Sometimes I wonder what my life would look like today if I was once a child star.
Not the common kid who sadly flames out too young. But the rare acting prodigy who stays on track with enough grit and support to grow into the guy whose success and strong character inspires the next generation of kids to live their dreams too.
My thing for a while was screenwriting. I loved movies and writing from an early age. So it made sense to choose film as my college major — and four years later, move degree in hand to Hollywood.
Getting paid to write movies was another matter.
Writing scripts and hustling the ones I actually finished was not my official day job. There were pockets of promise — a contest win, some positive coverage from junior execs who liked them enough to pass along to their big-shot bosses.
A few years in, my passion waned. Giving up didn’t feel right though. I heard too many Making It success stories about folks who got their first yes only after getting through the pain of a hundred nos.
I told myself screenwriting was something I wanted to do. Yet I needed to be completely honest with myself too. If writing movies was indeed something I loved — truly, madly, deeply — then I’d be doing it. And I wasn’t.
Screenwriting and me were at a crossroads common in 20-something romcoms. Lots of fun times; serious, off and on. But I was hardly ready or willing to walk down the aisle.
Not yet convinced the “it’s not you, it’s me” talk was in order — we had a history together, after all — I sought advice from a successful actor I knew who left showbiz to begin anew mid-life.
How did he know acting wasn’t The One?
He told me something simple yet, for me at the time, radical: You’re allowed to change your mind.
Doing one thing is fantastic if that’s what you want and you’re happy.
But if you have a hunch something else is out there, an inkling of a dream, another path you’re curious to explore? Life happens whether you do something or not, so you might as well do it.
How do you know when you’ve found your calling?
Maybe your calling isn’t something meant to be found.
Your calling isn’t necessarily your career. Your calling is about sharing your gifts.
If you are blessed with the gift of compassion, you may be drawn to a field where this is important, such as medicine or the healing arts.
But if you walk down the street and exude compassion to strangers, are you following your calling any less than if you were directly using it to pay your bills?
The whole idea of career as calling and the lack thereof is in many ways a first-world problem.
Everyone has a calling and can find meaning in life regardless of socioeconomic status or political environs.
Wanting a meaningful career is great. Just recognize you’re in a position of privilege already if you’re able to contemplate or pursue one.
When you let go of the pressure you put on yourself to find yourself, you are giving yourself permission to let go of the old beliefs about what you thought you wanted to do that may not be serving you any more. You become more in tune with your natural state of awesome.
In other words, not only are we allowed to change our minds, we are encouraged to do so.
Like in a well-written movie, each of our life stories follows an arc. Change and growth are expected of you — the star.
Who wants to watch a movie — or worse, live one — where nothing happens? Movies about staying stuck don’t get made let alone win Academy Awards.
If you’re not where you thought you’d be or where you’d like to be in your own movie, know that you are not only the star, but the screenwriter.
This means you have unlimited options of where you can choose your story to go.
This doesn’t mean you need to figure out how it will go.
Beginning screenwriters learn early on not to stress over too many particulars of what making their vision a reality will actually require. They write it down anyway. Figuring out the how — the logistics, the special effects — is the director’s job.
So if you’re ready to write yourself a new role for your own life, don’t get bogged down in your unanswered hows. Let your imagination run wild. Then turn the draft for your life movie over to the Director of All.
Your only job at this point is to step fully into your starring role. Trust that new, superior scenes you didn’t think of on your own — synchronistic plot twists and meet-cutes, magical improvisational dialogue — will be created for you in perfect order as the cameras roll.
In the meantime, focus on what is under your control. Hone your craft. Develop your character.
Think of each day as a new scene. Each scene requires action. Can you do one thing each day — big or small — to move your story forward?
It’s never too late to begin a new dream no matter what page of life you’re on — whether or not you ever were a child star.
Our Director blessed each of us with a spark of something long before casting us in our leading roles. Sometimes it just takes longer for us to see and feel it for ourselves.
All drama is optional.