“The Struggle”

Dec 14, 2010 by     No Comments    Posted under: Attitude, Thousands of Stories, Three Actors

Pushing Rock Up Hill

I had a particularly daunting day today and it got me thinking about “the struggle.” About how hard it can be to be an actor, an entrepreneur. To not always know where your next paycheck is coming from. To follow your dreams instead of what everyone else screams. So, yeah, it can be effing hard sometimes…really hard. As my Dad would say when we were growing up: “Sometimes you’re the pigeon, and sometimes you’re the statue.”

As I got to thinking about it though, everyone struggles. Some more than others for sure (let’s take a quick moment to note that 2 BILLION people on the planet don’t have clean water), but no one gets a reprieve from the hardships inherent in life. And I think there are two things we must remember. 1) As artists, we are uniquely suited to handle struggles, and to help others with theirs. And 2) It doesn’t HAVE to be a struggle.

Allow me to elaborate. As to the first point, actors and artists have unique training and experience to deal with emotions and troubling situations. Not only do we have an outlet for our emotions, but we’ve often lived the life of someone surrounded with darkness on stage or on screen. Looking to the broader picture, when times are tough people look for escape and understanding. Sometimes all it takes to cheer someone up after their 472nd crappy day of work in a row is simply half an hour of their favorite sitcom. That’s pretty remarkable when you think about it. People spend a measly $7 $11 $49 to go see a movie, eat some ju ju fruits, and forget their problems in a movie theatre for a couple hours. Let us not neglect our roles as leaders in the community. Let us nurture that gift and give people catharsis when they see our play or hear us sing.* That’s amazing.

Now, as for the second point. For some terrible reason there’s the idea that artists HAVE to starve, to fight, to struggle. First off, that’s total bullshit. I’m sorry, but there’s no vending machine where you can exchange sadness for artistic (much less financial) reward. And more than that, to say that artists have to struggle is to day that PEOPLE have to struggle. That may be true, but we certainly aren’t special in that regard. I know lawyers, agent-assistants, accountants, bar backs, and consultants who ALL struggle. And that’s ok! We all do now and again, but we must remember that there’s no bonus prize for “the struggle.”

Why am I writing this? I think it’s especially to encourage anyone caught in a world where they feel they must struggle to get to the next stage or to be considered a true artist, to expand your thinking and consider that maybe you need to rid yourself of that fight in order to progress. I’m writing this because I can sometimes forget that it’s not always going to be easy, but that the reward of living a life of choice, of purpose; is a reward that few are granted. And I write this to remind myself of the trade-off. Regardless of the path you choose, there will be obstacles, there will be things you don’t like. Not only is that part of the journey, but if the destination isn’t where you want to go then how much worse is that? I am thankful every day that no matter what comes at me, I can wake up every day and say that I’m living the life I choose.

Bring on the pigeons…

*Note: Hearing me sing will NOT make you feel better or provide any sort of cathartic experience.

Ben Whitehair is the Los Angeles contingent of this blog. Find out more information and view his materials on his website, or read the rest of his blog posts.