Comfort = Fear = 8 Years too Long

I’m 26.  I have been out of high school for 8 years.  In all of this time, though, I have still not fully pursued what it is that I love most in this world.  Hold on – this one’s going to be a very important entry.

Back in high school I discovered a college I wanted to attend – Pratt Institute.  I don’t remember how I found it, but I was completely excited by the potential focus on film.  There were a few necessary math/science/history classes involved, but the majority of the time was spent on the important aspects of the major.  Of course – it’s in New York and I’m in California.

I proposed the idea to my parents, very excited about it all, but I was quickly shot down.  First, I’d never been to NY, so they felt it was too much of a change, and secondly, it would be too expensive.  So, I didn’t go.  I went nowhere.  I was forced into Saddleback (junior) College my first year out of high school, and since I didn’t care about being there, I failed classes and dropped out the next semester.  By this point, I was working at Blockbuster.  I worked at Blockbuster for the next 4.5 years, and I enjoyed it, but I still had that nagging in my heart.  If you’ve ever known what you wanted (be it a person, an object, or in this case a career), and you subsequently avoided it, you know the nagging of which I speak.  I’ve loved making movies, in every regard, since I was 10.  On the first day of kindergarten I said I wanted to be an actor.  I’ve wanted this my whole life, but there I was, sitting at Blockbuster not going for it – and then I snapped.  I grew tired of doing nothing, and I decided it was time to finally give myself the opportunity – I was leaving Blockbuster to pursue acting full-time.  And, I did.  Kind of.

I signed up for casting websites, sent out for roles, had a few auditions, and even made $300 for a weekend shooting a small short down in San Diego.  On that set, I froze my butt off, was tired and uncomfortable for most of the day and bored the rest, and I got to drive an hour both ways to get there from my house – but it was one of the highlights of my life.  The director wasn’t brilliant, the movie wasn’t the most compelling thing I’ve ever seen – but I was doing it.  I was making a movie, and no matter what, that always excites me… even more so when it’s a more professional thing like this.  But, of course, after a little while I began to realize that I might not go too far in the business without taking roles that I wasn’t in love with.  Even more than that, I was turned off by the idea of making it a business – to me making movies is an art.  Of course, this is the same kind of bull that I’ve been telling myself for years 😉

So, I’m back in college now, back at Saddleback, even back at Blockbuster part-time, trying to find myself a normal career.  Yes, I still live at home, and this has been my main inspiration to get a good paying job so I can be out on my own.  I pretty randomly picked a Computer Science and Information major at UCI, but after being back in school for a short while, I know this is not at all for me.  Don’t worry – I’m not planning on dropping out again.  Lately, though, that nag has been returning.  At first I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, maybe I was just lonely?  More and more, though, it has shown itself to be the same, nagging problem I had at the end of my first tenure with Blockbuster – I’m not doing what I want to be doing.  I’m not making movies.  What’s keeping me from it, though?  Aye, there’s the question of all time, laddie.

The title of this blog entry gives you a hint – “Comfort = Fear….”  Quite frankly, it scares the living heck out of me.  Why, though?  I have nothing to lose.  Again, look to the title.  Comfort can very, very easily produce fear.  I want out of my house, that’s not the key, but there is a certain level of lifestyle that I’m used to.  I’m not even talking just about money – but I’m comfortable in my life right now, because I’m used to it.  I have a friend who has the opposite problem.  He lives by making huge, rash decisions – but he is afraid of being comfortable.  He fears his environment never again changing, and I fear that it will.  This is a silly fear, as most fears are, but it’s still the single greatest reason why I have not taken myself into the Hollywood machine to pursue what I love.  Everything I’ve done has been within a certain level of comfort – UCI is close to home so I could stay in an area I’m comfortable with, heck I tend to hold my arms in a certain way when I shower just because that’s what I’m used to.  The only time I don’t give a flying heck about comfort is when I’m pursuing movies.  I will forgo sleep, food, physical comfort and safety – none of that matters when I am passionate about something, and I am passionate about movies.  I was this way on that set in San Diego, and I’ve been that way with every movie I’ve made with my friends.  I actually had the inspiration a couple of months ago to start breaking myself out of these comfortable spots – and ironically (or not) that is when I started to think about making movies again.  The last time I had this attitude was when I left Blockbuster to pursue acting.  I was leaving a place I knew inside and out, a place where I was a familiar figure and a favorite of customers, a place that I considered a real home… I was leaving all of that behind to go for what I wanted.  One person in particular, Ruthie (someone I was very close with there), wrote something on my going away card that I have never been able to forget.  She wrote, about my pursuing my dreams, “…even if you don’t make it, at least you tried.  Which is more than most of us can say.”  After I pretty much gave up on it all, thinking about her and that final word of encouragement always hurt – because I knew that I had let myself down by not giving it my all – I hadn’t tried.

