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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Angel's latest Tattoo

Flame-Haired Angel and I don’t see a lot of each other, these days.

When we do, she’s exhausted.

She announced, a couple of years ago, she was changing careers to become a costume designer. From another person, that might have sounded fanciful. From her, it was a breakthrough. This is what she’d always wanted to do. She had apparently convinced herself that she finally could.

It was a risk, of course. Film is a young person’s industry, and we are no longer 22. It’s a tough place to be, too: a professional environment that thrives on insecurity and aggressive ambition. And, being project based, it’s either feast or famine; you’re either working on a film or you’re not.

It’s also notoriously hard to break in to. People spend years not getting work. At a practical level, this didn’t thrill me. More important, I wondered how the Angel would digest those inevitable stretches when no one was saying yes.

The period since her announcement has been predictably up and down. Watching someone pursue their dream -- really get on with it to the exclusion of most else -- can be like watching a diver working off a high board: no matter how confident and talented they are, there’s still suspense about how they’re going to hit the water.

So, not seeing much of FHA, this month, is one of the best things I could have hoped for, two years ago. She’s working 17 hours a day as costumer designer for a new feature film, The Butterfly Tattoo, based on Philip Pullman’s novel, The White Mercedes.

That's only a milestone, not even close to the end of the journey. There is lots left to do. It’s still early days, as they say, in the epic that is anyone’s career in that insane industry. Nevertheless, her persistence and talent and professional intensity, and this month’s reality check that says she’s increasingly a success, make me proud.

But it’s more than that: I admire her. She’s doing what so few of us do. We all have narratives in our heads about who we really are. And, for many of us, those reassuring stories we tell ourselves include a healthy dose of what we’d be doing if we weren’t limited by practicalities: mortgages, kids, height… Those narratives are vital to our self-concepts. We depend on them for our self-esteem. We are who we are at least in part because of who we imagine we could be.

Flame-Haired Angel is risking all that. She’s risking her self-concept by testing her entire fantasy of “what might have been” by putting it in the blender of reality and finding if it is.

This is not a safe bet. Which is why most of us never take it. We prefer to nurture the story of our idealized selves on the inside, instead of putting our chips on the table at the risk of finding out our fantasies were better than our cards.

But she’s taken that bet. She’s done something most people never have the balls to do. And she appears to be winning.


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