Living Your Dream

by Levi Ashlyn

“You’ve got to find what you love and that is as true for work as it is for lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you’ve found it.” – Steve Jobs

Most kids grow up hearing that they should be a doctor, lawyer, businessman, etc. You know: the people in the world that look like they have it all together.  When I was growing up, I don’t think I ever heard those words. All I remember hearing was, “when you grow up, do what you love.”  See, my parents both worked in jobs that they loved, but by the time I was out of middle school they both had to leave the jobs they loved for lesser jobs. You know:  the soul-sucking kind. They made it a point to tell me that life is too short not to do what you love. This was fantastic news — I had no pressure to do what anyone wanted me to do with my life. I had the freedom to do what I loved…except, picking out a career that I would love was a daunting task.

I mean, what do you really want to do forever?  Since I couldn’t make up my mind I decided that I would try a few things out first. Working at a factory was not it. Working in the corn fields of Iowa, although I love being outdoors — Iowa wasn’t interesting enough for a world traveler such as myself.  I decided to go to California to, wait for it…mime school. I quickly found out that I didn’t love mime as much as I loved performing, creating, and impacting the lives of those watching. Mime has all those things but it lacks one thing — words. Words are powerful. For me the mix between when to speak and when to be silent is, well, golden. Because of the lack of words I found my passion — acting, which uses everything I learned from mime but adds to it.

There have been a few lessons I have learned since jumping head first into what I love, enjoy, and pursue daily.

Doing what you love involves continued learning.  I remember when I was younger my mom would have to take these continuing education classes every year to be a paramedic. Now, did she complain about having to go to them? Of course. No one wants to spend money on what they feel they already know. Yet, every time she would come home having learned something new or something remembered that she had forgotten. I’m sure she was just a little more confident the next time she had to save a life. Now on a daily basis we might not be saving lives, but we need to keep up our craft. Just like my mom, we all complain about having to always be in class, yet each day we are in there, we are learning, growing and, well, saving our own lives.  Because the day will come when someone says, “Here is your one big opportunity,” and we will either sink or swim. Knowing that you’re prepared is going to give you just a little more confidence as you walk into a room to “throw it down.”

Doing what you love involves sharing. That’s right, the only way you can do what you love is if you’re willing to learn how to share your time with other things. That means learning how to share this love of yours with the love of your family, friends, activities, interests, causes, etc. This means knowing when to give a little more time to this than that.  Have other passions, other things that you can’t do without. Life is just way more interesting when your passions cross many different aspects of life.

Doing what you love involves risk.  I was a state high jumper in high school. Ended up holding the school record, but it wouldn’t have happened if I wouldn’t have taken a risk and spent time on changing everything about my approach to the bar my senior year. I had the technique, the form, the shoes, everything. The basics were there, but I had to change what used to work.  My approach from one year to the next had somehow changed without me knowing. I had no choice but to change things up, doing what I was doing wasn’t getting me anywhere. Same thing goes for acting. If your foundation is set, you’re good to go. It’s just that sometimes we have to risk and change up our approach to not only to our characters, but to the daunting task of getting noticed in this town. Out of those two we are used to tweaking a character, but tweaking the way we are marketing ourselves is probably something we never take the time to reflect upon. I don’t have any answers on what is the right way, no one does. So take a risk, see what happens. What’s the worst that could happen? Someone acknowledges your presence and says no. You’ve got nothing to lose.

Doing what you love involves sacrifice. I think the biggest thing we sacrifice is in our bank accounts.  I knew this girl who saved money by never buying food.  She told me that she would go out with her friends and just wait until they were done eating and would ask if she could eat what they weren’t going to. But she didn’t stop there, she actually got to the point where from time to time she would eat out of other people’s trash. You know, like unopened boxes of pop tarts, a five-pound bag of almonds and cookies, nothing really nasty or rotten, but she was saving money and this worked for her.  Now I’m hoping none of you have been so strapped for cash that you have eaten from the trash. In the same way we will scrape by on this or that, while we spend hundreds even thousands of dollars on things for our craft, our passion, to one day be able to do what we love. However, no matter what you are sacrificing for what you love, remember to have fun every once in a while and from time to time treat yourself to something good.

I can’t even imagine doing anything else in my life. If anyone asks what I do for a living — I am a doctor, lawyer, businesswoman, and so many other things.  It just depends on the day, because I get to do what I love, right now! That’s all that really matters.