The Myth of the Life-Changing Moment

We have the pervasive story in our culture that is not only inaccurate, it’s destructive. We have this idea that in one given moment, everything can change. I get why we say it. And I get that there’s some truth behind it. But I’d like to at least challenge it because I think it’s unhealthy.

There’s a story about how the cast of Friends went out for drinks just before they began filming the show. The producers of the show told the whole crew that their lives would soon change. They were right. For many people, that’d be considered the life-changing moment.

In A Star is Born, Lady Gaga’s character (who cares WTF her name is in the movie itself, it’s Lady Gaga’s character) has a life-changing moment when she goes out on stage with Bradley Cooper’s character (again, I’m not going to take the time to look it up…okay I just remembered it was Jackson Maine but whatever, I’m sticking with Bradley Cooper’s character). He encourages her to sing her heart out. She does. She becomes a viral sensation and soon a superstar. All thanks to that life-changing moment.

But I believe that’s thinking of time as far too linear. There are a million small moments, opportunities, and choices that are made before that “life-changing moment” that made it possible in the first place. 

To take apart my own examples (which is why I used them in the first place), the cast of Friends didn’t have one night that everything changed. You could back up to the moment they auditioned for the show was a life-changing moment. Before that, the moment they got whatever representation that got them in the door of the audition was a life-changing moment. The day the decided to do the showcase or class or performance that got them noticed by that representation was a life-changing moment. The day they committed to becoming an actor was a life-changing moment. That time they had an intense rejection and considered quitting but didn’t is a life-changing moment. It could go on and on…

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Same with the character in A Star is Born. The day she sang was as much of a life-changing moment as the day she wrote the lyrics that Bradley Cooper’s character became enraptured by. The day she first started singing at the bar he met her at. The day she first started waitressing at the bar she’d eventually sing at. The day she met the friend who ushered Bradley Cooper into the bar and got him a drink so he’d watch her. The day she learned she liked to sing. These are all life-changing moments.

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The reason I find the myth of the life-changing moment so destructive is because I think it makes us spend our whole lives anxiously anticipating some big magic moment that really never comes because life is full of little magic moments happening constantly.

Sure, there are bigger opportunities that can exacerbate changes more dramatically – no denying that. But for the most part, those opportunities only come along because of a series of tiny decisions you make beforehand. And you’re only able to see and capture them because of the same series of tiny decisions you made up to that point.

We can never know where the magic will lead. So don’t miss out on the joy and excitement of the small miracles in hopes seeing a major one. The major one might feel even more joyous if you’ve recognized the small ones along the way.

Give yourself the break.

Here in Hollywood (or as some call it, “Woody Holl” if you’re feeling extra wacky), there’s a lot of talk about getting the magical break. People want to break into the movie industry or break into the music industry or catch a break by snagging a big opportunity or riding a wave when it breaks or talking about Breaking Bad…

Everywhere you look there are articles and tips and tricks all revolving around on how to get your big break into whatever world you want to be in. You’re expected to be on at all times- constantly working on your game and making sure every moment of every part of your day leading up to your break is absolutely perfect so when your big break actually comes, you’ll be ready to seize it!

That’s all well and good. And I believe it to be true 99% of the time. I spend immense amounts of time dedicated to making my dreams a reality- writing, performing, creating, pushing boundaries, making connections, finding my voice, making money to pay my bills- and I love it. I love doing it. I’m so grateful to be able to live out this adventure and this opportunity and do my best to do my best every single day.

I had a revelation not long ago, however, that the remaining 1% of the time- I have to give myself the break.I don’t mean I have to create my own opportunities, shows, auditions, and whatnot- I already do all that constantly. I do it because I love it and because every time I get on stage or am in rehearsal, I’m improving my skills and my heart is singing contently.

I mean that I need to let myself take a break once in a while to re-enter normal humanity and enjoy my friends, family, and loved ones. If left to my druthers, I would spend all day every day writing, performing, marketing, acting, looking up better classes or marketing tools, reading trade papers, watching old films or sketches, blogging…you name it. I would be theoretically content to just live as a hermit for the rest of my days if it meant I got to spend them creating.

But that’s no way to live. What’s the point in pursuing your passion if you don’t have people to share in the highs and lows with? And what’s the point in re-creating life-scenarios onstage or commenting about life experiences if yours are completely limited? How can you expect to play different characters and people convincingly if you only ever hang out with yourself? Not to mention, sometimes it’s nice to just be a normal human being once in a while and let your mind and body relax for a day.

I also need to give myself a break when it comes to my career. Any given day, there is only so much you can do. I was driving to an audition not long ago for a commercial. I left myself an hour and fifteen minutes to get there from where I was. I was technically 10 minutes away, but this is LA so the traffic can be insane at any given time.

As I sat there in absolutely dead stopped traffic 50 minutes later, I realized I could be late to this audition.  How was that possible? I left myself so much time! I planned ahead, had everything ready, looked totally the part of what I thought they wanted, I was so close yet I just couldn’t move- how on earth was I going to be late? Was I  subconsciously self-sabotaging my career because I am scared of success?  Should I call my agency in tears and say I might be late to the audition?

It should be noted- I hate being late. I have a visceral response to my own tardiness. It runs in my family that lateness is unacceptable and never to be practiced. When I’m running late in my car, I’m typically screaming at the other traffic around me and banging on the steering wheel only to screech into a parking space and sprint to wherever I’m heading. Lateness and I do not agree with each other.

So as I’m sitting there in completely unexpected and awful traffic, I took a moment to breathe. I was not self sabotaging myself. I was as prepared as you could reasonably be. I did everything in my power to get to that audition on time. And in that moment, there was absolutely nothing I could do to make the situation better. I might be a minute or two late to the audition. Traffic in LA happens. Shit happens. I had to give myself a break.

Had I left not enough time to get there or been un-prepared or forgotten or blown the audition off, I would not have given myself the break. But sometimes, even when you do everything in your power to be prepared for your break, the world around doesn’t conform to your will and it will not do exactly what you ask.

And that’s okay. It’s okay to do shows for the sake of loving to perform not for getting industry people to notice you. It’s okay to take classes to learn and meet new people not for impressing a person in the industry. It’s okay to be three minutes late to an audition that you did everything in your power to be on time for. It will not kill your career in this industry.

Give yourself a break. The big break will when you’re ready and the timing is right.

It should be noted, I had another audition the week after the one I was three minutes late to, and I was an hour early. Take that, LA traffic,  I will break you.