I always wanted to be a ballerina. So much so that I pretended to be enrolled in dance classes that my mom couldn’t afford. I bought a pair of pointe shoes and stashed them in my closet. I sewed on the ribbons. I tried them on. I would sit in them for hours, just marveling at how my legs and feet looked, tucked into the rigid pink boxes. I even had one of those aspirational posters on my wall, depicting a woman on pointe. Something about strength and perseverance.
It would be as close as I’d come to being a ballerina. I was an aspiring ballerina who never made it off the starting block.
And that’s why this word bugs me so much.
Aspiring: directing one’s hopes or ambitions toward becoming a specified type of person.
Hopes and ambitions aren’t action.
I hadn’t done a damn thing required to actually make progress toward being a ballerina, but I could don the aspiring label.
Every day, I meet someone who slaps the “aspiring” modifier on a vocation.
It’s usually a creative vocation, one where we’re told we’re lucky if we ever truly earn a living.
What we forget is that for all these vocations — we are because we do.
Each day, we take ACTION in these vocations but we fail to give ourselves due credit. What we are exceptionally adept at doing is discrediting the action we take to advance ourselves on our chosen creative path.
An actor’s JOB is to go on auditions. Take classes. Create work.
Getting the gig is frosting. You’re still an actor.
A writer’s job is to write. Get work out there. Become visible.
Getting paid to do it is frosting. You’re still a writer.
A musician’s job is to rehearse. Play music. Find a way to be heard.
Getting paid to do it is frosting. You’re still a musician.
What would you be able to achieve if you didn’t have the “aspiring” label hanging over your head?
What would you be able to accomplish if, instead of awaiting someone else’s validation of your vocation, you validated it your damn self?
When you do the work, create a body of work, and consistently take action designed to accelerate your advancement toward the next level of a vocation — you’re IN that vocation.
I would go months between paid acting gigs. Yet in between, I’d have a shit ton of auditions. Coaching sessions. Classes. That in-between time doesn’t mean I’m not an actor because I’m not getting paid to do it RIGHT NOW.
Just because someone hasn’t written you a check for it (yet/right now) doesn’t diminish your actions and accomplishments.
So today, maybe take that “aspiring” modifier off your pursuit.
Just BE it.
Own the fact that you are doing the work.
Aspiring is easy. By definition, it’s only hopes and ambition. Anyone can have hopes and ambitions.
You, my dear. YOU are doing. You carve out the hours before the day gig and after. You huddle-up with other doers and do this thing because you love it. You write because you can’t NOT write. You create because it feeds you.
Whatever you’re doing in the hopes that it moves from your side hustle to your main hustle — give yourself permission to be that thing.
Be a writer.
A jewelry maker.
You’re long past aspiring, brave soul, and it’s time to leave that word behind for those who aren’t taking action.
My ballerina aspirations — well, they’re long retired. I never took action. Life had other plans.
Someone who’s actually a ballerina would look at my “aspiration” and likely find it laughable, especially in comparison to the years of action an actual ballerina had taken. It’s possible aspiration launched their path to a lifetime of action. But they — like you — engaged in years of DOING THE THING. And even before anyone paid them to dance, they still danced.
Dance, baby. You are by doing.
***PS: Don’t go practicing medicine or fly a plane without a license or some shit like that. You’ve got to do the work, no matter your chosen path. Otherwise, you’re just shopping for shortcuts, selling yourself and everyone around you short in the process.
or for the NSFW crowd…