or even from the Buddha himself. These are great quotes I enjoy pondering. But what I love most is the tag on all of the e-mails I receive from them, “What you think upon grows.” I have learned that the hard way, as I look back on my life. The key now, what do I do with this information. How do I convert this lesson to improve my “life unlived”?
Don’t get me wrong, I have made amazing friends, I have loved, I have a fulfilling personal life. I am also finding fulfillment in my life as a teacher, and now as a writer. Dreams do change. But they should not change as a result of doubt. They should not shift because of fear. We often think that we cannot pursue dreams we find unobtainable. We convince ourselves of their impossibility. In high school my favorite teacher often quoted Robert Browning, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?” Our hopes and dreams should exceed our capabilities. We must work for the attainment of our happiness. Laziness, doubt, and fear are the enemies of our dreams. Fight each day against them. Rally the forces of your own determination. Fight the good fight. Live the good life chasing your dreams. As Joseph Campbell often said, and I have often quoted here, “Follow your bliss.”