I have a nasty habit. I measure success by accomplishments over time. Jobs, gigs, accolades. Each one propelling me further into adulthood, bringing me closer to my professional goals. Five years ago (yesterday), I was crowned Miss New York USA. That was a big one on the timeline of my life. I set a very difficult, seemingly uncharacteristic goal for myself and accomplished it. From there, the next five years were spent crafting a cable news career and then leaving said career to pursue my real passion – acting. Sometimes, when I feel a bit stalled or behind where I’d like to be, I remember just how much I’ve accomplished over time. How things I never anticipated or planned happening did, and how I’m so much better for it all.
There is a problem with this way of thinking, though. It places all of my value and joy on the things I have done. My identity is being crafted by the jobs I work. It makes sense that I would have this construct at the forefront of my mind. I am a result oriented person. I audition, I book. I perform, I get applause. To me, doing well has always meant doing. While tracking work is a good quantifier of a life lived, it can be destructive. Especially for an actor who can be doing everything right but cannot control certain aspects of the career, like luck and timing. The anxiety this produces can be crippling. Just look at all the actors who are no longer acting. Their quality of life was being sacrificed for the quantity of possibility.
This is where our culture suffers. So much of our identity is built upon what we do, not who we are. Upon meeting someone, the common greeting is, “And what do you do?” Is what we do really more interesting than what we love or our unique skills? It’s not. And yet we cycle around this cog of platitudes and nonsense as if it gets us somewhere. Daily, people ask me, ‘How’s the acting career going? Anything I can see you on? Any jobs lined up?’ It makes sense to ask these questions. My friends and fans are genuinely curious how things are going. They want me to do well and want to share in my success. But is another credit on my resume the only success there is?
I began thinking about my journey over the past 1826 days. All those in between moments that lost focus to the bigger accomplishments. I managed to shed off years of insecurity and finally love the person that lives in this body. That confidence allowed me to do things that scared me, including things I never thought I could. I met new people and built lasting friendships. I fell in love. I traveled to new and exciting places. I was of service to others and helped my community. I used my platform to openly express my beliefs and inspire others. I found new ways to develop my craft and share my talents with the masses. I felt the joy of performing. And maybe most importantly, I got back up, several times, after being so disappointed. These are all the things that may not directly lead to a job, but they build a life.
A lot can happen over five years. Some successes we don’t even realize, because they can’t be captured by an Instagram post or fully expressed to our well-meaning neighbor. It’s important to take the time to honor these moments and celebrate them just as much as mainstream milestones. Because if we spend our lives chasing the next opportunity, we’ll never got caught up in the moment. I always thought ‘It’s about the journey, not the destination’ was a load of crap. But now, I think I finally get it.