A good friend came to visit, a couple summers ago. As usual, I spent the time as a tour guide. I think this becomes an automatic job description when you migrate to Los Angeles, CA. People come to visit and they want to see the typical sights. You are expected to take them to Hollywood Blvd, the Hollywood sign, Beverly Hills and maybe a studio lot if you can wiggle a ticket to a show. I don’t get many visitors but when I do, I don’t mind showing them around. This friend’s visit was a particular treat because I had not seen her in a long time. She had come to celebrate my birthday.
We were walking down the street to catch the metro as we talked about reaching milestone years in our lives. Then, she asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks.
“So… Do you feel like you’re living your dream?”
The question pierced me.
When I announced to my college friends that I was leaving Charlotte, NC for Los Angeles, most of them were very supportive. They said they expected me to do something ‘crazy’ like this because that was the person they knew me to be. I was different. I did things that were outside the box. Yet, as the last decade had passed, I watched those friends acquire things I desired that were in the box. I watched those friends get married and have kids. They bought homes and ascended in their careers.
Today, I felt like the only one who had done nothing in life. I was struggling financially, barely scraping by. My acting resume consisted of two community theater plays, a long list of student film roles and one small part on a fake daytime court show. I had no agent (still don’t.) I had no manager (still don’t.) I also had no husband, no children and no prospects. (You get the picture.)
I had not lived up to expectations. I had not achieved greatness. This was definitely not the life of my dreams.
“Hmm,” I replied to my visiting friend. She sensed my hesitation. Then, like good friends do, she began pointing out some parts of my life that she observed during her visit so far. She pointed out the beautiful view I have on the road that leads to my apartment. It is a view I see everyday as I drive back from work. She pointed out that I had just mentioned an audition that I would love her help taping. She noted that we were attending a film festival event later that evening. She pointed out aspects of my life that were very different than the life she lived but had become mundane to me. I had made light of the small strides I was making because I had not reached my pinnacle of success.
“I guess I am kinda living my dream. But it’s not what I thought it would be,” I told her. Most people don’t live life the way artists do. This is a life of pure faith. I do not have a regular full time job. My days are spent waiting on a phone call or email. Thankfully, I have a gift with children (noted in my Mother’s Day Post) that helps pay the bills. The childcare bookings I receive, allow me to stay open for possible auditions. Lately, those auditions have been few and far between. I cannot explain the struggle to family and friends because living on faith is honestly crazy. It is discouraging. It is so lonely. It is emotionally exhausting. But somehow, it is exactly where God wants me to be at the moment.
Who’s dream am I living?
I have toyed with the idea of going back to NC many times. I have told God that I could be making money and have a family by now. It makes much more sense. I could live in a house that I own, have a successful business and act in some community playhouse. I would be OK with that because at least I would be surrounded by friends, have easy access to family in Charleston and not have this overwhelming financial burden. I have asked him over and over, “Why won’t you just let me go home?” His answer remains, “Because that is not my plan for you. You are called to something much greater. And if you go home, you will die.”
Well, dern. God can be rather blunt…but he’s right. His plan is far greater than my dream. I have dreams of personal success. His vision is eternal glory. I have dreams to act with big names and win awards. His vision is to impact an industry of lost souls. I have dreams of being an example for the neighborhood where I grew up. His vision is for me to be an example of his love and faithfulness to a dying world.
I saw my life going down a certain path. That path did not include tear-filled days, paralyzing anxiety, seemingly unending financial strain, loneliness and fear. I also did not see myself turning to God the way that I have during the last decade. I did not see him as the lover, the father and the friend that I have come to know him to be. My story is filled with many plot twists that I would never have written for myself, but I understand now. My story does not belong to me.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:2
It is impossible to tell the story of my life without God as the main character. He turned my auto-biography into a memoir. My little story is part of his greater story. He inserted himself into every aspect including my dreams. I surrendered to that, the moment I said yes when he told me to move to Los Angeles. I cleaned the slate and gave him the chalk. I am OK with this life because I know I am where I’m supposed to be. So, the answer to my friend’s question is…No, I’m not living my dream but I am living God’s vision.
And dern it, that makes it a pretty good life.