Tag: humanity

Lower the stakes, and commit.

Lower the stakes, and commit.

A dear friend once reminded me that we can’t scratch every itch. Well, at the same time, anyway. It was in response to a struggle that I’m certain almost every human faces: We always want to be doing what we aren’t currently doing. The Uber driver who really produces a web series, the barista who actually has an album on Spotify that took years to produce, the teacher who is studying for law school. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the President who actually dreams of working for a Neilsen TV Ratings analysis team. It’s not that we want what we can’t have. In fact, I no longer believe in that saying. Instead, it’s that we want what we tell ourselves is not possible. We want what we think would seem ridiculous or out of reach. We worry how it might seem. We want more, but don’t commit.

10 months ago, I dropped everything I ever worked for in a matter of 9 days. Beautiful and loyal friends, a dream job, a quaint and endearing town. In the true Shonda Rhimes “Year of Yes” spirit, I hauled everything I’ve ever owned and left a little room in the suitcase for ambition and celebrated fear. This is not the point of this post, however, so I’m going to quickly move along. It takes a lot for us to do what our idols and role models tell us as they give their acceptance speech or accept their Olympic medal: “Follow your dreams. Don’t let anyone tear them away.” You see, this is all good advice. However, what happens when we aren’t sure it is our dream? What happens when we really think it is, but other itches, other desires, make us overthink? What happens when we have multiple dreams?

And here is where I make my point — where I “land the plane”, as my good friend likes to say. We have to lower the stakes. Because at the end of the day, it is your journey. YOU are the one impacted by these risks, these desires, these failures, and these lessons. I remember always wondering: How will it look, running across the country to try this? What will people think? I’m taking all my things, is that silly? Should I just sublet and try it out for 5 months? All of this went through my head. For some reason, it became this huge situation. But I knew I couldn’t sublet. I was not going to scratch an itch HALF-WAY. I was going to go, commit, and realize that everyone else would continue living their own lives, worrying about their own worries. Thus, I lowered the stakes.

Once you the lower the stakes, you can commit to scratching one of your itches. Now you have reminded yourself that it truly matters not if things do not happen as planned. You come to understand that the only negative feedback you might receive will come from people you aren’t actually keen to impress. In that case, DECIDE. Decide, lower the stakes, and commit. No one else is influenced by these risks but yourself. What will people say? What will people think? The fact of that matter is that life will go on for those people in your life. They will continue to go to work, come home, heat up a frozen lasagna, and continue Season 2 of Stranger Things. They will continue to remodel their backyard, visit Grandma on Saturdays, or go on weekend hikes and take selfies while wearing sunglasses. The stakes are NOT HIGH.

In August of this year, I will make a return to the school at which I found a home only 15 months ago. A school run and staffed with beautifully dedicated teachers, some of my dearest friends, and filled with families that want a future for their children. I have accepted a position on an amazing First Grade team, and better yet, I’ll be teaching Theatre (cue the puppet voices, stat!). Is this what I thought would happen a year ago? Not at all, but I scratched the itch. I lowered the stakes again. I’m moving back so soon, what will people say? They always say to give it a year…what will people say at 10 months? I don’t have to worry, however, because this is an individual journey. And itch I will continue to scratch, but on my own terms.

Julia Child once said: “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” For me, that is teaching young people how to read. Did I need to scratch a few itches to discover that? Absolutely. Has anyone’s life really been affected but my own? Nope. Therefore, I commit. I decide, and I open another door.

So, trust yourself. Try things. Find clarity. Sometimes we follow dreams that no longer become dreams. And in that moment, in the present, we find an infinite gamut of choices.

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Someday? How about NOW.

Someday? How about NOW.

“Don’t you worry, your time will come.” “Oh, it just hasn’t happened for you yet.” “It’ll happen when you least expect it, you’ll see.” There are many variations of this phrase that we all know too well. So, whether we are in our 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, or 60s, how do we deal with goals, states of being, or desires that seem so out of our control?

