“Even if you weren’t watching…”

“…I’d be doing this anyway.”

I was never really able to keep an imaginary friend. I tried, but I didn’t believe me, I needed more (real) people. My folks didn’t have any other kids so I spent a lot of time alone growing up. My cousins were all either a lot older than me or a lot younger than me. So I did a lot for me. I entertained myself. I’m telling you I used to make myself laugh. I used to put on shows for myself. I didn’t care if anybody saw. I did what I wanted to do because it made me happy.

And I still do.

A paper that I wrote my senior year at Morehouse College began with these words:

I want to be somebody else, anybody else, on any given day, at any given time. I want to have a different name, a different face, different thoughts, a different identity altogether. I want people who have raised me and friends I grew up with to be so captured by my words that they fail to recognize who I really am. I want everyone to laugh at and with me. I want the world to cry when I cry, fear what I fear, and obsess over exactly what I do. I want to be hated, embraced, found, misplaced, respected, and disgraced all at the same time. I want to be forgotten and remembered for all the right reasons. I want to be an actor.

“I want people to laugh when I laugh and cry when I cry…I want to be an actor.” This phrase is magical not because it is some super self-aware mantra that I repeat every morning or have tattoo’d across my chest. This phrase is magical because it came from my voicemail. Even before writing it into my paper, I recited this thought for my voicmail. Why is that so special? It is special because it is true. It was true when I said it to myself, as I had been saying similar things to myself since I was a kid. It was true when I recorded it onto my outgoing voicemail because I felt it said more about me than, “This is George leave a message.” It was true when my neophytes honored me with a greeting at their probate show that used that very line, verbatim, after having unconsciously memorized it from countless unsuccessful calls to my cell phone. But it is magical because I never could have imagined that it would have the far reaching impact that it would go on to have. I was simply saying what I would have said if nobody was listening.

I knew that I did want people to get something out of my experiences. Actors are storytellers. But I wanted to tell stories that I would want to read. I wanted to be honest about and surrender to my desires for entertainment. I wanted to portray…ME. I was told that if you find a job you truly enjoy it feels less like work. So one day while walking with close friends in Miami it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was in the process of documenting our trip as I had grown accustomed to doing (Why? Because I knew someone would not only watch it, but enjoy it.) when we began to toss this phrase around:

“Find a way to get paid for what you would be doing anyway…even if nobody was watching…Because they are.”

This weekend, I spent more time around the people that I grew up with than I have in years. I am not home much, and when I am I don’t go out. While out this weekend, I found myself engulfed in the typical catch up conversation that old friends have. “What you been up to?” “Where you living/working?” you know, the usual. While it was refreshing to see old friends doing so well, I had some very UNusual responses to my elevator speech. Before I could tell them what I had been up to, I was interrupted. They already knew exactly what I had been up to. They had been watching. Even if they had a snide remark or a disagreeable opinion, they had been watching.

As I was writing this post I tweeted, “About writing, I’m doing it for me, but I’ll let you read it.” The immediate responses were (first from @Akyleez) ” @twopointoh about reading, I do it for me. But I’ll let you write it.” and (second from @jgenius) “About [creating], I’m doing it for me. But I’ll let you [enjoy] it.”

I am starting to realize that I was put here to inspire. I truly do. Maybe that is the measure of my success in my field. Yet and still, I am determined that one day, before I die, I will get paid for it.

Turn off the TV–but stay tuned.


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The Vault

October 2009
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