(this post originally appeared at Karen Quah’s “ModernDayStoryteller” on October 9, 2010)
Fortunately, the powers that be in the composition department of an unnamed school (which most of you already know anyhow), decided to help me along this path by refusing to let me graduate on time, and that the portfolio I had amassed of professional work wasn’t enough for them (even though I was being paid for the professional work – but in the world of classical composition academia, a letter A-F, excluding E, is the only payment that matters. Screw the necessity of living a life).
Armed with this, I stood up, and made the decision that sent me on my current trajectory – my first leap of faith. I walked away from music school. I told my family after the decision had been made, and I set about finding the next way to express myself and earn a living. I found it when I rewatched The Godfather on one of my movie marathon nights. I was a moviemaker. I had always been a moviemaker. I had take a ten-year detour down the wrong path, and at the moment, I decided it was time for a course correction.
So I did it. I taught myself the ins and outs, while working at various odd jobs in Boston. I met people, heard stories, and then took a job at a non-profit, where I paid my dues making historical documentaries, eventually becoming Executive Director, running the show, and putting all of my own creative work on the backburner.
It was the end of the beginning. Or beginning of the end. And again, I saw the writing on the wall as the economy collapsed, sucking up non-profits left and right, and eventually, my own job, leading me to reevaluate everything I had done and everything I would do. I was back where I was when I left music school. I had misstepped somewhere after the initial leap of faith of leaving school. I became complacent. Satisfied with how things were going. Even though I knew what would happen. I knew I would lose my job. And I knew my life would never be the same.
Yet I behaved as though it would be. I had turned my back on my own creativity; sure I had made a nice living. But I had made my living for someone else’s life – the non-profit’s mission, among other things. Following the relative indifference greeting a previous film, I had stopped making things that truly mattered to me. I had stopped being excited by the process of being a creative. I had lost hope.
But after a long period of thought, the writing was on the wall again. And it said, “Be You. Now’s Your Chance.”
Over this summer, as I knew things were going south, and as I felt like I did at the non-profit – the guy in the water pushing the Titanic back to floating order – I rededicated myself to my creative pursuits with a passion I hadn’t seen since my last great creative time of 2002-03. But, unlike all those years ago, I had experience behind me. The knowledge of what I didn’t want. The knowledge of what needed to be done. The hard choices that had to be made. I was older – not necessarily wiser – but with a newfound steeliness, a “screw you, I’m doing this” attitude. A desire to make something remarkable – and most importantly – to love every second of the creative process to get me there.
It has been a long, hard road. There have been people, places, friends, lovers, dogs, cats, collaborators, family, and the grit of experience following me, supporting me, and giving me a pit stop on the road to reach the precipice on which I now stand. On the other side of the canyon is everything I’ve worked for. Everything I’ve wanted. A life that I knew existed, and that I knew I would attain. But there’s no road to get me there. I’ve travelled the road as far as it can take me.
I have to run and take the leap over the unknown chasm of fear, doubt, and potential failure. I’ve prepared for this for six years. I can only look back at those who helped me get here and say, “see you on the other side…. and thanks.” I can’t bring anyone with me on the leap. I’m not Superman, holding Lois Lane. I’m only me.
Some of those who have been with me on the journey thus far will be there when I land on the other side. Some won’t. Maybe some new people will be there. Or I may land alone. It’s the hard reality of following your passions.
The next two weeks of my life will be spent steadying my feet, getting the running start, and then, making the leap. The biggest I’ve ever made, but the leap I’ve been preparing for for years. Yes, I may fail. But I would fail even more by falling back into my old ways, in falling back into the life I lead, and the life I now know I never wanted. I would fail to try. I would fail to live up to the standards I set for myself. And I would fail in the most egregious and horrifying way a creative can fail – I would leave a work unfinished through my own inability to make the tough decisions.
It’s time to put on my cape and take the leap. I may crash and burn, but at least I’ll get off the ground, feel the wind in my face, and know that if I hit the ground (and pick myself back up again), that I went for it.
See you on the other side.