One day: How Dreams Change
There is a postcard of the Kodak Theater in L.A. on one of the cork boards in my apartment.
I have several, used for work, reminders or simple decoration. I like to think of this one as my ‘vision board’ even though it doesn’t look like the kind that you probably imagine.
In fact, the postcard might be the only item on there that qualifies as a goal. I tucked it into the upper right corner, picture-side up to hide the inscription on the back:
’08/30/2012 One day.’– back of the postcard
I bought this card — you guessed it — on August 30, 2012, after a tour of the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles. My trip to the US that year remains the only extended vacation of my life (as of 2020) and was spent with my best friend between hostels and late-night flights.
Back then, in 2012, I fantasized about becoming a world-famous director. I’d been doing theater and dabbled in writing and journalism for several years by that point, yet my focus lay on fame.
Guess that makes me pretty typical for my generation, right?
Our trip to the US came right before I moved to Berlin to study. I considered my Bachelor’s in film and anthropology a mere stepping stone; something to do while I honed my filmmaking skills and got ready to take the industry by storm.
Yet, as the proverb goes, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
I planned, I fantasized about walking the red carped at the Academy Awards, inspiring millions of young queer folks… and spiraled more and more into the depth of my depression that would take me ages to recognize for what it is. Okay, my eating disorder didn’t help either.
I kept writing, but in my mind, the fanfic I produced wasn’t worth the same as “real” fiction. The short films I made were a viable effort, solid starts, but still I was disappointed when they failed to become my ‘golden ticket’.
You see, I have always been my harshest critic.
Life, through many different paths, taught me that productivity equals personal value. I, so was my reasoning, am only worth something when I am productive. When I achieve.
Sometimes, this old way of thinking still rears its ugly head.
Fortunately for me, years of therapy, the right dose of medication, and the correct volumes of self-help and self-improvement books made me finally pull my head out of the perfectionist gutter.
The moment I truly, genuinely stopped believing that striving for financial success and professional perfection is the right way to live, will forever be etched in my memory.
It hit me while I was on a walk, reading “The Achievement Trap” by Brandilyn Tebo after hearing her interview on The Recovery Warrior Podcast. You know that feeling when you understand something on a theoretical level, but have yet to internalize it on an emotional one? That’s what it was like for me. I knew that striving for perfection, constantly wanting to please everyone, and measuring myself through achievements was a recipe for misery. It wasn’t until that walk, until reading Tebo’s words, that it clicked.
With this fundamental shift, my professional outlook on life transformed as well.
I began to see awards and laurels for what they truly are: momentary praise, an external validation, that is nice… but not a substitute for happiness. Nor a way to it, in fact.
I began to disconnect from the part of my future fantasies that required me to meet societal standards. For the first time in my life, I questioned the concept of “successful” I had been taught, then tore it down, ripped it to shreds, and designed my own.
Now, when I look at the postcard of the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, when I think back to that person who wrote, “One day.” on the back with naive and superficial desperation… Now, I feel empathy.
And relief, because that is not my world anymore.
I still wish to spend my life telling stories. I still want to make films and series. I still want to see my name flash across the screen as the credits roll.
But my happiness and self-worth doesn’t depend on how much of this vision comes to pass, or how fast I achieve it.
It’s not about amassing a list of credits and awards. It never has been. It has always been about telling stories and affecting people with them.
On that day in 2012, I hadn’t figured out the most fundamental truth about myself:
I’m a writer.
No matter how I pay my bills, I will always be a writer. Whether I ever make it to L.A., whether one of my scripts ever becomes a motion picture or a pilot, whether any of my books ever becomes a small-to-moderate (or big) success… At the end of the day, I’m still a writer.
So, how does my “One day” look now?
It’s quite simple, actually. Boring, some might say.
One day, I live comfortably off my writing. I enjoy many formats, so I have several income streams.
I sell a script or two every now and then. I do paid rewrites and get contracts. All my projects reflect the diversity of real life and foster a more inclusive global media landscape.
I help companies and entrepreneurs who add value to people’s lives and make the world a better place by writing copy for them. My books, either self-published or through a publishing house, reach a huge number of readers who care enough about my stories to reach out and talk to me about them, sharing their own experiences and reactions.
I never have to take on a side job to cover my bills that is not related to writing ever again… unless I want to.
Some might call this “control” over one’s life.
I call it “freedom”.
I call it “living in accordance with my true purpose”.
And you know what’s the best thing about it? It’s up to me to make this happen. I don’t need a jury to vote for me, or for the Powers That Be to decide I have what it takes.
I simply life my truth, day in, day out. And eventually, it will come true.
By then, my dreams will certainly have evolved again.