The ultimate question isn’t talent – I’m not an arrogant son of a gun, but I’m good at what I do.  I can write, I can act, I can direct, but talent has nothing to do with making it in professional moviemaking.  It’s more about persistence and pure luck.  I know this, and I’m not deluded enough to think I’ll make a living while acting.  This is the biggest difference between now and when I first tried acting professionally.  The actress Jenna Fischer writes regularly on her blog on MySpace, and some time ago I saw an entry she wrote on how she broke into the business, and it was really great – made me add her right away 🙂  She’s very honest about what she had to do to make it to where she is now, and it was a really well written reminder that it’s not about me being amazing at what I do and wowing the world – it’s about the world even seeing what I’m doing, and THEN they can decide whether it’s amazing or not.  I’ve thought about changing my major for a while now, and at this point I’m considering English.  I’m not a math and science guy – I’m an artsy-fartsy kind of guy, and I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing.  Plus, I can cram through an English degree much faster than I ever could with Computer Science – there’s no math building on top of itself 😉  So what am I thinking now?  Maybe transferring to Chapman after finishing my general ed. at Saddleback.  Chapman is well-known for its film school, and it would be a great place to meet people interested in the same thing, and at the same level.  This is just a path to getting a degree, though – something that can help me make a little more money with a side-job.  The big key is still making movies on a more professional and serious level.

The final question is can I get myself together and go make movies on this level?  I don’t know… and that right there is the stupidest answer I’ve ever given in my life.

“Hey, Mark, you’re dating a beautiful woman who loves you, and whom you love as well, and you two are perfect for each other… want to marry her?”

I don’t know.

“Hey, Mark, you could go do the only thing you’ve ever wanted to do, want to do it?”

I don’t know.

“Hey, Mark, you don’t want to spend the NEXT eight years avoiding your true passion do you?”

No – heck no.  Enough time has been wasted already.

I’m not dating anyone right now, but that previous line is just a sample of how ludicrous this notion of avoidance is between me and moviemaking.  This isn’t a big, grand scheme of how I’ll make into the business or how I’ll do this or that.  I may not be an English major or go to Chapman.  I may do a million other things or take a billion other paths than what I’ve mentioned here, but for eight years I’ve run away because of a combination of various fears.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to run from moviemaking.  Many years ago I seriously considered getting into construction – but when I told my uncle on the phone, he asked about movies, and literally begged me to not give up on my dream.  When I left Blockbuster, every employee, customer, and random person to whom I mentioned it encouraged me and said they thought it was a great idea.  And now, with the few people I’ve mentioned my resurrected desire, I have heard nothing but the words, “Do it!”  Even my family, for their lack of desire to send me to the only college I took an interest in, has always told me that I should make movies.  There has never been a single negative comment or doubter about me pursuing this career in my entire life – besides myself.

So, here’s to hoping I finally silence that scared, nervous, negative minority – and do the one thing I was made to do.

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About Mark Mushakian

Just a man who loves God, women, kids, dogs, movies, and every other lovely thing in life :)
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