The Impossible Dream
Did you have a dream that used to keep you up at night as you wondered about all of its possibilities? Do you still think about it when you’re frustrated and wish you had taken your chance when you were younger and bolder? It’s too late now, you may say.
I wanted to be an actress when I was little.
I begged my parents to let me go to the movies, and I watched those movies with feverish imagination. I edited the scenes in my head and wrote in my diaries how I could improve the delivery. Needless to say, I wasn’t any good, but the drive to create great stories motivated me to read and write. My dream was to be the actress who could write her own script and bring the audience into a world she made real.
I loved to sing and dance and started performing on stage at age three. I would impersonate celebrities with my childish charm. My mom told me that my poetry recitals made the grown-ups laugh and cry. At school, I was in all the campus musical performances. In high school, I had to decide about pursuing a career. That was when I learned there was a profession called the starving artist.
Ever since I could remember, my parents reminded me, “Don’t do this, it’s not good; don’t do that, it’s bad for you.” Growing up, I had this constant fear of messing up my life if I didn’t listen.
They told me I needed a “real” job, the kind that provided a stable income and respectable social status. So I studied business in college, which landed me the job working for the airline executives. I soon learned the corporate world wasn’t for me. I yearned for creativity and innovation. After receiving a master’s degree in engineering, I transferred to the technical side of the same airline. That wasn’t for me either.
Soon I left the airline and moved to San Francisco to marry my husband. For two months I stayed at home, debating what to do next. Once again, my childhood aspiration made its way back to my dreams. I thought about the theater performances I had given in college—how ecstatic I was to see the audience applaud for the Jane Eyre I played on stage. Then the reality sank in—if I couldn’t be a starving artist when I was single, how could I do that when attached?
Every day I sat at a desk, filling the columns of the pros and cons of various career options. It didn’t help. Both of my previous jobs had more pros than cons, but I wasn’t happy. I felt trapped by the corporate rules. Besides what my parents told me, I felt strongly that a real job should have a third component, a deep sense of fulfillment. If I couldn’t be an actress who changes lives through her artistic performances, I wanted to help people in a field that allowed me the freedom to use my talent and expertise. I became a pharmacist.
In the winter of 2016, Warner Brothers’ feature film Crazy Rich Asians had an open casting call for several of its major roles. The news invigorated my dormant dream. I got professional portraits done and wrote my resume. It was then I realized how long it had been since my last performance. I scrutinized my face in the mirror. There had to be scores of younger and prettier women with regular screen time who would outcompete me. In the end, I put away the portraits and saved the resume on my laptop. A year later, when the movie was in production, I read that the film’s many supporting actors had little or no acting background. I wished I had submitted the application. Even though the result might have been the same, I had owed it to myself to give it a shot.
With each passing year, being a successful actress has felt more like an impossible dream. But I have found an equally exciting alternative to fuel my creative passion—being a writer. I finished a political thriller this year. A Hollywood producer liked the novel so much that he wants to represent me and bring the story to the screen. This book is my second project. By the time you read this passage, I should be well into my third book, a psychological thriller.
Life is never meant to go as planned, at least not for me. Each mistake I make teaches me something about myself, who I am, and where I want to be. Though I’m not an expert in career planning, I encourage you to dig deep into your old dream and find out why it was so important to you. In Chapter 2, you learned how to identify your strengths. Now, record in your journal the struggles you have in searching for your true north. Let the words bring clarity to your thoughts. Connect the dots between your aspiration and your natural talent, and then pick the shortest route to proceed.
Finding purpose in life is like spotting the lighthouse beacon in the dark, vast ocean. It keeps you from living blindfolded in the mind-numbing routine. With courage and careful planning, you’ll set sail on the path to fulfillment in due course.
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