What would you rate yourself if you were listed on Rotten Tomatoes? What about your life?
Would you give it five stars?
Four for effort, three and 1/2 for execution?
"It had a good beginning but lost me in the middle.."
Birthdays necessitate lists
New Years, milestones.. many life moments bring out the lists. Biggest accomplishments, best travels, top memories, worst hangovers, what have you.
As another birthday is here (no Facebook fake celebration messages thank you) I have another opportunity to look back and rate the different categories I've chosen to put my efforts into since the dark days. Various attempts to not bury my talents but to live well, to suck all the marrow out of life.
The "dark days" were my lowest point in life, around age 25-27, friends had mostly moved away, or were married and moved on. I was dealing with a car crapping out, a lost job the same week, and a mad scramble to pay rent and find a way to rise above what seemed like a La Brea Tar Pit morass of short term solutions that just weren't working. I was a domino on one of those huge set ups and the other dominos were unlicensed cars, uninsured cars, speeding tickets that had tripled, hasty relationships, hasty decisions, etc.. I hadn't had a girlfriend longer than a couple of months, I had a failed bike company and dreams of silk screening and filming 'something great' - I just didn't know what yet.
Possibly prophetically, since I hadn't yet set foot on a car lot, I viewed my life as an automobile test drive, with God as the salesman. I remember having conversations where God was showing me the features, functions, and benefits of my model. It didn't have a high top speed he would say, but was great accelerating off the line, extremely reliable, and didn't seem to care what the outside environment was, hot or cold this thing would get me where I was going, if I just learned to be patient. In short, I was the equivalent of a 1964 Dodge Dart, my first car with real character.
This car wouldn't die. It cost $600 and ran through three western states, to Yosemite and back in ice and snow, 110 degrees through Redding, and more beach runs than we could count. It required me to learn about it. To learn how to change my oil, to learn how to fix brakes - correctly. It smelled like the 60's - or at least what I assumed the 60's smelled like, and everyone loved it.
But God and I disagreed
God was selling me on me, and that's sweet and all but I was test driving life. And in my opinion, I was politely saying thanks but no thanks, this one's not for me. In fact I'd like to turn it back in - "what's your return policy" I was asking. That was why I was at the lot in the first place. Didn't God understand? I had test driven this life for 25 years so I felt pretty experienced, I just flat - out had decided that this life was not for me. I was done. I'd chased dreams, I'd chased girls, I'd made good decisions and bad, seen a few almost - successes but more downturns and (I felt) wasted potential. And I was adamant.
I didn't want this model.
What year is it again??
And just like fashions, sometimes life chapters seem to return as well.
The car issue I've figured out. I pay my tickets on time - or don't get them. In fact *knock on wood* it's been over ten years since I've seen those red and blues in my mirror. Which is a triumph of will right there. The college thing? Check. Returned and graduated with a 3.2 gpa.. and pretty proudly I might add. The chasing of dreams? Well I've reached and exceeded a few, enough to get the serious gut itch out on most of them. Travel? Check. Relationships? .. ugh.. we'll have to come back to that one.
So here we are.
Living on couches and taking old car road trips and new car film excursions had gotten this season feeling eerily similar to those dark days of '95 when I couldn't see past my dirty windshield. Good thing it was easy to see through the opening of the door.
But I do love lists
So this September 14th, as I'm still a man without a country as it were, I thought I'd do a quick run down of my major vocations since those dark days, and rate how they stack up. After all it was those darkest days that convinced me I needed to save up for some crazy old gold boat.
1. Buying an old convertible in Indiana - Five ✰✰✰✰✰
Pretty easy one to start with. The decision to save up, take the bus to work, scrape pennies and follow a dream through to it's conclusion - ending with flying to Indianapolis to take ownership of a 1966 Chrysler Newport was a VERY. GOOD. MOVE. And it's still paying off.
Going back to college at 30 - Four ✰✰✰✰
Another good decision. To return to the site of my first big quit, Biola University 2001-03. I only give it four because it didn't necessarily lead to anything specific. But don't get me wrong it was a great experience, a great challenge and no ragrets. Er, regrets.
Having a professional career - if fleeting ✰✰✰
Sure I had a job. A suit and tie. A little house. Even a cat. And yeah I was able to make a movie while keeping said job. But at the end it never led to anything else, and despite what I've been told women want, that period of stability was also the driest dating section of my life. Go figure.
Quitting a stable job and chasing dreams at 37 - Three ✰✰✰
I sure did what I set out to - mostly. I became an actual filmmaker, working on my fourth right now. I led a writer's group in Los Angeles and met Blake Snyder, and have shot two more docs for a friend. Maybe this gets three and a half or four but it's mixed with such periods of debate and questioning that I just don't know. It's in process.
Travel - Four ✰✰✰✰
Again pretty easy. The only reason my travels don't get five is because I always have to come back.
Hitting pause on my life to become dad's caregiver - Four ✰✰✰✰
Taking care of dad was of course mostly gratifying but still tough. I paused my life and when I was done found it wasn't where I left it. In fact it was nowhere to be found.
Solidifying John Olmsted's life and legacy - Five ✰✰✰✰✰
Can't complain about this one. Fighting Sacramento and then learning to work with Sacramento have both been blessings and satisfying moments of making sure at least people who want to know - know who John Olmsted was.
Starting a new stationery business from scratch - Three ✰✰✰1/2
I'm going hopeful on this on as it's still a work in progress. I'm feeling much better than I did a year ago, and I'm committed to cracking this little business open and turning it into a success. Or go down trying.
Filmmaking - Three ✰✰✰
Ok four ✰✰✰✰
Still a work in progress but finishing my fourth and have shot two others. Getting "The Story of Jug Handle" on PBS was a good coup, and making the Homestead Film now is proving to have been worth the wait.
Relationships - Hmm ✰✰1/2
At least they've all been really cute.
Soul searching road trip - Four Stars ✰✰✰✰
No complaints on this one. In 2016 I loaded up the Chrysler and took off like John Steinbeck - In Search of America. And I almost found it.
Making a film about Homestead Bicycles -
Five Stars ✰✰✰✰✰
That's a wrap
I guess that's it. The brothers are editing the film. We're arguing about titles. I've gotta come up with another few $$K for the composer and yeah I still need a place to live. And someone to share this with.
I'm not going to end on a forced clichéd high note, but it's not a downer of a birthday either. Sometimes it's just another year.
Except I just made a movie. So there's that.
Ok fine maybe I do need to lighten up.