Nowadays when you ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up, they’re just as likely to say ‘famous’ as they are ‘doctor’, ‘teacher’, ‘ballerina’ or ‘policeman’.
But the desire for fame is not just a phenomenon of kids. All sorts of us (me included) hold secret desires to be famous. Perhaps it’s Bros‘ fault. Or perhaps it’s a more modern phenomenon influenced by Big Brother and Australian Idol and now the proliferation of cooking shows like Master Chef and My Kitchen Rules (you too can escape being an accountant and be a celebrity chef overnight).
Whatever its origins, many of us dream of being ‘discovered’. Whether it be a modelling agent thinking you’re the next hot thing when they see you at the beach, or the casting agent realising you’re ‘perfect’ for a movie (despite your lack of experience) or someone from a publishing company stumbling upon your blog and setting you up with an advance pay cheque for your first novel (and yes, it’s the latter, not the former or middle one that I’m guilty of. I may have my head in the clouds but it’s not in the stratosphere!).
The interesting thing is that most of us are passive in our desires. We sit around with little hopes in the back of our heads, but realise that most likely they are elusive dreams.
There are exceptions. Some people believe that if you truly want something, you will achieve it. But I’m not in that camp. Yet at the same time, with all the stuff I have been thinking lately, about time wasted not really living life but viewing it from a screen, and of being a creator and not a consumer, I’m kind of realising that “you’ve got to be in it to win it”.
To a degree, I’ve realised that nobody is going to come and pluck me away from the things in my life – and the things in the world – that I don’t like. Where once I held out hope for someone to ‘save me’, now I’m moving more towards the idea that I need to save myself.
But sometime I think that idea sucks.
I hate that we live in a society where we don’t take chances on people. I hate that a writer can’t send an unsolicited manuscript to publishers anymore. I hate that every job has a specific ‘qualification’ or degree you need to do in order to have the right to do it. Fair enough I want my doctor and dentist to be qualified in their particular field, but there are some jobs where people genuinely do have a natural talent and could do a much better job than the people currently doing them. But the system does not allow us to take a chance on them unless they have the right degree.
Working in the public sector makes you feel very ‘stuck’. Unlike private-sector land, there is no opportunity for promotion for the skilled or hard worker, and the process of ‘merit selection’ tends to be conservative. It’s not about chances, of seeing someone with real potential if mentored into the role. Like so many things in our fast food society, to get the job, you’ve got to have all the skills now.
I wonder how we can build in the opportunity to recognise those with talent other than the right university degree and the right job experience.
The bits that suck aside, I’m taking a lesson from the guys that sell the Big Issue – helping others help themselves.
Instead of life doing what it will to me, being a passive bystander, waiting for it all to magically come together, I’m going to be active in trying to do what I can to make a difference. Both for things I want to achieve personally, and for the things I see in the world that I want to change.
When I’m thinking actively about life every day, I’m learning more about myself as a person. Learning about what I actually like to do, what I’m good at, what I don’t enjoy and what I’m frightened of – and yeah, learning that I’ve got to be in it to win it.
And for me I think maybe I want to give this writing thing a go. It’s what I enjoy. And it’s what I’m good at. And for me it’s a way to also address the things in the world that bother me. And if I end up being able to reach a bigger audience, or write a few thought provoking things, maybe sometimes the pen will be ‘mightier than the sword’ and I’ll make a difference.
Odds are you’ll probably never see me on the best seller list. And I still don’t think that just because I want it ‘bad enough’ I’ll get there. But if you delve underneath the desire for fame, maybe you find a bit more about yourself and what you want to do.
Maybe I won’t go anywhere. Maybe no one will ever take a chance on me. But I’m going to take a chance on myself.
I don’t know where that’ll take me – probably not to fame and fortune. But the upside is that when you’re travelling, the journey is usually just as fun as the destination.
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/4789352849 with thanks to HikingArtist.