How To Get Everything You Ever Wanted: Destroying Old Maps

“I would…but I just don’t have the money.”
or
“I would…but I just don’t have the time.”
or
“I would…but I just don’t know the right people.”

Artwork of Roy Lichtenstein
Artwork of Roy Lichtenstein

These three obstacles kept me from my dreams for years.

If you would have told me they were imaginary back then, I would have punched you in the face. They were absolutely real.

At school, I was taking a film business/auditioning class. We talked about head shots, resumes, how to audition and how to promote ourselves. We met once a week and our homework assignment was to audition four times before the next class. The only problem was..I was going to school in the city five times a week and every day, the second I got out of class, I would take a bus and a train out back out to New Jersey to do my waitressing job. I also worked on Saturday nights and Sunday brunches. This did not give me the time to be auditioning like the others did and I resented all of them. I wanted to audition, but I didn’t have the money or the time.

Step 1: What’s your Plan?
I had a plan…

I needed to work five days a week to create security in my life. I figured my job didn’t matter cause I’d probably be discovered at a cafe, or on a subway car like some scene from a movie.  When that wasn’t working, I started to take on more hours at work.  I was going to save up enough to get better head shots. Then eventually I’d be able to take some time off and do a bunch of auditions. But every time I had a little bit of money set aside something big came up:  a dentist bill, or we had to move apartments, or something else that took a priority over my dreams. And after several years, I was right where I had started only a little more jaded.

But, what else was I supposed to do?  It’s not like I had another choice, right?

Actually….

Read on.

I met Burke at school, and he had the same amount of money as me, but for some reason, he was making things work for him. I watched him get hired to work straight for a month on a film gig, and then he would coast on the money he made for two months so he could do his own projects.

Our friend, Kat Wise, got a little school bus, painted it in her unique and colorful style and started making gorgeous coats out of pieces of sweaters.  She would set up shop on the street in front of her eye-catching bus and sell her coats.  This allowed her to travel and promote herself and sell her coats all over.  She purchased the bus for less than one month’s worth of NYC rent and could also live in the bus if need be.  It was a great way for her to do what she loved by taking a different route.

Kat Wise selling her coats in front of her bus.  Photo Courtesy of Guest of A Guest.
Kat Wise selling her coats in front of her bus. Photo Courtesy of Guest of A Guest.

If I wanted to have this different, wild life, I needed to go about getting it in a different non-conventional way.

Step 2: Set Your Mind to What You Want To Do and Avoid Imaginary Obstacles.

I wanted to make a living doing burlesque and performing. But I didn’t know if that was possible yet.

© Amy Sussman 2008
Photo Backstage by Amy Sussman in the early days of Shanghai Mermaid.

I had been turned down at modeling agencies for being “too big boned”, I was told by a major agency at 22 years old that I was “over-the-hill” and they could maybe get me work as a mom selling diapers in a commercial. Maybe. I was told by another major agency that my black hair made me look like Elvis and that vintage thing was “dead in the water.”

There are days when I would have believed them. But in the end, it was lucky that I didn’t.

They were throwing imaginary obstacles in my path.

So what could I do to escape the boring everyday desk job if I couldn’t jump immediately into the dreams of my life?

Step 3: Take Chances and Think Out of the Box.

By taking baby steps and finding things I really loved doing to support me financially.

I loved shopping at this local thrift store and putting together outfits. Burke had the idea of me modeling the outfits and accessorizing them. He would take photos and I could sell them on Ebay. I didn’t think it would work, maybe because it seemed like too much fun and not enough “work”. The first week I tried this out, I sold 10 dresses and made more money that I made working two days at my desk job. I kept it up and kept trying – and week after week, the sales would improve.

One of my original Ebay auctions.
One of my original Ebay auctions.

I finally got the guts to talk to my boss and ask him if I could work three days a week instead of five. No one else in the building did that. In fact, everyone who I told my plan to shook their heads and told me it would never work. It was a major corporation with a typical 40 hour work week.

The day arrived and I walked into my boss’s office and told him my story. I was honest and told him that I enjoyed working with him, but I felt like I was missing something in my life – and that was the time to follow my dreams. I told him that I was considering quitting altogether and finding a more flexible bartending job or something, but I thought that we could approach it differently. After all, I was a hard worker, and I knew the office like the back of my hand. I proposed the idea of me working three days a week which would give me more free days to give my dreams a shot.

And something amazing happened.
He agreed.
He was an open-minded guy, but had put in 20 years of his life working his way up the company ladder in the way that you’re supposed to do it. I wasn’t sure if he would go for it.
But we connected on a human level.
We all have dreams. He has his, I have mine, you have yours.
When we are brave and open enough to talk about them, people listen.
I worked harder than I ever did on those three days I was in the office because I was grateful for the deal.
It was win-win for everyone.

Suddenly, I had four days to work on my projects and three days in the business world.

It was the start of me being able to command my own life and steer my own ship.

I had to cut through my own lies that I was telling myself (I didn’t have enough money/time/options), and cut through the lies others were telling me (that I was too old to make it at 22 years old, that my boss would never let me only work 3 days a week, that I couldn’t do burlesque for a living) in order to push forward to my wildest dreams.

Listen to your instincts
and break all the rules.

What imaginary obstacles have you or others put in the path of your dreams?  Noticing them and saying them out loud is the first way to destroy them.

Kill them in the comments. Let’s do this.
xo
Vv

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *