Last night, I went to a friend’s for a late night dinner, and my friend had arranged for me to sleep at her neighbor’s house in Echo Park. The neighbor is out of town. It turns out that the neighbor is a gay man who is a very successful Hollywood director. He has directed episodes of some of the most esteemed shows on cable at the moment, and his feature film has won a major international film festival. The house itself was a classic East Hollywood Craftsman, the kind of place I can only dream that I will someday call my own, even if I am renting (the guy owns this house). The director is in his late forties. The house was decorated impeccably, and fastidiously maintained. I’d be lying if I said that this experience wasn’t a challenge to my self-esteem: as much as I enjoy what I do and believe in its importance, and also recognize that many people have derived tremendous value from my classes and returned to them repeatedly over time, the enterprise of supporting myself in a comfortable existence doing what I do is still very much a work-in-progress. It’s moments like yesterday evening that test the depth of my conviction that my work-in-progress life is headed in a good direction.
I was more than a little relieved to learn that the director/homeowner’s father had been an artist. It made me feel better about the distance I have come in affirming my own life choices to put my creative practice at the center of my life, despite the consequences, given that I came from a household whose values opposed diametrically such a decision.
It felt more than a little serendipitous to come across this talk in my Google Reader today, as I have been recently speaking to friends and even students about having the Sunday evening blues sometimes, not on Sunday evenings, when 9–to-5-ers tend to get it, but on a day when I have to teach or coach in the evening. Time and again, when the appointment to teach or coach arrives, I find myself happily and productively immersed in what I do, and finish the session with a core sense of contentment. But that doesn’t change the fact that I sometimes feel a cloud of dread hanging over me on the days on which I have an evening appointment to ply my trade.
This talk is by Alain de Botton, a writer, essayist, and lecturer. He has written a book called How Proust Can Change Your Life. (Proust did change my life, incidentally, but that’s a story for another time.) He does a terrific job of outlining the way in which the pressure to be “a success” pervades modern life, and what we might do about that. Highly recommended.
(If you just see a bunch of HTML below, click the headline above to view the video at my blog.)
H/T Rob Weinert-Kendt at The Wicked Stage