I always knew I wanted to tell stories. As a young boy growing up in the heat of the Mississippi Delta, I would oft skip out on joining my older brother and cousins in a game of backyard baseball, and instead, I would line my stuffed animals and Beanie Babies (Hey, it was the 90s, alright?) across the foot of my bed and, ignoring my mother’s warnings, would climb onto the built-in bookshelf to reenact scenes from the most recent Brooks & Dunn or Reba music video for my captivated audience. From my earliest recollection, I always knew I wanted to tell stories. I always knew I wanted to be an actor.
I always knew…until I didn’t.
There have been times in my life where I felt as if all that I had was my desire, my God-given sense of purpose. For my entire life, that sense of purpose had been rooted in my aspiration to do one thing: act. Upon graduating college, I immediately charged the yellow brick road toward creative Oz. However, no sooner than I took the first step toward my life-long dream, I felt an uneasy quiver in my stomach. From the beginning, something felt dishonest, disingenuous. I dismissed these feelings as nerves or fear, and I resolved to keep true to the dreams of my youth.
I continued this for a few years, convincing myself that the dissatisfaction that I felt was simply the dues everyone must pay to cross the River Styx from the shore of the mundane into the land of artistic expression. What is more, I made early advances in the industry. I had been signed to a top agency in Atlanta and I had booked my first leading role in an independent film. It would be this film (which died on the cutting room floor: RIP) that finally unveiled the truth I had been refusing to acknowledge. The truth is I am not an actor. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the three months spent filming in North Carolina, and although I made incredible friends of my cast mates and crew, everyday felt like a show within a show. I felt like a person acting like a person acting like a person. I had become nothing more than a character in the fictional play that was my life. Acting never once felt honest. I never once felt like myself. My heart simply wasn’t in it. I realized then that it wasn’t passion that was keeping me in the industry: it was pride. I didn’t want to quit because I didn’t want to fail. But if you are successful at something you don’t love, don’t you fail by default?
The realization that I am not an actor breaks my heart, still. It feels as if I am losing an intrinsic companion forever or as if I am divorcing a part of myself I once loved. Truth is, I don’t know who I am if I am not an actor. I have been so sure for so long. When I knew nothing else, I knew that. Now, the idea of not knowing terrifies me. I have spent my entire life with my sight focused on one path, and suddenly, I have turned around to be confronted with the realities of infinite possibilities. I continuously ask myself, “If I am not this, then what am I?” “If I don’t want this, then what do I want?” Choices can be overwhelming, especially when I feel that I have already wasted invaluable time chasing a dream that changed. I feel pressured into an immediate decision for no reason other than to avoid wasting more time. I feel the weight of failure because I walked away before I made it all the way. I feel frozen by all of the possibilities I never knew existed, which are suddenly right in front of me, and I don’t know what to choose. It’s difficult.
Quitting isn’t an easy decision if you aren’t a quitter, and I like to think that I am not a quitter. Still, there comes a time when you have to silence your ego and make an honest decision. If you have an honest change of heart, it is okay to change your mind. The decision may hurt you, intimidate you, and at times out right terrify you, but passions evolve, and the worst thing you can do is ignore your passion for the sake of your pride.
Go until you know, and then go with what you know.
Furthermore, for what it’s worth, figuring out what you’re not is the best way I know for figuring out what you are. I am not an actor. Okay. I know that now. I still want to tell stories, and I will. In what capacity, I can’t say for sure. I am still figuring that out. I have more questions than answers at this stage in my life. I’m no longer young enough to know everything, so for now, I will close my eyes, take a breath, listen, and make a decision on a new path.
Where it will lead?
Well, I won’t know until I go, but if I don’t come back, don’t send for me.
If I don’t come back, I’m finding my way.