Thursday, June 20, 2013

Morning Coffee and a Dose of Reality

I had a tough conversation today.  

I grabbed coffee this morning with a very good friend of mine, let's call him Zeke.  (Not his actual name or anything even remotely like it.  Only he would get the reference... but he has absolutely no idea that I moonlight as an anonymous blogger.)  Anyway, this morning he revealed that he was in that place.  That scary place into which us actors must never let ourselves slip.  That terrifying place where we question if this life is what we truly want, if the roller coaster is worth the ride and if we can hang on any longer.  I gulped down my coffee totally stunned, not knowing what to say.

Okay, let me give you a little background:  This friend of mine started quite young and has now been in this business for two decades and accumulated a resume I would kill to have.  Seriously...  Who do I need to torture around here to have his credits?  He has been a series regular on two different shows for three years each, landed uncountable guest stars on the most recognizable prime-time titles in television and roles in a dozen movies.  Every once in a while he is recognized and stopped for a photograph and receives the occasional "Dreaming of meeting @Zeke someday" tweet from some random person in the Twitterverse.  But this morning he looked at me over his coffee and said he didn't know if he could do it any longer.  

You see, even with all of those credits he is still out there hustling after this insane grind.  I almost didn't know what to say to this incredibly talented and successful actor sitting across from me.  What kind of wisdom could I possibly have to share with someone who has fifteen years and twenty times the experience I have?  How do you give a pep talk to someone who is on professional tier you would literally give a kidney to join?

So I swallowed my cuppa joe and offered the only thing I had to give -- the hope and enthusiasm of a young ambitious actor who's hungry to climb to the top.  Over a long and deep conversation I told him many of the things I tell all of you here:  We have to believe that we are good enough, truly deserve success and above all know deep in our bones that it is possible.  That it is entirely up to us to make it for ourselves, and no matter how hopeless it seems, there is always another inch we can claw our way through.  That it's a complete waste of energy to compare your career to that of anyone else and to just trust that the path you are on is the exact path you were meant to walk.  That if you must, reevaluate to decide if a full-time career as an actor is what will truly make you happy and give yourself permission let go if it is not.  But do not walk away because the climb is too difficult or the progress seems too slow.  That is giving up for the wrong reason and letting this business win.  Don't let the hustle and this city convince your subconscience that you no longer have a dream...  Because you do.  You always will. People like you and me don't stick around this long if it wasn't tattooed on our souls.

Hopefully Zeke will find his motivation and passion again.  He is so incredibly talented, it's terrifying to see the great stumble like that.  But perhaps being strong for him in this moment will help him pull through.  Maybe he can even return the favor someday for me when I'm on the verge of buying a one-way ticket away from Hollywood Boulevard.  

We parted ways this morning feeling better, though both keenly aware of the long road ahead.  I darted off to film a commercial and he to put a guest star audition on tape for a new show filming in Canada.  It's not about feeling 100% strong every day.  It's about pushing forward even on the days you fear you have nothing left.  

I have a feeling he's not done yet.  And neither am I.

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