The Wall Between Here & Success
There's a Wall in my way. It's been there from the very beginning, even though it's location continues to change. It always blocks me from what I think I want/deserve.
There's no way over this Wall, or under, or through. I keep looking for the secret door, or for the Samwell Tarly who can show me where the secret door is and how to operate it. I keep constructing catapults to launch myself over this massive blockade, shooting desperate and frantic grappling hooks, but they never seem to get me even half as high as I need to go.
I've been in the comedy community going on eleven years. I'm not on SNL, I've never gotten a callback for a touring company, I don't have a writing agent, my photo will likely never be on the wall of Second City. I'm not, it turns out (despite my grand desires to be so) the next Catherine O'Hara.
It always seems so easy for everyone else. You log onto Facebook and see people getting cast, getting hired, getting great and deserved opportunities on the other side of the Wall. They're getting helped over, or through, or under, or they're launching themselves over with grace and ease. You go to a sports bar and see people you know selling cars and insurance and Hungry Jack pancakes. They did it. They got over the Wall. They got to peek at what's on the other side.
But I am still here, facing this imposing psychological structure, trying to figure out what exactly I need to hurl myself over it. A web series? A web series with a production budget? How about a web series that wins an award at a festival? What about a podcast about web series? Or a clever Tumblr? Or an Instagram of just pictures of me farting?
What will crack the engineering code and make the catapult strong enough to launch my 230-pound Dutch frame into superstardom? Fuck enjoying what you do, everything should be a calculated, sterile attempt at achieving a preconceived outcome.
I'm writing this because I've realized the Wall will never go away. It will always be in the way, in some regard or another, no matter how much I accomplish or how high and fast and powerfully I soar in its direction.
First, the Wall was blocking my attempts to get on a Harold team at the iO. Back in 2006, that goal seemed as important and huge as Mt. Everest to me. Later, it was blocking my attempts to get a callback for the Second City Touring Company. Lately, despite accomplishing more than I ever dreamed of when I started out eleven years ago, it's still stubbornly there, now blocking me from figuring out how to get material produced for television.
My ambitions and goals have grown enormously. But the juvenile feeling of futility and the inability to control my destiny remains the same. Getting an NBC deal feels as huge as getting on a Harold team once did, and I'm still haunted by the (entirely self-created) powerlessness the Wall imbues in me. It's almost as I'm an addict to this feeling of comedy career impotence, this feeling that there is some grand conspiracy keeping me from having the fame and fortune I think I want (or think I should have) (or have seen others have and have decided for some reason I should want the same success).
Because that's easier to believe than the truth, which is either I'm not ready yet for my dreams to come true or I never will be. Maybe my talent isn't as big as my ambition, which is absolutely fine and normal.
So even though I've travelled thousands of literal miles, mostly back and forth on trains to and from shows and classes, the Wall has travelled with me. I have so many great opportunities and experiences at my back now, yet I seem to forget them almost as soon as they've passed me. I have hyper-focus on this goddamn Wall. What I don't have.
I'm the idiot dog that just ate ten treats and immediately forgets this fact and can only focus on that last treat dangling precariously in my owner's hand.
It's a lesson I've learned, re-learned and will continue to re-learn for many years to come. And it keeps me busy, I guess, building catapults.
For solace, I return, as I often do, to the final words of the New York Ball scene documentary Paris is Burning from the enigmatic Dorian Corey:
"I always had hopes of being a big star. But as you get older, you aim a little lower. Everybody wants to make an impression, some mark upon the world. Then you think, you've made a mark on the world if you just get through it, and a few people remember your name. Then you've left a mark. You don't have to bend the whole world. I think it's better to just enjoy it. Pay your dues, and just enjoy it. If you shoot an arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you."
The only difference for me is, I'm desperately shooting grappling hooks.