La la laa la laa, everything is fine, and I'm not worried about the fact that today is the last day of my job and tomorrow I dive off a cliff into the world of being a full-time artist; yaaaay!!
NOTE: The above is a lie
Today is the last day of my job, and tomorrow starts my future as an artist and I'm not talented or connected enough to actually be a success, but now I have to do it anyway, and I'm going to fall flat on my face and then everyone will see that I'm a fraud and then we'll have to find a new apartment and default on our loans and sell our stuff and I'll live the rest of my life in a van while wearing the same tank top every day and working for someone else and my Ladyfriend will be disappointed and our children (that we don't have) will think I'm a dead-beat dad and I'll spend eternity wishing I was more courageous.
Wow, yeah, that more accurately describes my fears.
Like many creative people, I struggle hard with imposter syndrome. I have spent a lot of time facing my future and saying, "No one cares how you got here. Your achievements do not matter. You are not really who you say you are." However, writing all those fears out makes it seem semi-over-dramatic at minimum and allows me to realize that those fears are large, but common and conquerable.
Let me tell you a little story.
Why Did I Quit My Job?
Over the past 3 years, the bulk of my creative energy has been put toward working full-time as Creative Design Director at ACR Homes; a place with excellent people serving residents with disabilities despite huge obstacles regarding budget cuts and a staffing crisis. Long story short, I created my own position here by making videos and redesigning their brand, but in turn I became what I lovingly referred to as "the token creative."
Token Creative (n): A single creative professional working among professionals in a different industry.
My supervisor was well aware of this and was always there for me like the excellent servant-hearted person she is. We tried to make my responsibilities as collaborative as possible so that I wasn't working alone, but nothing was enough for me. I would still leave the office after 8 hours and head off to a 3-hour rehearsal saying "Okay–now it's time to go to work!" I knew the only outcome from the path I'd chosen was burnout and career realignment, which I secretly wanted. I'd taken the job at ACR in the first place as a way to earn money while developing my artistic career. I wanted to work at ACR in a creative role for as long as possible–learning what I could about business, design, and video, earning enough money to pay my bills and build my marriage–and eventually I'd switch my focus back onto creative storytelling in theater and film. Fortunately, I had chosen a company that prides itself on empowering their employees to do what they love. Unfortunately, working in an office with such a steady routine is just not for me; no matter how great the people are. Not only that, but Ladyfriend worked an opposite schedule from me, so we were only able to see each other for 1 hr each night and all day Sunday, which isn't enough for us.
Due to the pressure of my unmet needs for variety and creative community, a flexible schedule that aligns with my Ladyfriend's, and a deep sense of purpose calling me to film and theater, I knew I needed to leave, but I didn't. I chose to button up tight, make it work, pay my dues, and stick it out. I thought, "Everyone needs a day job. This is what I have to do." By February of 2019, I became afraid of who I was growing to become: someone who works too hard and doesn't listen to himself or the spiritual call on his life, who values his own ability to power through a 65 hour work-week more than anything else, who falls into an unforgiving pit of despair every morning because his soul is too exhausted to connect to the people around him.
And then, I took a redemptive vacation to Cape Town, South Africa with my Ladyfriend.
Ladyfriend and I have toyed with the idea of dropping everything and moving to Cape Town since 2017. Going to school there, finding a community, learning a new culture, the whole gamut. It's beautiful, it's exciting, and there are plenty of opportunities that fit our lifestyle and our values. The trip itself is a whole different story, but suffice it to say that I restored much of my energy and was able to reconnect with my Ladyfriend, who in turn was able to recover from her own troubles. It was a pivotal moment in our early marriage where we could experience each other on a deeper level, and boy, she's the best. Spending time with her and shedding each other's burdens opened both of us up from the tightly-wound lifestyle we'd been living. Ultimately, after a lot of discussion and prayer, we decided that while South Africa is amazing, because of our love for Minnesota, we are NOT moving to Cape Town. We have family, friends, and a purpose to follow here in the Twin Cities. South Africa will always be our second destination, but for now it is not our home.
Upon returning from our trip, I felt rejuvenated, but a little bit lost. "If we're not moving to Cape Town, then what am I doing here?" was a regular thought in the 10,000 lakes of my mind. Ladyfriend and I went back to work wondering what could possibly be next. I dove deep into a large project at ACR which I thought might give me some purpose, and maybe I'd be OK.
It did not. I was not.
In March, I had a conversation with Juggler where he helped me realize that I already know what I need to do, I just needed the courage to go out and do it: to go out on my own, to follow the call on my life and "make a moment" that would garner joy. I'd been afraid of failing, of embarrassing myself, of not being good enough, and making a mess of my life. I'd been afraid of the toll it would take on my Ladyfriend. Of the toll it would take on my work place. Of what it would take out of me. But it was time to try. It was time to become a moment maker.
The Path of a Moment Maker
In a recent arts application, I wrote:
"My mission and my career goals include directing, writing, performing, and creating 'moments' or 'brief periods of time that have great importance' in the lives of the young and young-at-heart in the Twin Cities. I have long respected the art and work of regional theaters like the Children's Theatre Company and Theatre de Jeune Lune. I want to direct excellent original theater of the same caliber. I want to write shows that provoke curiosity and imagination, teach foundational relationship skills, and develop creative community through collaborative and diverse storytelling. I want to perform and build animated worlds that highlight the joys of life despite the pains of growth."
When I reflect upon my childhood, it’s clear that my calling is to make people smile and to spark their playful nature because I continually chose to bring them joy at every moment. In the past 3 years, I've acted in a 40-episode web series, co-directed 2 plays, performed 2 touring shows, wrote and directed 3 short films, performed in a variety of cabarets, sang a bunch of songs, and made a huge fool out of myself every chance I could get: all for the glory of those little moments worth remembering. This is how I knew that I must be a moment maker, and the best time to do that was at hand. I don't have kids. I don't have a mortgage. My full-time job is no longer fulfilling. I was faced with a choice.
Continue to work at ACR and live comfortably but deliberately ignore my chance?
Take a leap of faith to follow the riskier path as a contractor in film and theater and find ways to make it work?
In the above moment from "The Light Force," my character had a similar choice: whether or not he would use a tool to become someone else, someone "confident." He wrestled with the choice (quite literally) and ended up throwing the tool away because he knew he had to be true to himself.
So, too, must I. So must we all.
Unlike Axiom, I wrestle with my choice alongside my Ladyfriend, who believes in me like a rainstorm over the ocean–constantly replenishing its sullen waters and powering its mighty roar. I chose to quit my job, find a new way to pay my bills that allows me to be the moment maker I must be.
The Next Step
The day is done, and now I am free. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still terrified about how I'm going to make this work. I’m feeling exhausted, empowered, thrilled, free, and me.
Tomorrow, I have rehearsal for Lalo's Lunchbox, and through the rest of the summer I'll be performing as "Manny" in 20 different libraries across the Twin Cities area. Next week, I start acting in a series of videos for Eaglebrook Church called "Road Trip." I'm writing scripts for films and plays, I'm making videos, I'm directing shows, I'm teaching classes, I'm taking classes, I'm working a couple shifts at Red Cow with Ladyfriend, and I'm working my way toward creating the best moments for as many people as I can.
You, my friends and family, are my people and those who have pushed me to get this far. You are why I do what I do. You who subscribe to my newsletter, follow my social media, and show your support in all the ways that you do. Thank you. I’ll be sharing more about this journey, so stay tuned, and I’d love to see you online, or at a show!
Onwards to tomorrow,
-Mr. Blog (Joshua Zapata-Palmer)
Actor, Director, Creator, Dork