Updated: Apr 19
I've been thinking a lot about uncertainty lately. Because I mean, really, what the hell do any of us really know? And I mean know with clear and total certainty? I'll admit, I think Christian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard was onto something, so I don't think any of us can know anything apart from subjective experience, which in itself has to regularly be questioned humbly doubted. So, hard-and-fast certainty seems problematic to me. But anyway ...
If you happen to have read some of my of my recent posts, you likely know I'm undergoing a bit of an existential metamorphosis as of late. You see, I've been struggling and battling my way toward the end goal of being a professional creative, a professional storyteller, a writer and filmmaker for many years. But until recently, I haven't been able to express honestly just how impossible this task ultimately has appeared to me. Admitting that this dream just might not work out felt too much like admitting defeat. Am I throwing in the towel? The one thing I was so certain about--that I would be a professional filmmaker and writer--has turned out to be anything but certain (should probably have seen that coming as an existentialist).
In the last several years I have tended to tell stories I find compelling because they are a form of exorcising my demons, or confronting my fears and doubts. I did this in my first film for Stories by the River, "A Silent Universe," where I pitted two parts of my own personality against each other and asked myself how I really feel about God. In my most recent short film, "Empathy O.D.", I ended the film with a shot of the very antidepressants I struggled so long with feeling comfortable being on.
There's one short film I've gotten to make that felt nearly impossible to put down on paper, and was a monumental task to produce, but that I think challenges me in one of the most significant ways: can I learn to live in the moment and embrace uncertainty? It's probably no coincidence that this existential crisis of mine was brought on by becoming a father and that my most successful short film in recent years centers on an honest conversation between a father and his adult daughter. I've been having conversations in my head with my adult daughter since before she was born.
"Parallel," was hard to write and make. It's also hard for me to apply. While I might dream up concepts and plots from fears and struggles, it is from my hopes that most of my characters are born. Henry might be talking to his daughter in "Parallel," but really I'm talking to myself, aspiring artist to father and husband ... "don't waste years of your life being bitter."
It's a lesson I'm trying to learn. But the thing about lessons like this is that they are really daily choices about how we see the world and how we see ourselves. Change is slow but worth it. The only real certainty is the lack of certainty. Will things work out? Will I be happy even if I don't achieve my dreams? I don't know. And that's okay. In fact, that uncertainty seems like the first legitimate step toward a happiness that isn't contingent on success. But it's a journey with no particular destination, which is why I'd do well to listen to my own characters more often.
So what ... what now?