Back in my Motha’ Russia, there is a saying:
“Moscow wasn’t built overnight.”
Say whaaaat? Okay, I’ll translate.
Any grandiose endeavor by the human mind, soul or imagination takes time to build. Or in the words of my gorgeous lover:
“Anything worth having — takes a lot of hard work.”
Which is exactly why I was never a believer in the bullshit fairytales of Big Breaks and Overnight Sensations.
First off, I wasn’t born here; and neither was I a lucky bastard to be born to a family that would support me. Quite quickly — oh, say, by the age of five — it became clear that not only was capable of taking care of myself, I was expected to do so. So, when I left the anarchy of Motha’ Land’s last decade of the 20th century, I didn’t climb off the boat at Ellis Island expecting to tread upon pathways paved with easy money and other people’s easy “yeses.” I was ready to bust my slim, tomboyish ass and earn my way; and I was NOT willing to make my step heavier by stuffing my mind with delusions of lottery fairytales.
And thusly, I did. Oh, how I did that, my comrades! For the sake of mere survival at first — for a decade! — I worked anywhere between two to five jobs while carrying a full-time class load in college and grad school; and then — as any American — I decided to practice my right to pursue a dream. And, let me tell you: This cat went for it! Trying out every major in college. Entertaining dozens of professions. Taking-up internships on the Isle of Manhattana, just because she could. Trying her hand at every art form, at least once. You’d think this wild cat actually had nine lives to spare! (All the while, the list of survival jobs and sleepless nights and financial sacrifices continued to accumulate.)
Now, if you’ve chosen to settle in either the metropolis of LA-LA or the other Center of the Universe (love you, New York — but it’s complicated with us!); you know that everybody is trying to be a Somebody. That’s the reason for these two opposing cities’ magnificence and an occasional cause for annoyance. But if you’ve come here to participate in the race, you’ve most likely been made a witness of the following event. Say, a Somebody’s name comes up. Or better yet, that Somebody appears in a national commercial while you’re vegging out on the couch with your aspiring actor friends. You KNOW, there is going to be someone to holler:
“OH! THAT’S MY FRIEND!”
Yep, we live in a close proximity to other people’s dreams coming true. I myself have a couple of comrades who are either on the verge of their first well-paid job of significant exposure, or are already working actors and writers. And I’ll tell you this: There was nothing “Overnight” in the pursuit of their dreams. Just like the rest of us, they worked restaurant jobs and temp gigs and those soul-draining office jobs, at all of which they’ve been painfully overqualified, yet underpaid. They’ve wasted their days in the soul-draining background holding areas and did the grind of audience work (otherwise known as the Freak Show of Humanity). So by the time their personal Big Ben struck the hour of the Big Break, those hustlers have paid their dues. They’ve done the legwork, you see; have knocked on dozen of doors; mailed enough head shots and reels and clippings to pay for a house downpayment. They’ve been tortured by doubt and daunting competition and endless rejections.
My personal fascination is always with the journey that takes after the Happily Ever After. What happens after the Big Break; or in the morning when you finally wake up as a Somebody? From what I’ve witnessed:
— First: Your friendships get tested. If you’ve had the balls to reach for any dream of seeming impossibility, you better be equipped with the self-possession and the courage of rediscovering the true content of your friendships. Some of your people will stick around, god bless their exceptional souls (at which point, I pray you have the wits to claim them as your permanent family). But others — will flake off! Be prepared: Some friends will demonstrate very odd behavior that’ll leave you feeling disappointed or lonely. So, may your god of choice grant you the wisdom and the grace to handle the life-changing reshuffle.
— And then, there will always be an army of acquaintances who will want a piece of it: A piece of your Somebody-ness and the overdue prosperity that most likely comes with it. Again, keep clutching on to your chosen people; because after the noise hushes down, they’ll still be the only ones having your back.
— Finally, my favorite part: And the work — continues. From what I’ve learned in my insignificant yet loaded with turmoil eight previous lives: The work never stops. And to that, I say: Mazel tov! If you’re one of those lucky dreamers to grab at least a handful of what you’ve reached for, may you continue to ask for more. So, here is to your endurance and patience, your courage to dream and the balls to handle the consequences!