Monday, November 26, 2018

The Catastrophe of Success

I was watching a Kirk Douglas interview by Dick Cavett from a few decades ago on the Decades Channel, and Douglas was discussing a Tennessee Williams quote about the catastrophe of success. Kirk's own story was that he had been saddened when he returned to New York and got a suite on the 25th floor of a hotel overlooking Central Park. He had reached the success he'd hoped to achieve, yet it wasn't enough. Douglas's advice was to always have the next goal ready. Of course, catastrophe of success is a fancy way of saying resting on your laurels, but the truth for those of us who have never fully realized our potential is that life becomes more of a catastrophe of near success, and that's probably even worse than getting there and feeling empty.





I'm sure that if I ever got to be on Sunday Night With Mike Gousha (my former measure of local success in Milwaukee), I'd immediately feel like it wasn't all that. But I still haven't been on the show, and, in fact, it's no longer on the air, so I actually can never feel that success or subsequent catastrophic letdown. I'm actually not sure what the comparable Jacksonville measure of success would be. The only extra news programs I've seen have been about sports. And First Coast Living, which is more of an infomercial. The occasional newsy program about the out-of-control violence, I guess. Maybe there's some Youtube show I have yet to catch. Sure, my own Youtube interview program might be my ticket to success, if I was only a decade younger, had a radio voice, and could think on my toes while being filmed.

As I celebrate another birthday, I feel the potential slipping further away. It's almost as though each year you get carded less and less alcohol purchases ushers in one less year of potential success. One more year closer to re-imagining myself as a pencil-pusher. I envy the guy who called me to talk about website design for his project, even if the idea fizzles. He still believes in his own abilities to make sure the idea doesn't fail. And he's still young enough to quit his job and focus on his dream. My current concern is to find enough money to pay my HOA fee that I'll be receiving in the mail today. That's probably the difference between those of us who live lives of near successes and those of them who either rocket to the top or crash and burn: responsibility. My wife wanted to move to Southern California with no money in the bank and no prospects to afford living there when we were newlyweds. Everyone would have advised against it, but I had two movie scripts and a dream, so I considered it for a second.

Instead of California, she finished her education to become a teacher, then we got pregnant, bought a family car, bought another house with a nice yard, and basically began living the American Dream on one teacher's salary (once she stayed home with the kids). No time or money for real success for a decade. My own layoff and subsequent unemployment really seemed like the opportunity to explore my dreams, but the life of a starving artist doesn't coincide with being the household bread winner. When my wife comes home from work and asks what I did all day, I can't tell her than I considered all the intricacies of an apple. My demise as a teacher could have been the catalyst for something amazing; should have been; wasn't. I had no connections, no references, wasn't the right age, couldn't sell myself, and still had no time as I prepared for a career change.

Every endeavor I've endured for the past few years has panned out to be more of a side job. I rent out a house, sell my teaching lessons online, sell some books on Amazon, get commissions for Chromebook covers, and build websites. But no success, as it were, unless success is defined by the time to attempt one more project. Just enough to get by, coming from multiple sources. Honest and profitable, if only I also had that "real" job to supplement my projects. That real job that makes the other projects too difficult to maintain. So I wait for that wonderful event to happen. Like Steven Spielberg, realizing he wants to make that coming of age movie that's actually good, buying my Eighth Grade Ends movie, and putting me on whatever version of Sunday Night With Mike Gousha exists today. That would be enough to send me back to whatever job all the naysayers in my life have pushed on me, my plan to avoid the catastrophe of success.