While I don’t have all of the answers, what I’ve discovered is this: we must commit to the quest of happiness in our current state of being. Too often we get caught up in constant and tiresome efforts to find eventual happiness. Someday this, one day that. I recently chatted with my dearest and closet friend about the “single life” dilemma. “You’ll find your person someday.” “Once you stop looking, they’ll be right in front of you.” While I don’t entirely disagree with those theories, we cannot always be living in a state of “somedays.” This. THIS is the challenge. A struggle that I, too, face. While we work toward our dreams, what are we doing to find joy right NOW? How are we being present with our current selves?

Here is what it comes down to: Awareness and presence.  There is only one way to stop the worry, to stop the uneasiness, to stop the pain. The reality is that we really do not have a clue what will happen. You might not find your person for a very long time. Or, you may grow and change and find out you’d rather travel and see the world. OR, you might find someone in three years who opens doors to things that were once unimaginable. Bottom line? Forget all of that. Make small decisions right NOW that bring you joy. The rest will come when it is ready. I just finished watching 30 minutes worth of live videos of Mariah Carey on You Tube. Does this correlate directly to my dream career? Not at all. However, it makes me smile. It brings me joy, and it is a choice that I make for myself. So for now? Book a vacation. Write a short film. Watch your favorite movie. Try a new activity, join a new group that meets Mondays at 7:30. Go on a date, take a day off, buy a new piece of artwork. Light a candle. After all, these things are in our control. And in turn, we’ve chosen joy when we commit to these things.

As you approach this holiday season, try eliminating your state of worry. Don’t be happy “eventually.” Choose positivity, and more importantly, SPREAD IT. Talk to your cousin that you’ve lost touch with, inspire your nephew. Show your grandmother pictures from your year. Go to a work Christmas party. Tell someone a joke. Read a silly magazine. Share your passion, and as Shania Twain would say lately, live right NOW. Give a hungry person 5 dollars, binge-watch your favorite show, or try a new recipe. These decisions make us smile. So….what will you commit to?

When we stop hoping, a weight lifts.

When we stop hoping, a weight lifts.

I know what you’re thinking….what kind of blog post title is THAT? Stop hoping? If you’ve not already clicked the back button, then hear me out: It’s time we stop hoping for things to happen and start declaring them to be inevitably true. Allow me to elaborate.

For the past two years, I have hoped and dreamed of living in Los Angeles as a working screenwriter, composing and scripting stories that change lives as much as they have mine. I would get home just in time to check Twitter, following every television writer I could find. Liking, retweeting, messaging, and wishing. I always had the same thought: I hope I can write a story like him or her one day…live in LA, get my badge, park in the garage, walk on set, and arrive at my job. Walk into the writers room, holding a coffee, and get out the whiteboard marker. I kept hoping, dreaming, wishing….but was I actually DOING? Was I getting closer to this goal, or was I “too busy”?

Now, as I sit here typing “Fade Out” on my second original TV pilot, there is still a lot of hoping happening over here. But it is a different kind of hope. I look back to July. Step 1: Bite the bullet, move to LA. Step 2: Work tirelessly, because what was the alternative? Step 3: Stop hoping, and start believing it to be true. The advice I’ll never forget came last month from my current boss, an extraordinary producer and woman who made her own opportunities and works endlessly to fulfill her goals: “Jake, you need to stop hoping. Don’t wish that one day you will be one of them. Starting imagining yourself in a writer’s room. Do it. Just imagine that you will be there. It’s absolutely possible.”

So, I leave you with this: The minute we get off Twitter, the minute we stop wanting to emulate ones we deem “successful,” the minute we will assume success for ourselves. In this minute, we become solely our own person. Does that mean we can’t have idols? Not at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes from cover to cover, and she’s the reason I started writing. But when we challenge everything we think we know to be possible, we get excited for that alarm clock in the morning. We stop sitting at a coffee shop checking our likes on Instagram. We realize that, instead, chatting with someone in line might bring about an opportunity next month when they remember your smile. A weight lifts when your hopes become realities that you have assumed, realities you’re determined to make happen. But once you’ve assumed this truth, there’s no turning back. You commit, you sweat, you cry, you smile, you laugh, and you pretend that you were meant to be in every hallway you walk down.

As I start an ambitious spec script for Grey’s Anatomy, I don’t “hope” that one day it leaves my computer. I make certain it does. I assume it will. I step into the next day, having no clue what it will bring, but expecting it to be genius. Because at the end of the day, what is the alternative?