Never Enough

At the 2016 Golden Globes, Jim Carrey stepped forward to present an award.  In his remarks, he joked that although he already has two Golden Globes, he dreams of a third because then he would be “enough.”

Funny thing about this artistic life, though.  It’s never enough.

When I was a college student, living in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I dreamed of living in Chicago and performing improv.  Now I live in Chicago and perform improv.  My dream has come true.  So why do I want more?

I’ve spent years hacking away through a forest of anonymity and only now am I starting to get some recognition on one of my projects.  Are three rave reviews from critics enough?  No.  Are 14,000 podcast downloads enough?  No.  Nearly two million people have seen my various online videos.  Enough?  No.  Right now, I have an Emmy statue sitting on my shelf.  Success, right?  Nope.  It’s for TV news, not for comedy.  Not enough.  (I’ve actually won two, but you need to pay for the statues.  Two Emmys: Also, not enough.)

I’ve been fortunate enough to make some money from my creative endeavors.  It’s not nearly enough to live on, but it’s something.  I have used my talent and my passion to make a couple hundred bucks in my lifetime.  Younger me would be over the moon.  The me of today wants to figure out how to make this a viable career.

Whether you’re just starting out in your hometown or starring in movies, there will always be a bigger fish in your pond.  There will always be bigger mountains to climb.  There will always be goals that taunt you, just out of reach.

What the hell is wrong with me?  Shouldn’t I be satisfied with these enormous achievements?  Can’t I take a moment to revel in what I have?  Or should I fling the door open for the Jealousy Monster to stomp in and plop himself on my couch?

Why is my brain wired to focus on what I don’t have instead of celebrating the abundance right in front of me?

My friend and accomplished actress/improviser/producer Karisa Bruin once loaned me a book by Eckhart Tolle.  It extolled the virtue of living in the present.  He argued that anxiety comes from putting your focus on the future and the things you can’t control.  Sadness comes from living in the past, focusing on the things you’ve lost or regrets you have.

When I think about my artistic journey, I do get anxious about the future.  Will I ever direct a feature film and claim that Oscar I covet?  I also get sad about the past, remembering how I got cut from iO three years ago or how I really crashed and burned in some auditions.

How does any of that help me right now?  It doesn’t.  Right now, I have some incredible things to be proud of.  If I look back at my artistic career, there’s a general upward trend, even if there have been gulfs of failure.  Today, right now, I have the ability to act.  I can write.  I can focus on my craft.  Under the Gun Theater has given me a place to perform as much as I want.  I’m producing a show that’s gotten attention beyond what I could have dreamed.

But the Improvised Shakespeare Company got a gushing review in the New York Times!

That doesn’t affect what I can do right now.

But two of my old ButchMAX teammates are on the Second City Touring Company!

That doesn’t affect what I can do right now.

But I have a friend who’s crushing it on the Second City etc stage!

That doesn’t affect what I can do right now.

But the Katydids have their own TV show on TV Land, and it’s getting great reviews!

That doesn’t affect what I can do right now.

But some of my old improv peers are on Saturday Night Live or writing for Late Night!

That doesn’t affect what I can do right now.

But!

Shut up.

But!

Shut up.

But!

What are you doing right now?  Are you working?  Are you improving?  That is all there is.

I guarantee you that all the incredible artists I just mentioned are thinking the same thing.  We all want more.  It’s never enough.  So stop wanting.  Start doing.  Your action is your salvation.  Rumination is ruination.  Get to work.

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