Reflecting at the turn of a decade ain't nothin' new. It's an easy, clean, obvious way to structure self-growth. It's the proverbial fork in the proverbial road, so we think, well this seems like a good time to make a change. As I stare down my own fork in the road, I'm struck and overcome with enormous gratitude for the life that has built up around me. I am excited for what is to come. But mostly, I am profoundly indebted to the mistakes of my 20s. They were all so generous to me, and I would make them all again to get where I am now. But now that I'm here, oh dear God, I'm ready to give them up so I can make brand new ones.
Here are the biggest hits (or misses) of my 20s to which I'm saying thanks for the growth and goodbye forever:
Being there for everyone else but not for myself. I have The Good Girl Complex (GGC) where you assume that being what everyone else needs means you are being a good person. In my 20s, I would say yes to absolutely everything just so I didn't let anyone down. Now I am learning that saying yes to everything means no one actually gets to know you. No one actually knows what makes you tick, what you like, what you see, who you are. No one knows any of that, including you. You cannot possibly create genuine connections by lying to yourself and to others. You cannot possibly give your heart away, create the work of a lifetime, take any huge and profitable risks if you don't show up authentically. The 20s are a great time to try out what everyone else expects of you, but make sure if you do this that you burn out enough to stop doing it as soon as possible.
Following a prescribed path instead of defining what moved me. More GGC: I believed in dues and paying them. Okay, if you're here, just stop doing that now. Yes, there is always something to learn and there are always people to revere, but that cannot take the place of your instinct. Absolutely no one in this world has the answer, so your solution to following your dreams or creating the life you want is just as valid as your mother's, or Gandhi's, or any of your Facebook friend's. There is no prescription to a happy life that you don't already know. The work is in clearing the mental muck out of the way so you can access all of that juicy, instinctual, know-it-all-ness in your bones. Don't get me wrong, you will make mistakes when you follow your own path, but better they be your mistakes, ones you can own and learn from, than someone else's.
Creating false boundaries. Here were stories I used to tell myself on the daily: Actors can't be moms. Actors can't be writers. Successful actors can't have day jobs. For acting work to have value, someone has to give it to you, you cannot make it yourself. Guess what, 20s? I see through you now. The only value anything has is based on the integrity with which you come to it. Those boundaries are lies. We are lying to ourselves when we look at the world and say it's never been done before, because once upon a time - none of this was done before. So it comes down to either wanting to do it or not. False boundaries are lines we draw in our brains and repeat like they are facts. ALERT: just because it's in your head, does not make it true. Cross-check with your heart, your gut, and the people who love you the most.
Denying the fact that I didn't know a lot of things. I know barely anything anymore. Not for lack of trying. I would love to know all the answers to every question, problem, conundrum. I used to think that not having the answer was a weakness, like I should be able to come up with something if I was smart enough. But not knowing leaves you open to being a student, and if there is one thing I want to be doing when I'm 80 years old, it's learning. The way I feel when I learn something brand new ignites my mental fire. It makes me certain that the mystery of this universe will continue unfolding, we will never have the answer, and every day will be more beautiful because of it.
Acting like there was a finish line I was desperately trying to cross. That dull ache of not getting enough done, and over-extending, and collapsing in exhaustion? I'm all set with that. When you're 22 and getting out of school and wondering who you will be, you'll set goals and time limits and benchmarks of success. But before you know who you are, there is no way you can accurately set so many standards for your future self, so those "standards" are completely arbitrary. Every actor has this one, right: be on Broadway before 30. But here's my new one: play the long game with your craft, create a sustainable lifestyle that keeps you creating every day, and if, as you travel forward on this path of making art you cross over Broadway, that'll feel really amazing. Which version do you think has a better chance of "success"? There's no finish line. I'm in it for the long haul.
Not traveling so I was "available." Availability, availability, availability. We are so available to everything else that we forget to show up to our own lives. When I tell people I haven't been to the West Coast, they look at me like I have just emerged from the large rock I must have been under all these years. I never used to plan vacations because of what might happen. I didn't know when the next job or paycheck would come, so I didn't want to leave for fear of missing out. But the world is too big to not go on adventures, and I've learned that when real opportunities come - you'll make yourself available.
And the very biggest mistake of all: trying too hard. This is the biggest, baddest mistake I've ever made. In relationships, jobs, auditions, thought patterns, even self-growth. "I'm working really hard on it..." became a phrase banned from our household over the last year. Less working, more breathing. So this is what I've learned about trying too hard: It's selfish. It's not about understanding what others need, it's about making sure you're what they need. Sometimes, you're just not, but if you try to fit into every mold, you'll feel immense pain and constant rejection. Not everyone needs to like you or your work for you or your work to be likeable. For me, trying too hard was about getting a return on investment. Instead of thinking, how can I help make this situation better or give the people something that makes their lives better, I was attempting to affirm my own life through hard, hard, hard, hard work. I'm not saying you shouldn't throw yourself whole-heartedly into your passion and burn the midnight oil from time to time, but dear loves, it should be easy to get down and dirty.
If there's one thing my 20s have prepared me for, it's the art of mistake-making. I cannot wait to make even stupider mistakes. I cannot wait to learn even bigger lessons, because this decade 'round the mistakes and lessons are going to be unequivocally and authentically my own.
What are your favorite mistakes?