In Rob Bell’s newest book, How To Be Here, he has a chapter titled, Comparisons, in which he recounts a scene from the movie Comedian (2002). In the film, Jerry Seinfeld has a conversation with another lesser known comedian. The newcomer is lamenting about the struggles he has faced trying to make it in the comedy world. He asks, “How much longer can I take it?” to which Jerry responds:
“What – is time running out?”
Holy sh!t. IS time running out? I can more than relate to that comedian wondering, “How much longer can I take it?” How much longer can I take the wanting? How much longer can I maintain the trying? And why do I feel that way? It seems to me that the only way I would feel like something needs to happen in a certain amount of time, would be if I have somehow given myself a time limit. Have I unknowingly put restrictions on my own goals?
Back to the scene in Comedian…the newer comedian, responding to Seinfeld, says “…I feel like I’ve sacrificed so much of my life.” Mhmm, mhmm, heads nodding all around. Who can’t relate to trying something for a long time and feeling like it’s not exactly paying off? Wait for it. Jerry Seinfeld then responds with the words that made my stomach do flip flops and all those proverbial light bulbs in my head go off. He said:
“Is there something else you would rather have been doing? Other appointments or places you gotta be?”
Umm. Way to just put it out there, Jerry.
“Is there something else you would rather have been doing?” Well. Is there?
Think about your big goal. The dream. The thing you want to achieve and accomplish so badly. Is the journey to actually doing that thing, not worthy somehow? Is the process irrelevant? Let’s say you want to write a book. The book doesn’t just come into being by the simple wanting. It takes preparation, planning, writing, re-vising, editing, publishing, marketing, all that fun stuff, before the book is actually out into the world. But somewhere in the process of creating that book, you feel like it’s too much sacrifice.
You feel like it’s all taking too long. Think about what Seinfeld asks of that young comedian: “Is there something else you would rather have been doing?” Maybe the answer is yes. You want badly to write a book, but the process is just too much. It’s not the part that you want. That’s cool. The next step is accepting that and moving on. Can you let that dream go? But, if the answer to that question is that no, there is nowhere else you would rather be, despite the struggles, despite losing confidence and missing family events and having no social life. If your answer is that there is nothing else you would rather struggle for, then for god’s sake, please stick with it.
The comedian then gives Jerry a list of complaints (the kind we all seem to have) about the things he is missing out on in life and all the sacrifices he has made to get to where he wants to be. Seinfeld responds with one last gem:
“This has nothing to do with making it.”
Stop the press. It DOESN’T? Because that thought makes me feel all sorts of uncomfortable and also filled with relief at the same time.
What an interesting concept.
We seem to sometimes narrow our goals down to just the end result. We treat the process as the thing that gets in the way. We put so much emphasis on our goal to be the thing that tells the world (and ourselves) that we’ve made it. Once we’ve made it, what happens then?
The thing I’ve learned about ‘making it’, about reaching your goals, about that end result, it’s that once you get there, well, you’re still alive. The end of the journey of accomplishing our thing and the actual end of our life, well they don’t always cross paths. If your whole goal is just to ‘make it’, you probably won’t know when you get there because it’s not actually an end to something. You can hit the goal, reach the dream, ‘make it’, but life is still happening, other needs and wants still need and want to be met.
Even if you climb a mountain, have you ‘made it’ when you get to the top? Cause you still need to get back down. When you climb back down, is that when you’ve made it? Because no one ever says their dream is to climb down a mountain. Maybe we should. And let’s say you climb to the very highest peak and then let’s say you climb down and that actually was your goal, your dream, your version of making it — so what? What happens now? Do you stop trying for things? You’ve already made it, so what’s left? You know? Except I have the sneaking suspicion that the kind of person who sets a goal of climbing a mountain, or even of climbing down a mountain and then actually goes and does it, probably doesn’t wipe the dust from their feet and the sweat from their brow and then go home and sit on their sofa for the rest of their lives.
What I’m saying is that maybe we need to re-think what ‘making it’ actually means. Maybe ‘making it’ can mean that when we get to the end, the real end, we will have done lots of cool things. We will have been happy and thankful more than we were angry and bitter. We will have loved openly, even if that just means that we’ve been kinder to ourselves. We will have lived honestly. We will have tried things that were hard and relaxed into things that were easy. We will have accepted the journey towards all the things we’ve created as part of the thing we created. We will be able to honestly say to ourselves, that we didn’t struggle and hurt and love and change and grow just to make it, but to make a life.
— Brittany Forbes
Brittany writes in Canadian, loves in English, and dreams in French. She writes about travels and various other journeys over at Letters To Rayelle.