We’ll start with a broad example. I have always wanted to live in New York City. I don’t live there, nor am I sure I ever will. It’s easy to say “Uggh. I can’t live in NYC. It’s not my fault, I just can’t, it’s not in the cards for me.” I don’t live in NYC because it’s impossible. In reality, I don’t live there because I have chosen not to make the sacrifices I would need to in order to live there. If I was willing to downsize to a much smaller apartment, get a job that made more money but that was in turn a bit more more stressful, be willing to have a longer commute, cancel my Netflix subscription and other unnecessary expenses, give up buying organic groceries, and be willing to sacrifice time with my husband and our cat and loved ones in lieu of working a second job, I would probably be able to live in New York City. Would it make me a happy, wholehearted Melissa? Maybe, but I suspect not. This is not to say that the sacrifices I listed are what it takes for other people I know to live in NYC. They have different lives, different “givens” and have their own set of things they need and want to be wholehearted, happy people. It’s all about what formula works for you.
Here’s a second example. I ran my first 5K last summer and learned so much from the training process. For years, I told myself it was impossible for me to run a 5K. I recited excuses like I wasn’t athletic enough, strong enough, wasn’t blessed with the ability to run. In reality though, I wasn’t able to run a 5K before because I was not willing to give up what it took to meet the goal. Previously, I had not been willing to give up an hour every day to train for the race, I was not willing to deal with sore muscles, tired feet, and achy knees. So when I finally decided to try this experiment and run a 5K, I knew this was going to be a moment of truth for me, much bigger than the race itself. Finally, I would get to discover if it really was true that I was incapable of running, or whether I was the one in my own way. I ran the 5K, ran it without walking a single step, and finished in less than 32 minutes. I got my answer.
I used to think I would never be able to run a marathon. Now with a 5K under my belt, I know I could probably run a marathon if I was willing to give up what it took to run one. I would need to give up my evenings and weekends for the next several months in order to do the training I would need to finish the race. Do I think it would be amazing to do a marathon? Hell, yes! When it comes right down to it, am I willing to give up the time and energy it would take to train for it? Not at this point in time. And, if I’m not willing to put in the time and energy it takes, then I need to be able to be at peace with my choice and be ok with not being able to tell people I’ve run a marathon. If I find that at some point in the future, I’m not at peace having not run a marathon, I’ll get out my sneakers, and put the miles in.
Back to the theatre. Sure, I have a day job that I need right now, BUT I could be doing a lot more theatre if I was willing to use every spare minute in the evenings and weekends to audition, rehearse, write, and perform. I CHOOSE not to. There is no right or wrong choice, and the list of what we’re willing to give is different for every person. You have to ask yourself: What are you willing to give up in order to work your dream job, have your own home, get healthy, stay home with your kids, to have a satisfying relationship? It needs to be said that it’s unfair to ask someone else what you they think you should be willing to sacrifice to achieve your dream. You know; deep down YOU know, and you don’t need someone else to validate that (as much as you think you do). Trust your gut and pay attention to your daily happiness quotient. Go with it as long as it makes you happy and makes you feel balanced, and when you notice discontent, tweak as needed. Repeat.
Please note that I am not saying that there aren’t circumstances that aren’t challenging or that we can completely control. This is life after all, and there are things that happen that we don’t expect, that throw us a curveball and leave us feeling like we’re free falling, unable to ground ourselves and gain control. I can’t speak for anyone else. But speaking for myself, I have come to realize that most things in my life have indeed been in the realm of my control, and a result of my own actions and choices. After all, no one made me get a B.A. in Theatre Performance and a Master’s in Theatre and Community, or move to a big city that it expensive to live in. I made the choice, and am free to pursue a career in a different field at any time, if I think that would make me happier. Knowing it won’t, onward I must go!
Am I willing to give up a lot of idle time I spend on Facebook, Pinterest, and email in order to make more theatre? Absolutely. Am I willing to give up every weekend with my husband? No. Am I willing to give up some evenings? Of course. Am I willing to give up eating foods that make me feel good, a good night’s sleep, and my peace of mind? Maybe for a tech week crunch, but not for the long term.
There’s my list of prerequisites. What are yours?