Have you ever seen that internet meme of Morpheus where he asks you to take the Red Pill to right all the mistakes of your past, or take the Blue Pill and receive a huge sum of cash? I always answer that choice the same:
I'd take the Red Pill and fix ALL of my mistakes!...Like that time I didn't take the huge sum of cash.
The question reminds me of a test I created for myself 9 years ago that I still use today. On December 31st of every year, I have a self evaluation form I created that I fill out to track the progress of my career. Goals To Meet, Goals in Progress, Goals Completed. There should always be plenty left over in the Goals To Meet section, because in my mind "If I meet them all, my goals were too small." The last question is a fail-safe option. It's simply a box that says:
Are You Happy?
If yes, I move on and begin creating my new goals for the next year. If no...well, it's never been no. It's never even been close. Until recently...
Imagine you packed a bag of all the things most important to you with the intention of starting a new life somewhere different from where you began, in a place that is absolutely perfect for you and all of the belongings you have in your bag. But in order to continue the journey to this destination, you will have to slowly let go of everything in the bag. One by one. No matter how much you need them. Also, each time you have to leave another one of the items in your bag behind, you have the choice of ending the journey right where you are, but you are never allowed to go back toward where you came from and pick your items back up. You keep what you have forever and lose what you left forever. All the while every time you are faced with this choice, the closer and more easily visible your original destination becomes.
Here are the undeniable truths of this journey:
-The beginning will be slow and the destination will appear nowhere in sight at first. But your eagerness to start the journey will get you to look past the difficulty of your starting point.
-There are multiple routes to get to the same destination, but none are completely guaranteed to not be blocked off at some point and you could find yourself stuck or lost for an indefinite amount of time. So even if you don't know where you're going, asking for directions could either help you or hurt you...you just have to guess what's the best route for you.
-Multiple times people who are also on a similar path as you will tell you that you are going the wrong direction...Just remember they could be lying. Unfortunately you will have no way of knowing.
-You will find that many of the items in your bag were unnecessary, and if you continue to hold onto them too long, it will slow your journey considerably.
-You will realize some of the belongings in your bag were more important than they originally seemed, but there is nothing you can do to go back and get them.
-If you make it to the destination...you are guaranteed to have an empty bag.
Now, here are all of the questions you will undoubtedly ask yourself at some point:
-Am I going the right way?
-Is it ok to stop here or am I selling myself short?
-Is the end destination still the end destination if everything I planned to have with me once I got there is now gone?
-If I had it to do all over again, knowing everything I know now...would I still agree to start the journey???
Honestly? No. I miss having the same problems as everyone else. I miss people taking my problems seriously. I miss having a Saturday night off and not wondering if I did the right thing. I miss seeing the people I know the best more than once a year. I miss when canceled plans didn't mean I now have to wait 2 years to see them again. I miss being visited, and picking up friends from the airport. I miss my ex girlfriend's cooking. I miss date night. I miss not being the center of attention any time I'm around family. I miss not answering where I'm going to be next week. I miss getting to cut people out of my life without worrying what ripple effect it will have on my fan base. I miss being able to walk away from drunk people whenever I feel like it. I miss not having to announce the time and date that I will be at a specific location for the entire public to know, without being considered irresponsible. I miss my mind.
The trade off is not without reward, however. The everyday worries that used to fill my mind are no longer prevalent in my life. My talent is being fully realized, my skill-set has never been sharper, and my finances are in a place I had never envisioned for myself this early in my career when I was unemployed and in immense debt. I only work 90 min a day in public, and the rest of my time is filled with thinking of how I can continue to only work 90 min a day in public.
It is a gift and a curse: When the routine stresses of the world are removed, you are only left with you.
Think of your mind as a country that was ravaged by war, and one day the war ends. After war there is nothing but tarnished resources, empty space and rubble to sift through in hopes of finding some meaning. You had purpose when you were fighting for your survival during the war, because there was no time to think of any other option of living. Now you must start over, and find out what you were fighting for in the first place. Your original reasons may be long gone. One of the unnamed casualties of war is the loss of purpose. But the war IS over...
So isn't it better to be lost in peace than to find purpose in war?...
Your own answer may surprise you.
For everything I have gained in my career, I have lost something equally as valuable in my personal life. Time, sleep, physical health, freedom of speech, friends, relationships, social life, and love. I am tormented daily by those losses. The only thing that allows me to keep pushing through them, is the knowledge and acceptance that they were all my choices. Nobody made me do anything. If I'm unhappy it's up to me to fix that, so I just keep moving forward.
Believe it or not, I am NOT complaining. I am just being honest in a way that people aren't comfortable thinking about when they are on a comic's website looking for his next show to make them happy. Doesn't take away from the fact that I enjoy what I do. I just don't want you to forget that I am a person too, and not a jukebox. A person who is average in more ways than he is special. A person with hopes, fears, depression and doubt. And it is ok to not be ok in every moment that I breathe. You understand that I'm sure. That's why most of you come to see my shows, right? To get away from your own troubles for a minute? I'm happy to do that for you. It brings me joy, truly.
I am highly aware that I have a life that most people can only fantasize about...which in a way becomes a reward itself. And just so we are completely clear, I was just as lost before I started this new journey. I knew something was off on the road I was traveling in the "real world" before I began comedy, I just wasn't so keenly able to express what I was feeling at the time. That's how I ended up here in the first place. I was absolutely no better off with a 9 to 5. Believe me I was in WAY worse shape then.
So like I said, if you asked me then would I start this journey, knowing what I know now about where I would be, and what it would take to get here, I would have said No. Because that version of me still believed he could avoid the inevitable. Avoid pain, avoid rejection, avoid disappointment, and avoid loss. You know what else he thought though? He thought he could handle success, and properly frame it in a way that wouldn't cause him to place all of his value in the approval of others...he would have been destroyed by now had his path not been filled with the so-called mistakes of his past along the way. He also now knows that in his profession, the only difference between ordinary and extraordinary...is Marketing. (Ugh.)
One day if you're lucky, you get to wake up and realize all the things you had in your bag when you started this journey were things that people TOLD you were important. That the empty bag is not a failure, but an opportunity to fill the bag with the things that you- in all your newfound understanding, experience, and self-awareness- find important:
Your enemies will become your lessons, not your targets. Your friends will become your family. Your parents will become your peers, not your leaders. Your children will become your own reflection. Your love will become your power, not your weakness. Your spirit will become your filter. Your death will become your freedom, not your fear. Your life will become your legacy.
Knowing how heavy the bag can become you will be more choosy in what you put into it this time around, won't you? You will remember what's important and what isn't from your previous journey, and not be afraid to leave things behind on your path for others who need it more than you do. You may even pick up things just to give to others who you see beginning their own journey, making sure you allow yourself to keep moving without collecting too much baggage, while simultaneously enhancing the lives of others who may have lost more than they should have along the way.
Your "end" destination this time around will be wherever you are, whenever you are, whoever you are. And that is true success: The ability to be happy with yourself at any given moment, in this moment of life you were given.
I don't know where you are, how you are, or who you are now, but I truly hope your answer is "Yes".