The Movie That Inspired Me To Pursue My Passion
How a film inspired me to change my life
"Forget regret, or life is yours to miss...No other road, no other way, No Day But Today." - Jonathan Larson (1960-1996), from the Musical "Rent".
Remember when you were a kid and people asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up?
I'm sure lots of people said doctor - that's a traditionally popular answer among youngsters. Others state occupations like lawyer, cop, fireman, nurse, teacher, movie star, or even a player for the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Lakers.
During those years, whenever someone asked me that question, I always said that I wanted to be a writer.
I showed a knack for the written word at an early age, like when I ghostwrote a story told by a girl at a summer camp I was in at around eight years old, or when I won an essay contest from the Daughters Of The American Revolution in the 5th grade.
Although I did take beginning journalism and a few creative writing courses in college, and wrote for my college marching band's newsletter, my main writing outlet after graduation was keeping a journal. Not really knowing how to make a lucrative career, or even a living, out of writing, I sort of put it on the back burner to pursue the family business, teaching and working with children.
After fifteen years of frustration, disappiontment, and dissolution, it increasingly became clear that a career in education and working with kids was not for me.
The interesting part of this was that during my time working at various schools, and even when I was in school, ideas for books kept popping into my head. I particularly remember during my high school years an idea that came to me to write a book about my school's marching band (which I was a part of). It was to be called "Oh Boy!", after an exclamation often uttered by the band members.
I didn't go through with that idea, though. In fact, writing was essentially a mere hobby for me until one day in early September, 2006.
It was on a Sunday, I believe. I was watching one of the cable channels - I think it was Starz - when the movie "Rent", based on the Broadway musical, came on.
As I was watching those eight people in that film sing about 525,600 minutes and pursue their passions of filmmaking, music, dance, and performance art while dealing with poverty, drug addiction, relationships, and AIDS, something happened inside me.
The movie's story line, combined with the songs, moved and touched me with an intensity so pronounced and extreme that I was crying halfway through the film.
Now this was not a just-a-couple-of-tears crying; this was a bawling, wailing, burying-my-head-in-a-pillow kind of sob, something that I hadn't done since I was about nine or so. Being a movie buff, "Rent" affected me in a way that no other movie ever had.
How and why did "Rent" affect me so? I'm sure you're asking that right about now.
I think it was a combination of things. First, the fact that the main characters were around my age dealing with issues pertinent to my generation led me to having an instant interest; to being able to relate to the film that much more.
Then, there were the songs...not only did the beauty of "Seasons Of Love", "I'll Cover You", "Will I?", "What You Own", and "La Vie Boheme" move me to tears (as well as the rest of the music), they also served as an inspiration.
As I watched the Roger character sing about his "One Song Glory" and the rest of the cast sing about having "No Day But Today", the message came through to me loud and clear, like a first grade reading book: Be yourself, be proud of being yourself, and most importantly, don't put off following your dreams and your passion; Whatever you are going to do, do it NOW, or forever wish you had.
It was that do-it-now message, along with following my passion, that I took to heart, especially when it became clear that a career in education and working with young people was ultimately not going to work out.
In my particular case, that passion, that dream that I had had since childhood, was writing.
The following spring after seeing "Rent", I got busy on a book I had been working on for around three years, about my experiences coaching kids in sports and the most effective methods in doing so.
A few months later, right before Christmas and after spending up to ten hours a day on the word processor and enduring a fair amount of lower back pain, I finished the book. Although it's not quite ready to send to the publishers just yet, needing a bit of cleaning up and perfecting, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.
Around six weeks after my book was finished, and after some last-straw frustrating experiences at my after-school teaching gig that were the latest of several bad workplace episodes over the previous five or six years, I had finally had enough of doing something that I was failing at. And I was fed up with being miserable.
Inspired by "Rent" and its message, I quit that job and the education field and decided to "go for it", to pursue writing once and for all.
I looked at it like this - being 41 years old, my life is slightly more that half over according to the American male life span. If I was going to make a career out of writing and being published, I needed to do it RIGHT NOW.
So here I am, following my childhood dream of being a published author and article writer.
While I haven't exactly achieved Alex Haley or J.K. Rowling - level status, I have had some articles published on a few websites; it's certainly a start. And I've been sending some of my stuff to other web magazines and blogs as well.
One could say that I am living a bohemian life in a sense - I have next to nothing in the bank, and if it was not for my mother's support who knows where I would be.
But that's OK, though. While it hasn't proved to be a lucrative career as of yet, writing has proved to be something I enjoy, that I have been told I'm good at, and where my career truly lies.
Being that "Rent" was largely responsible for inspiring me to pursue what has become my new life's work, the lyrics of that movie's last song come to mind when it comes to my motivation for being a "word artist", as I like to put it:
"There's only now, there's only here...Give in to love, or live in fear...No other time, no other way...No Day But Today!"
No day but today, indeed. I think that sums it up.