My day job has little to nothing to do with filmmaking, the arts, or blogging, and I like it that way. Aside from several filmmaking electives I took during my bachelors, which resulted in a film minor, my enthusiasm for cinema in particular and the fine arts in general is a personal, largely self-cultivated one. That’s not to say my passion for the movies and the popular culture surrounding them never intertwine with my intended career — my fascination with beasts, big and small, bleeds across the films I write about and the postgraduate degree I now pursue — but for the most part, I am satisfied with building my persona across a broad range of topics, activities, and subcultures. Tyler Durden once said, “You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
OK, maybe that sentiment is a little too melodramatic, but you understand the gist of what I am saying. One has to have a life outside their job, what they are paid to do at any given time of their life; for the record, I enjoy my career path and anticipate both emotional fulfillment and comfortable financial compensation throughout the considerable range of its employment options. I won’t be a movie-star or surgeon general, but let us say that I’ll have an interesting, “eclectic” work schedule when all is said and done. That’s all I need, at the end of the day: Satisfaction with a dash of fascination.
With regards to my current position on that career path, I’m approaching a significant turning point that will determine how the following years of that path will develop. It is no end-all, be-all situation that will make or break me in the workforce, nor is this upcoming turning point an insurmountable challenge by any stretch of the imagination; but these next few months won’t be a walk in the park, either. Al Swearengen once said, “In life, you have to do a lot of things you don’t fucking want to do. Many times, that’s what the fuck life is… one vile fucking task after another.“
Again, the tasks I must complete this semester (… and in the ones that follow) aren’t truly that “vile” at all, so I don’t have much room to bitch and moan, but I’d be a fool if my belly didn’t have its share of butterflies preparing for them. One has to maintain a fine balance of fear between paralysis and apathy in order to do their duties.
With all that in mind, I thought I’d share yet another nugget of wisdom that’s been summarized or accentuated by my years of cinephilia: Excitement, drama, and adventure exist in the unknown. One can relish (… or anguish in, agonize over, be flabbergasted by… ) the unpredictable roller-coaster that life so often is without passing judgement on its peaks and valleys, like a great screenplay that keeps you guessing. One’s life isn’t built atop a clean, producer-approved script that’s passed through several rewrites, but compared to a sprawling, hectic, and often chaotic production crew of a feature-film or television series, a damned memorable filmmaking metaphor your life can make. Your life is more cinematic than you know.
In a sense, this essay is not so much a pep-talk for the hard work ahead as it is a realization that much of life’s drama is comparable to artistic drama. Art imitates life, and vice versa. This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed for some time yet never fully appreciated until these last few years. Storytelling, particularly that on film, can be a useful emotional barometer for how we approach drama in our real lives. I’ve found it useful, not to mention more exciting, to embrace life’s unpredictability regardless of whether that unpredictability is good, bad, or something in between. Most of life’s unpredictability, be it graduation from formal education or changing jobs or moving to a new city or meeting new people (friends, romantic partners, rivals, neighbors, etc.) are varying shades of grey at their clearest moments. We often don’t know how to react to or pass judgement on unpredictable periods of life till after the fact, and many life events are never summarized in clean “good,” “bad,” or “neutral” terms. Things often just happen, and life sends you on a whirlwind.
Given that life’s unpredictability is a feature of one’s existence, rather than a bug, I’d argue it’s healthiest to treat the unknown future with a sense of nervous — maybe even excited — anticipation rather than foreboding. Not knowing what the future holds is often desired when a person’s life is in the shitter and avoided when a person’s life is satisfying, but the only assured outcome for princes and paupers alike is that nothing stays the same. No good screenplay, teleplay, or stageplay is stagnate; every story must evolve, and with it, its characters. The show must go on. Even when you don’t feel like you’re the main character in a given story (see Blade Runner ), you’re still a character with an arc and a role to play. We have no way to know for sure where our “fully developed” characters will evolve by the time we die and the credits role on our personal story. And we shouldn’t know, because where’s the fun in that?
There’s formula of some type in all stories and all people’s lives. Predictable narrative beats (re: lifetime achievements, personal growth, rock-bottom lows, midlife crises, etc.) occur across disparate settings, characters, and situations because life is not always an enigma, But without sufficient mystery, conflict, or drama, our lives become rather boring stories. So, in summary, I say embrace the chaos of an unknown future, a mysterious career path with risks and pitfalls and possible setbacks. One faces the consequences of all their actions, good, bad, and none of the above, so grow comfortable if not enthusiastic about not knowing what comes around the next corner. Challenges we face are at times downright scary in large part because we don’t know their outcome; we don’t know how our actions will affect the development of this chapter of our story. However, keeping the remainder of our personal stories an unknown quantity keeps us engaged in their outcome; we become active, rather than passive characters.
Another way of summarizing this point-of-view is that an unpredictable life is a normal, healthy life. I’d be more perplexed, if not downright concerned by meeting someone who had their entire personal, professional, and extracurricular life planned from start to finish in PowerPoint form. If most of us knew what the hell we were doing or what the hell is going on around us, our world would be a much different place.
I don’t know how exactly I will handle this next challenge in my career path, as well as subsequent life challenges further down the road, and I am OK with that. There is little to no alternative, in my eyes. At the end of the day, my cinephilia has helped me appreciate the excitement of the roads less traveled, people’s motivations for adventure, and the allure of an unpredictable ending. Unpredictable lives are interesting lives, so may we live in interesting times and live interesting lives.
I am so excited for all the good (… and bad and weird… ) things to come.