#FirstWorldProblems - you know, that phrase we say in order to apologize for complaining about problems that don't really matter? It's not "I'm out of fresh water" bad, but more like "no hot water in the dead of winter" bad. Problems that threaten the comfortable life we were always told we could have if we worked hard, but actually won't necessarily affect the longevity of our lives.
When my mom was still a senior in high school she became pregnant. Now before you have an “uh-oh” reaction, listen to her whole story. Yes, getting pregnant at 16 was an accident, but she didn't see it as a mistake. She and her boyfriend, who was only 19, decided to get married, despite the blessing of both of their parents to have a child out of wedlock if it was what they wanted. It wasn't what they wanted. They loved each other and got married. Four and a half years later I joined the gang and this past January that young couple celebrated their 30 years of marriage.
I never get sick of telling their story. My parents are exactly the kind of people I want to grow up to be. They didn't come from money, but they worked their asses off so my brother and I could enjoy childhood as long as possible, completely naive to the troubles that inevitably plague lives once adulthood arrives. Though they were eligible for various types of financial aid, my mother, who was still somewhat of a naive child herself, did not want to accept because she felt there were people who needed it more. I never knew how tight money was for my parents when I was younger. I didn't understand that some parents just “stay together for the children” because my parents really love each other. I didn't have any kind of religious views enforced on me and I always had a home-cooked meal ready whenever I was hungry. I had what I would like to call a “free-range” childhood. I watched TV when I wanted, I read books constantly, and I also played outside a lot. We lived in a neighborhood where I could tag along with all the other kids (I was always the youngest) and explore as far and wide as my heart desired, so long as every 45 minutes or so I could respond to my mother’s check-in call. My old neighbors still joke that their favorite summer memories are of my mom opening the door and screaming “LAAAUURREENNN” and each time my voice would be fainter and further away. I consider this my first lesson in theater – I learned to project my voice as loud as I could in order to keep exploring.
The point of all of this is to say one thing: The American dream exists. It doesn’t matter how much you think this country sucks or how jealous you are of the things you don’t have. The reason so many people have given up on the American Dream is because feeling entitled is easier than feeling motivated to work for the life you want. My parents gave up a LOT to raise their family right. By the time they were my age they had two growing children to care for. I'm living selfishly and sometimes that makes me feel guilty. I mean, I am so lucky to be able to pursue a career in imaginative playing, especially when some children have to work so hard just to enjoy food and fresh water that they don't even get the time to play.
Then I read a quote from good ol' John Adams, one of the first people to believe in the pursuit (PURSUIT, not demand) of happiness as a necessary characteristic of this country:
I must study politics and war, that our sons may have
liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons
ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography,
natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce
and agriculture in order to give their children a right to
study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary,
tapestry and porcelain."
My parents sacrificed a lot so I wouldn't have to. They never lived above their means and they worked hard. My mother put herself through college while raising two children and working full-time and now has a Masters degree in international management. In retrospect, some of the most heart-warming memories I have are of my mother driving me to every extra-curricular activity (and I had at least one every day - dance, rehearsals, voice lessons, cheerleading...) while she waited patiently for hours sitting in the car studying. In return, all she wanted was to know how my day was. My father didn't attend college, but he did join the Navy and was the main bread-winner of the house while my mother, by choice, was a stay-at-home mom for the early part of my childhood. When his commitment to the Navy became too taxing on family life, he used his amazing entrepreneurial skills and natural ability for computer engineering to pave a career working for multiple government contractors. That's the American dream. This country is by no means perfect, but try living somewhere else in the world and see if your life really improves. I don't need to feel guilty about pursuing my dreams because it's a sign my parents did something right. It's a way of acknowledging their success.
Am I constantly worrying that this career may not pan out for me? Absolutely. I think Ryan Gosling stated it best when he was being interviewed for the documentary Seduced and Abandoned: "No one is sure if it was a premonition or a delusion, and there's only one way to find out.” (watch the clip here)
No matter how little money I have to my name or how exhausted I may be from working my ass off day after day or how sick I am of living off of bagels, bananas and 99¢ bags of peanuts, there isn’t a moment that goes by where I don’t know I am luckier than so many people on this planet. I am not using this blog to bitch and complain about all of the financial, emotional and spiritual woes I feel on a day to day basis. That’s what my friends are for. I write so that maybe other people who have the same struggles can relate. If I try to practice positivity as often as I can maybe it will inspire others to do the same. It’s not much, but it’s a small way I can try to make this world a better place.
I don't know if I will ever bring a child into this world and as of now I'm ok with that. The expectations I've set for myself as a mother are so high that until I can guarantee I can make my children proud and give them at least the quality of life I've had, I will remain childless. When I was ten years old I made the choice to be an actor, second only to being as nice a person as I could be. I'm willing to sacrifice until I get what I want or my heart changes direction. I've heard all of the statistics on success as an actor. I know I've made only a microscopic impression in the world of show business. Does that mean I'm not gonna keep trying? Hell no. This year I'm heavily featured in the recreations of a documentary that is headed to Tribeca Film Festival with an Academy-Award winning crew attached to it (http://www.1971film.com/). It may not be much, but it's more than what I had when I first moved here three years ago. It's progress.
I don't feel I deserve a career as an actor, I feel I deserve a chance to prove how much I want a career as an actor. If it doesn't work out, at least I had time on this wonderful planet and I spent it how I wanted. If you're asking for more, you may be asking for too much.