The Mental DMV

As an actor, I have a lot of friends in the professional world of creativity (other actors, musicians, writers, etc.). Some of my friends are decently successful in their respective field while many of them are still trying their best to make it, but haven’t achieved much yet. I’m still very much in the latter category. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done some pretty cool things, but in my opinion I still feel very much like I haven’t gotten successful in my career yet. Occasionally one of my friends from the ‘still struggling’ category will land a big commercial, or cut a record deal, or film his own web series. Whatever the specific thing is, my friends will sometimes get a game-changing piece of news. Since they are my friend, they tell me about it. And since I am their friend, I am eager to hear about it. And I hate myself for saying this, but I’m never happy for my friends when they have success – at least I’m never happy right away.

I have a condition that I think is somewhat common in my profession. I get jealous and I compare wherever you are in your career with wherever I am with my career. It’s a really dumb thing to do. And the kicker is, I know that it’s dumb. I completely know based on logic and experience that my friend’s new recurring role on a sitcom does not in anyway whatsoever speak to my abilities or lack of abilities as an actor. I know that being jealous about someone else’ success is a huge waste of time. It will do me no good at all. But despite knowing that, I can’t seem to stop it. It really feels to me like a condition and not a choice.

I think of my jealous phase as akin to going to the DMV. The DMV is a depressing place filled with people who mostly wish they were somewhere else (including the employees sometimes). But you have to go there to get a driver’s license. So, I truck on down to the party-town that is the DMV and experience what I know will be an unpleasant time for a little while. But after that little while is over I will have my license and that will be great. I wish they’d make a more pleasant process for renewing our licenses, but until that happens we’ll all keep going to a place we don’t like.

When someone tells me they just sold their sitcom pilot it’s kinda like getting a notice to renew my license. I know that I’m about to have a bad experience for a little while before I can get my license to be happy for them. But I knew that I would be happy for them in the first place. When I passed my driver’s test at Driving school I was so excited, because I knew I would soon have my license. But then afterwards when I went to the DMV I realized just how miserable that place really is. I knew I would be happy with my license when I left the DMV, but I couldn’t really make myself happy at the DMV. It’s like I’m saying, “Thank you for telling me your good news. I’m not happy for you just this second, however I will be happy for you in a few hours or so. And I’m looking forward to that time when I am happy for you.”

Back in the day it was more severe. When I was in my 20s I would often stay at the mental DMV for a long time (months or even years). Now that I’m 33 (just since a few hours ago), I’ve gotten way better. Usually, I can get past my ‘woe is me’ stage in a matter of a day or even a few hours. On occasion (rare) I can even skip it altogether. So, I’ve gotten a lot faster at making my way through my mental DMV. But I still have to go there most of the time. I think I was thirty the first time I got truly happy for a friend’s success the day after she told me. And I remember feeling great about that. It was the fastest time I could ever remember in regards to being happy for someone’s success.

I really wanna fix my brain to where I’m just happy for people the instant they share their good news. It’s on my Christmas wish list. But the mere wanting it to be gone doesn’t seem to affect my brain. Time has helped my brain. Maturity has helped my brain a lot. But no conscious choice that I’ve ever made has affected this particular condition of mine. And I’m not sure if anything other than more time and maturity ever will. I hope so, but this may be a phase I simply have to grow out of. Kind like the phase I had my first 30 years of life where I had hair. I grew out of that phase eventually. Now I don’t go to the barber. Maybe when I shed all my jealousy I can stop going to the DMV.

The funny thing about this condition is that it’s only true about people who have similar goals to me. I get jealous when another actor gets cast in a commercial. But if you tell me that you’re pregnant I’m going to be instantly happy for you. I don’t want kids, so I’m not going to compare your success in that to my lack of success in that. If you tell me you passed the MCAT, I’m going to be happy for you. I’ve never taken nor will ever take that test. But tell me you just signed with a theatrical agent? Then I’m going to tell you I’m happy for you. And it won’t be a lie. It’ll be more like a promise. Like paying with a credit card. I may not have enough happy for you at the moment, but as long as I have time to earn that happiness before the bill comes, I’ll pay it eventually.

So, I can confidently conclude that my condition is somehow affected by my goals. Otherwise i wouldn’t be able to be happy for you when something good happens to you that I don’t want for myself. And that’s good information to know, but I’m not sure that knowing that information will necessarily help me to solve the problem. I don’t know what will help me solve this problem. I feel like writing it down in this blog may potentially help it. But honestly, I have no evidence to support that claim.

Whether me writing about this condition helps me to deal with the condition or not, I’m glad I’m writing about it. If nothing else, hopefully someone else will say something in response to it like, “Bro, I feel the exact same way.” Then we’ll know that it’s not just us. It’s a condition that affects many. I believe that it is a common condition, but to be honest I don’t know that for certain. I have rarely ever talked about this with anyone else. I assume that other people feel this way, but that may not be true.

And who knows? Maybe someone will respond to this by saying something like, “Yeah I totally used to get that way too, but then I realized _________ and now I’m over it.” Wouldn’t that be nice? I can’t guarantee that if it worked for them it will work for me too, but it’s worth a shot. It’s like those home remedies that most people have that they’re so proud to know. I think they call them life hacks now. When I was a kid my mom had a huge book full of home remedies. I don’t know the science behind them, but sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn’t. I’ll take those odds when I have no better solution.

So, in conclusion I’m saying that I will be happy for you when you tell me your good news. But not necessarily right away. I’ll be instantly self-conscious of my lack of a career compared to you. Then later I’ll be able to finally leave that mental DMV and be happy for you. It’s dumb, but I don’t know how to fix it. If you have advice for me or if you are just in a similar boat as me, please let me know in the comments.

Thanks, y’all!


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