“TikTok, I gotta get a TikTok, cuz now I have all this time to get famous!” (*Makes two TikToks.)
“My book, yes, I should finish my book, I’m going to be a revolutionary author!” (*Finishes badass memoir, but only submits to four publishers.)
“No, this is the time to go viral on Instagram!” (*Makes three Instagram Stories.)
“I’m gonna wake up early and meditate and write and get my chores done and be awesome!” (*Sleeps till noon.)
“What’s the point, I’m never going to be successful, no one thinks I’m funny, I’m just going to watch TV and cry.” (*Cries and cuddles with kitty.)
“What is my passion? What am I supposed to do with my life? I’m wasting so much of my time not being successful… What’s the point of having dreams? Happily ever after doesn’t apply to me. Why can’t I be successful and funny like Ellen? Or Oprah? Or Seinfeld? Or Buddha?” (*Compares self to every single famous human being and creature alive…)
This is merely a teensy taste of all the thoughts I experienced throughout quarantine.
(And FYI, each one typically occurs within five seconds of each other.)
If I’m being completely honest (which I always try to be with this blog – sometimes too much so…), I’ve always had a variation of these thoughts for as long as I can remember. I’ve always felt pressure to succeed doing something with my creativity; otherwise, I’m not worth anything.
I basically think, “People are going to see me as a failure because I have a Master’s degree and work so hard, yet I haven’t achieved massive success yet…”
Quarantine has given me a helluva lot more alone time with these toxic beliefs, and I’m definitely feeling the nasty side effects.
Mentally, this is one of the things I struggle with the most.
Basically, I set so many high standards for myself that are virtually impossible to meet that even contemplating putting any effort into them and failing immediately flushes my self esteem down the toilet. (Along with whatever banana-shaped shit I just emancipated from my bowels. Not that you needed to know that…)
What makes this such a kurfuckle is that everyone is always saying, “dream big” or “work hard to get where you want to go” or “never settle” or “good things happen to those who want it most” or a gazillion other follow-the-rainbow-to-the-pot-of-bling sayings…
But then they also say, “be happy with what you have” or “do the best with what you’re given” or “stop stressing about the future and be content with your present, ya ungrateful shit”…
So which is it?
I’m still grappling with this one, but I think I have to believe that the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
I think you should dream big, but you have to do what you love to do while you’re getting there, so that even if you don’t “make it big” (i.e. be the next Will Ferrell… Hey, Ferrell, hi…), you’re still doing what you love and getting fulfillment from it.
So what does that mean for those of us who dream about becoming the next John Mulaney or Tina Fey or Oprah?
You can’t force yourself to be famous. All you can do is do what you love regardless.
That might mean writing that book you’ve been dreaming about, even if you don’t know whether you’re gonna make the New York Times Bestseller List, much less get published. (Yes, my 260+ page memoir may never know the comfort of a Barnes & Noble shelf…) Or doing standup for free in your community while maintaining a 9-to-5 job, even if you’re never “discovered.” Or posting daily TikToks of your kitty even if you only get like 20 followers…
If you love it, the work is worth it just for that reason.
It’s both liberating and depressing as fuck.
I’m definitely not one to give any reliable career advice. I’m really just thinking out loud. (Well, partially. Wouldn’t wanna kill ya with everything flooking around in my brain… OR WOULD I???? Lol, jk, jk… Please don’t report me.)
What it boils down to, I guess, is this: do what you love, regardless of whether you “make it big.”
Because sometimes “making it big” mainly depends on who you know, or whether someone “big” happens upon something you’ve done… Which is (and I can’t stress this enough) COMPLETELY OUT OF YOUR CONTROL!
(Like honestly, I often wonder whether it’s worth keeping this blog going… but I do it anyway. Partially because I enjoy making people feel uncomfortable, but whatever… Sorry, not sorry.)
I can’t FORCE John Mulaney to watch my standup. I can’t FORCE Amy Poehler to watch my improv. I can’t FORCE Jen Lancaster to read my book. (Hey, Jen, hi…)
All I can do is tell my jokes and love it. All I can do is play my characters and love it. All I can do is write my dark-and-disturbed story and love it.
So I’m kinda saying you should act “as if” you’ve already “made it big.”
(No, I’m not saying you should go around acting like, “OMG LAUGH AT MY JOKES, BITCH – I’M EDDIE MURPHY, DAMMIT! Unless, you know… you’re ACTUALLY Eddie Murphy… Hey, Eddie, hi…)
It’s important to note that you should not stay with a job that makes you feel miserable – even if it’s only something you’re doing to make money while you’re doing your “true passion” on the side. Even if it’s not where your heart lies, it should at least be something you feel content doing well. Otherwise, the misery slowly builds up until it’s all-consuming, and you find it hard to be even a little productive. (Yes, I know this from experience…)
You should also consider whether your misery is caused by the job itself or your disappointment that you haven’t “made it big.” This is something I personally struggle with; I don’t know which is the cause of my misery quite yet. It’s definitely a work-in-progress…
I guess I also have to believe that the Universe or God does “have a plan” for me, and that everything I’m doing is getting me one step closer to achieving whatever dreams I have in ways I may not expect. But I gotta let go and have faith, and just keep working hard.
If only there were a way to know for sure that I’m being heard and that my efforts are being seen. (Hey, God, hi…)