I had an alarming thought the other day while I was riding on the train, either to a job I didn't like, an interview for a job I didn't particularly want, or just to kill time since my day is currently pretty empty.
If thirty, or forty, or one hundred years from now, I've come and gone, and not had a single thing I've written produced, then in the eyes of my writing self and my college degree, I will have been a failure.
Not to be unnecessarily gloomy --and one must accept the fact that probably forty-five percent of people, if not more, wind up working in a field that was not even remotely related to their degree-- but the thought hit me rather abruptly. I was gazing out the window at a gorgeous day, fortunate enough to still be above ground on the train so that I could appreciate the light hitting the trees at just the most stunning angle. And then it hit me. Just as I said. "If I don't wind up becoming a writer, then I will have failed in that area of my life."
Mind you, I am not equating failing to succeed as a screen or play writer as failing in life. But it was a shocking thought, one, which I'm not sure I really can disagree with either. My parents spent an exorbitant amount of money on my education so that I could become a screenwriter. So what happens if I don't do that? I know people who earned English degrees to go on an work in management of big non-profits. Not exactly English. Did they fail?
For me, though, it's not so much about deviating from what I've planned to do. It was the thought that "only I am to blame if I do not succeed" that really got me. Because, fundamentally, it's true. People can change the course of their lives. It happens all the time. But I don't foresee changing the fact that I want to write, or do something in film. But I had a glimpse of myself as a middle-aged man walking onto the train and sitting across from me, briefcase in hand, suit jacket flung over my back, long having distanced myself from any hope of making it as a writer.
That was what scared me.
Because immediately after I had that image, I had a counter-thought. "You can do it. Ten years from now, twenty years from now, you can be a successful writer. You just have to work at it." That thought was right. I do just have to work at it. If thirty years from now, I walk onto the subway on my way home from a long day behind the computer at my cubicle where the closest I get to Hollywood is watching DVD rentals, then I've let myself down. I've failed myself.
I guess, in the end, seeing myself walking onto that train, overweight and unhappy (or if not unhappy, not where I wanted to be), sparked me into action. Not necessarily that very second. Not necessarily even when I got home that day. But I knew, when the image faded, that I have all the power to prevent that from becoming a reality. All I have to do is work for it. I've had my training. I know I need to work more. Hard. But I shouldn't have to be that man on the train thirty years from now.