When I was a toddler, my father christened me with a nickname he still uses today: The Defiant One. Not without affection in its own way, this moniker was nothing if not appropriate. From an early age, I displayed a stubbornness that lasted well beyond the terrible twos, convinced that 24 months on planet Earth had provided me with adequate experience, and that I need not heed anyone’s advice except my own.
The dictionary definition of “stubborn” reads: Having or showing dogged determination not to change one's attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.
I actually laughed out loud when I read this, because my picture may as well be next to the entry.
I’m not defiant about everything, and I certainly don’t think I have all the answers. I choose my causes with care, but once I have made up my mind, well, my mind’s made up.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and I am talking to my mother on the phone. I’m telling her about a number of actors I’ve run across lately who are feeling dissatisfied with their day jobs- the ways that they pay their rent when acting jobs don’t cover costs or are just plain not available. Mom says “I hope you’re proud that you have managed to find work that you’re really happy with, and still have the flexibility to audition whenever you like.” It’s true. I teach yoga and do freelance writing to pay the rent. To get there didn’t come without tradeoffs, but for me, those choices were worth it.
I thought about what she said (first thought: I don’t often take time to acknowledge what I have already done, being continually focused on what I’d like to accomplish next), and my dad’s nickname for me suddenly popped into my head. “You know why I think that is? I didn’t take anybody’s good advice too seriously.”
We are all told stories about ourselves. Artists are often told the story that they have to pour all of their life’s energy into their art. That sacrifices of relationship, family, and financial security are not only to be expected, but to be worn as badges of honor. That anything but a “to the death” love for your art makes you undeserving as an artist.
And well, this is a larger story, but I think that’s bullsh*t. And I chose not to believe it, in spite of much evidence to the contrary. I didn’t believe that the only appropriate day job for an actor was as a server. I didn’t believe that my day job was always going to be crummy, and that I just had to suck it up day after day, and that in so doing, I was proving myself a worthier artist. I didn’t listen. And now, through perhaps a longer route and a lot of hard work, I’m much closer to where I wanted to be. Without hesitation, I claim myself as an artist. Without hesitation, I claim myself as a yoga teacher. And a writer. And an entrepreneur. And rather than detracting from one another, each of those things has helped to shape me into the person that I am, and each is complemented by the other aspects of…me.
So this is not a post to talk about how great I am or how I have figured out life’s mysteries. It is a post to reflect on a couple of things that I have learned:
1. Your greatest vice can also be your greatest virtue.
2. The life you design is the one you end up building.
3. Sometimes blatantly ignoring practical advice is the greatest gift you can give yourself.