I don’t remember a specific moment in my life when I first clearly thought, ‘I want to be famous.’ But I have held that sentiment since early adolescence if not childhood.
And to be clear, I am talking about the type of fame that happens to people for their positive artistic accomplishments as opposed to being famous for any other reason (ie. assassination).
A few people have challenged me on this before by saying something akin to, ‘How do you know you want to be famous when you’ve never tried it.’ And that’s fair enough. For years I had to accept that fact that I couldn’t guarantee 100% that I would like it. Then in 2010, I got hired to perform on cruise ships with the Second City.
If you’ve never taken a cruise, it feels like it’s own closed universe for seven days. And that universe has its own famous people. The cruise director, the Captain, and the entertainers, etc. For one week, a number of people in that cruise ship universe have a shared knowledge of those few who for all intents and purposes, become ship famous.
So, to an extent, I do know what it’s like to be famous. And I absolutely love it. I loved it when random passengers would stop me in the halls and say they liked the show and ask me to take a photo with them. I liked the awkward people in the elevator whispering at a level they assumed I couldn’t hear when they said, ‘Is that him? He’s one of the comedians. I think that’s him. Should we say something?’ I even loved those weirdos who clearly didn’t know how to socialize well who would sometimes talk my ear off for twenty minutes about themselves or their cats or whatever.
And I enjoyed all of it.
As a writer/performer I assumed that if I worked hard enough and stayed at it long enough, I would get cast on a TV show or something like that and I would then actually become famous.
Then I would reap the benefits of fame such as getting invited to be on podcasts hosted by other famous people who I adore, being asked to sit in people’s improv shows, and finding my face on fan made memes on social media.
I know there’s a lot more to it than that, but the point is, I want all of this. I’ve always wanted all this. And I don’t have it. Nor do I see any likely way for me to get this anytime soon.
As a 35 year old, I can do the math. I realize that every birthday means one less potential year of my life to accomplish this goal. I’ll be 36 in a few months. I know to many people, that’s young. I’m not trying to say ‘I’m old’ in a whiny way. But the fact is that I’ve been an adult for nearly 18 years and if I’m lucky I’ll live hopefully another 50.
The odds of me achieving fame beyond cruise ships decrease as time passes by.
So, what do I do with this?
Well, up til now, I’ve carried this desire in the form of depression and anxiety. I’m depressed that I’m not famous. I’m anxious, because I want to be, but don’t know how to do it.
And it hurts…a lot.
Don’t get me wrong, my life is pretty good overall. My girlfriend is amazing, my mom is fantastic, my friends are great, my dog is awesome, my students are awesome, and my audiences are usually awesome.
The circumstances of my life are overall good. I’m broke, but other than that, I’m doing pretty well. But my depression and anxiety flare up way too often and way too intensely to allow me to accurately say I’m living life to the fullest.
There’s a quote from the movie Cool Runnings spoken by John Candy’s character that goes, ‘A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.”
Switch ‘gold medal’ for ‘fame’ and/or ‘accomplishments’ and it applies perfectly to me. I’m finally realizing the lesson I need to learn from this beautiful quote.
As difficult as it is to admit, I’m guilty of thinking just like the character of Derice in the movie Cool Runnings. He wanted the gold medal more than anything. And he hated himself for not having it. He believed he wasn’t enough without it. And that’s how I respond to my desire for fame.
You see I measure (aka grade) myself by fame. Since I don’t have it, that’s an automatic mark off the grade I give myself. And the rest of my grade is measured by my earnest attempts at accomplishing things in hopes to get famous. In other words, I can’t have an A+ at life, because I’m not famous. Best I can hope for is an A. But I only get an A if I can honestly say, “I’m doing everything I can to get there.” And I’m a harsh teacher.
If I don’t book an audition because I made a mistake that theoretically I could have avoided if I’d only put more prep time into it, I beat myself up something bad. Much like the Counter Terrorism Unit in 24 I do not accept any mistakes.
I thought it was the best way to treat myself. But it’s not. I effectively have become my own Delores Umbridge (re: Harry Potter) in that I punish myself for not getting the grade that I demand of myself based on the criteria I came up with for myself.
Let’s break that down real quick. I’m in charge of the fact that I’m grading myself at all. I’m also the one who wrote out the rules. And I’m the one who doles out the punishment.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t self flagellate or anything. I don’t consciously punish myself. I don’t even consciously have a grading system. Everything I’ve been saying about this is stuff that I am just realizing tonight. Maybe it’s a ‘break thru.’ I hope so, because I need something.
Why is this the hardest blog post I’ve ever written? Because I’m embarrassed. I feel like I sound douchey. The words I’m writing – in my mind – sound like an adult male whining about not being famous when we live in a world with about a zillion more important problems to deal with.
Also, I hate admitting all this, because it seems like such an easy fix. If I wrote a blog post about how I was angry that my shirt was dirty, anyone would be well within their rights to respond by simply saying, ‘Then just wash it.’ And I fear that people will read this and think, ‘Just stop beating yourself up.’
It’s a sentiment I hear a lot. And very well meaning people think they’re being helpful by saying it. They’re not. ‘Don’t beat yourself up’ for me is the equivalent of ‘Just grow hair on your head.’ I would LOVE to not beat myself up. And sometimes I do. Sometimes I’ll go days or even weeks without feeling that self imposed harsh judgment. But it always comes back. And it sucks.
I’ve read so many books and articles, listened to so many podcasts and watched so many videos on how to be a better person. How to love myself and minimize fear. But I’m still stuck. And I think a huge component to all this is my desire for fame.
So, what am I going to do? I don’t know the exact procedure, but the goal will be to get to the point where I do not actually want fame in any active way.
I’ll never not want it. But I can at least (hopefully) eliminate it as a goal I’m actively working on.
For example, I’d love to see the pyramids in Egypt. But I don’t get upset by the fact that I haven’t. And if I never see them, I’ll still have the opportunity to live a fulfilled life. I’d love to see them, but doing so does not make or break me.
I need fame to become like the pyramids. Hope to get there one day. Will be excited and grateful if I do, but I am good enough to live a happy and awesome life without it.
Wish me luck as I attempt to reset my brain after 20-30 years and recalibrate my priorities. For me it’s almost like mourning the loss of a friend or losing my hair. It’s going to be a big change. But I need this change, because I deserve to live a happy awesome life that is not overshadowed by a self imposed dark cloud.