I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to have a “life’s dream.”
Some people call it a “vision” and some call it a “path” or “goal.” Whatever it is, I don’t know anyone that hasn’t, at some point, had some kind of idea for what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of us realize what it is we want to do with our lives very early on, and I was one of those people. Thinking about my own dreams and goals for my life has made me think about everyone along the way who has either been a hater or a supporter of my life’s ambitions.
For a very short time, before I turned 10, I thought I might be a lawyer someday. I really enjoyed arguing with people, which if you’ve seen my comments on Facebook threads should be no of surprise to you, and I’ve always had a strong admiration for what our justice system tries to do. The idea that we tell our government they can’t presume we’re guilty, and that they have to prove we are beyond any reasonable doubt, is, I think, a truly noble and worthy paradigm. I don’t know exactly how long my decision to become a lawyer lasted, but by the time I set foot on a stage with a substantial part, in sixth grade, the bug caught me.
I wanted to be an actor. A writer. A musician. A poet. Whatever. Just an artist. I wanted to be creative for a living. I wanted to create my art and put it out into the world, for better or for worse, and for you know, money. Of course, I couldn’t have known back then what a lofty ambition that was, but I also don’t think I could’ve known back then how possible it was to achieve, either. The key would be to set my sights reasonably. To set myself to the task of finding something that satisfied both my desire to create and my desire not to starve to death.
Soon thereafter, I started telling anyone who would listen what my dream was. To my surprise, there were many people who for some silly reason thought I wasn’t being crazy at all. These were largely public school teachers who could see through the clownish buffoonery I would put on display in class from time to time, and instead recognized I had something you could at least somewhat call “talent,” whatever the in the hell that actually means.
To my utter shock and surprise, plenty of adults and peers believed in me.
They were and remain some of my best friends. I still get a warm and fuzzy feeling when one of them drops me a line on Facebook. It means the absolute world to me that people would forgive all the rough edges I had — and believe me, I could’ve spent a lifetime in a rock tumbler and still not come out polished or smooth — and put their faith and trust in my ability to envision a goal in my life and achieve it.
If it seems like I’m over the moon about these supporters in my life; good. Because I am.
The reality is that for every supporter, there were plenty of haters. Sometimes the ratio of hater to supporter could and does feel insurmountable. Self-doubt is crippling, but it’s made even more so when it’s multiplied by doubt from the outside. In truth, my dream was stomped on. Squashed. Burned to a crisp and mocked. It was treated like I was telling people my life’s dream was to become a homeless drug addict — as if being those things in any way makes you a bad person and/or isn’t a reflection of a larger failing on society’s part anyway — and a derelict loser.
Some of my haters and doubters were the very people you would think would get me the most. They were people that, I’ve come to find out, in a lot of successful people’s lives are their biggest champions and supporters, but in my own were my biggest doubters and haters. The end result of their non-support was to leave me feeling rudderless and adrift.
Having the rug pulled out from under you by people you preternaturally expect to have your back is a feeling so horrific and demoralizing that it was one of the few concrete decisions I made before becoming a parent. I would do everything I could to get to know my kids, to find out what they wanted out of their lives, and to help them reach those goals. I wanted to be their first supporter, not their first hater.
Now, let me just say flat out that having haters so close to home, so to speak, certainly stiffens your upper lip. For every asshole I meet on the Internet who thinks they’re first person to tell me I’m not funny, I have a literally childhood full of those moments from people much closer to me than Bobby McDumbasstrollface. In truth, the doubt and shame and guilt for my dream only galvanized my spirit and dedication.
I did always have to cross the line, and no I’m not ashamed it one fucking iota, all these years later.
Twitter Treats Me Worse Than Nazis. Facebook Acts Like I’m A Russian Cyber Terrorist. I’m Just A Fucking Comedian.
Looking at the first 39 years of my life now, I can see these little windows, as I call them. They’re windows that peek into insights about me. I can see now that a kid who gets sent home from school early because he printed and distributed a few copies of an extremely graphically profane “newsletter” for a garageband he hadn’t even played more than once could grow up to start a series of online publications, each willing to dip its toe into the profanity laced insanity he has rattling around his mind most often.
I can see where the same ballsy kid who’d demand his choir instructor include a Beatles medley in his senior year — and got him to do exactly that — would grow up to write silly comedy songs and perform them in front of strangers. And I can see where the same kid who fell madly in love with pretending to be someone else in sixth grade would grow up to be the same fat dork playing Jethro Bohiggins and Tom Thompaulsen, no matter how many — or how few — people watch the sketches.
I’ve been a part of the ground floor development of two sketch comedy troupes that somehow managed to be more successful than either could have had any right to, and I’m not done sketch comedy-ing yet, fam. As frustrated as I’ve been in not being able to breakthrough — whatever that means — to more mainstream outlets, that isn’t the end of my story.
It’s just another chapter.
One thing you’ll never, ever catch me doing is dispensing advice. I live my life by the credo that Princess Leia gave Luke in A New Hope when he was complaining that Han Solo — who is and always will be the best character in the Star Wars galaxy — didn’t stick around to take the Death Star head on. “Everyone’s got to follow their own path, no one can choose it for them.” And in following that as a mantra, it allows me to live and let live. But what I will say is that I hope and wish that everyone will be able to do what I try to do — say “Fuck the haters,” and latch onto the supporters.
Life is too short to dwell on the people who don’t believe in you, at least I think so anyway. That’s why it’s better in my mind to surround yourself with people who get you, and who support you. They don’t have to be sycophants, and god knows I’ve had plenty of people in my life mentor me by giving me an intellectual or emotional slap on the face once or twice. But the point is that it’s done in love, and in service to getting you to the top of whichever mountain it is that you’ve chosen to climb.
Until tomorrow, thanks for reading.
Catch up on the rest of the year’s entries HERE.
Recently published satire: Doctors Confirm Nancy’s Are Bigger Than Trump’s
Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook, Spotify, and Instagram, but not Twitter because Twitter is a cesspool.