As I’m typing this, I have competing feelings of genuine happiness and utter frustration. I’m happy because for the first time in a while, I feel like my life is moving forward, towards goals that I set for myself when I was the fresh-faced kid that moved to Los Angeles almost 6 (!!!!) years ago. I’m writing stand-up bits again, I’m writing screenplays again, and I’m lucky enough to be auditioning a couple times a week for high-profile projects (whether or not I’m converting those auditions into parts…is another story). I’m also happy that I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work throughout this pandemic, and I’m even happier now because I’ve recently accepted a job offer that is a return to the stuff that I like doing the most – producing shit.
I’m frustrated for things that are largely outside of my control. Namely, the fact that the pandemic I thought was ending is actually not close to ending, with Los Angeles and other major cities returning to masked life, as well as a country-wide vaccination rate that can only be described as embarrassing. As a vaccinated person that followed all the rules, it’s maddening to me. To be mad at the CDC and government officials is one thing, but I think truly the anger and frustration should be pointed towards people who are willingly not getting vaccinated. Now, if you’ve got pre-existing issues and conditions that make you wary of the vaccine, that’s fine. I get it. If you’re not getting the vaccine for purely political reasons? Fuck all the way off. You’re the reason we’re in this mess, and I hope that shit ends up on your headstone – “I was a fucking idiot to own the libs”.
Anyway, that’s where I’m at mentally. I think a lot of us are there or somewhere close after spending a whole year and a half inside our houses. Some of us unable to work, some of us unable to leave the house. And even when you left your house, you couldn’t see anyone’s full face. We are living through a time that will be talked about in history books for a long time. It’s pretty heavy stuff. All of our lives changed in some way, significant or otherwise. And that’s what inspired me to write my first blog post in years.
For a lot of us, the pandemic represented a new beginning of sorts. Jobs ended, relationships were broken up, people moved to new places en masse. For myself, I had thought about walking away from stand-up comedy and acting almost a year ago. I didn’t think I had much more to say that I hadn’t said already, I was self-conscious and wondering if I was even funny anymore, all the auditions that I had felt like running my head through a brick wall. It was a dark, all too familiar place for me to be in. And since the pandemic had no end in sight, I thought that was the place I was doomed to be in for the rest of my life. Which obviously now looking at it was stupid as fuck.
I had this conversation with two dear friends who were going through new beginnings of their own. And for both of them, they had hit some bumps in the road. These two friends are incredibly talented people who aren’t used to these kinds of obstacles. And all of a sudden they were asking questions about themselves similar to the questions I asked myself a year ago. Questions that were fundamental to their identity, that they had based their lives and careers on up till this point.
It reminded me of an episode of Parks and Recreation, where Leslie Knope had just been elected to City Council and had proposed her first bill, a tax on sugary drinks. In the episode, she gets opposition from lobbyists who threaten layoffs if her bill gets passed. She takes that threat to heart and becomes, for the first time in her life, unsure of herself. She goes to Ron Swanson’s office to get his advice and says “I had conviction because I knew what I believed in, but I don’t know with this new job. I feel like I lost my bearings.” And Ron says something to her that I said to my two friends and something I wish had been said to me when I was going through my crisis of confidence last year.
“No, you haven’t.”
“You may have wandered into unknown terrain, but you’re still you.”
That, right there. Advice that we could all use, every day of our lives. The world is a crazy place. This thing we call life is a crazy thing. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of it. Especially today, with the advent of doomscrollers like Twitter and Instagram, it’s simpler than ever to get caught comparing your life to others. Growing up in an Indian community, getting compared to friends of mine is something I’m quite used to. And I tell ya, it’s one of the least productive things you could ever find yourself doing. It’s instances like this where I like to remind people that we’ve all gone through our own shit. We’ve all overcome our obstacles. We have this thing in society where it’s almost looked down upon to think about your successes because it’s seen as ‘bragging’. No, what you’re doing is acknowledging that you’ve done your shit. You’ve moved mountains just to be where you are right now. And while you might think where you are right now might be the worst place you’ve ever been, just remember that you’ve had that thought before. You’ve been down in the bottom of a valley before, and you worked your way out of it. If you’re working at a place where you don’t feel like you’re fitting in, even though you’ve had success at every other place you’ve been to before that, it’s not because all of a sudden you’ve forgotten what you’re all about. It’s not a ‘you’ thing. You’re still you. You’re still that same person that made it through hoops of fire to be where you are now. Sure, maybe there are some things that you need to work on, but that’s life. We must evolve over time. But you didn’t all of a sudden lose all your talent, all that experience, all that passion. You might believe you did, but that’s just you focusing on your failures and your shortcomings. When you feel lost and alone, think of all the things that you’ve done in your life that you’re proud of. I guarantee that feeling will not last much longer.
Onward and upward friends, onward and upward.
Here’s the scene from Parks and Rec if you want to check it out: