If someone had told me over 15 years ago that I would still be sitting here surrounded by recording equipment, wondering what the future would bring in the production business – I would have told them they were crazy. I also seriously doubt I would have taken the first steps down this long and dusty road.
I was anything but patient when I began my quest for voice over success. I really did believe that I would be rolling in riches and all things material after a few years in the craft. I didn’t know at the time how foolish those assumptions were and I certainly had no way of telling who and what I would be when time began to tick by. I didn’t know that years later I’d be sitting here counting my blessings and basking in the glory of riches made not of paper and coin, but surrounded by scant material items which reach just outside the lines of necessity . I certainly never envisioned myself as being happy with so little.
When it comes to money and wealth, I am not a rich man, nor am I destined or predetermined to be one. Voice over has brought me a significant measure of success and notoriety. I’m published in a few books and have some national credits. I’ve managed to build and run two very successful little studios, I stress the word little. I’ve been a moderately successful voice over performance coach and have managed to change a few peoples lives for the better because of my instruction.
Life and occupational pursuits have been pretty good to me, all things considered. But I am not a wealthy man because of it. I live in a little tiny house with my wife and a cat named Levi. I drove the same white, 1988 Mazda 323 from the age of 19 to 40, until I sold it to my nephew, who in short order turned it into a battering-ram for deer. My other car is a 23 year old BMW e28 and I keep it alive in the driveway with a tattered collection of wrenches, jacks, lights and WD-40. My wife’s car is running a close second at 17 years old and I’m the local physician for that one too, as well as the cars of friends, family and neighbors.
Auto mechanics was never a vocation. It was something I taught myself after being ripped off by the local Midas in my home town of Fairfax. They stole from me, abused me, lied to me and mislead me and I have never, nor will I ever forgive them. I decided to show them in another way, by becoming a pretty damn good mechanic and making sure another dollar of my money never entered their coffer. But that is another story. Although it does speak to my spirit.
I have witnessed surprise and probably a certain amount of disappointment in some of my students faces when they pull up in my neighborhood for the first time and realize that they aren’t going to some ritzy castle, or to a studio clad in leather and designer lighting with big fluffy sofas and a fully stocked kitchenette. I live in a blue-collar, working class neighborhood full of people from almost every corner of the earth. I have a hillbilly on one side who covets and continuously enlarges a mountain of junk I think he’s saving for the apocalypse, and a young El Salvadorian family on the other side who has adopted me to a certain extent and allows me to share in all of their parties and holidays.
My yard is full of rakes, shovels, coolers and barbecue grills, tarp covered racing tires and a plastic-covered pile of dirt encased in railroad ties that my wife and I quite loosely refer to as a patio… At least one that is under construction. Further back you’ll find hip-high piles of gardening buckets, compost containers and crab-cages for catching blue crabs in the waters around Maryland and Virginia. My house looks more like the set in the 90’s television series Rosanne, complete with a hand-knit Afghan, or shawl, draped across the top of the sofa.
This is a far stretch from the scantily decorated, artsy looking studios and houses you see in magazines and promotional pictures and is a really far stretch from where I saw myself being many moons ago when I began my voice over journey. The interesting part for me is that I never knew I would be content this way. There was a time in my past where I looked at this lifestyle with a turned-up-nose snobbishness that wasn’t too dissimilar to the way some fashionably dressed tart might look upon a tattooed, son-drenched, shoeless, shirtless man in cut-off jeans waiting in line at a 7-11 convenience store. Though I had no reason to turn up my nose. Who in the hell was I? Certainly not any crown prince.
I’m the son of a fireman and a secretary, nephew of a cop, teacher, artist and ex-flower-child hippie. Grandson of two military veterans, a Baptist and an insurance salesman. My family came here with little, rose to have a little bit more and then hit the brakes. We are not children of privilege, there aren’t any silver spoons and the majority of my childhood had me in knock-off name brands and hand-me-down clothes. Where on earth would I get the stones to walk around glancing at others as tawdry seconds? I’m not entirely sure – but I’m certain that some of it came from false pride and a desire to see myself as better, or at least better-off than others.
I don’t know where we get it.
Maybe we can we blame it on the media, or fashion? Maybe style? Societal cliques that we all learned about in high school? Or classicism?
I still can’t help but wonder:
What is it which compels us to want to stand atop one another forcing others to look up?
What is it that drives us to have as much or more than our neighbor?
What is it that drives us to divide and categorize ourselves into different tiers of desirability and presumed importance?
What is it that gives us differing physical and emotional responses to someone dressed in rags verses someone dressed in the cloth of kings and queens?
Why do we see people of any standing as any more or less of a person, and then find ourselves wanting to be more or less like them, rather than more or less like ourselves?
I’m not sure I’ll ever find an answer to those questions. But my discovery of a little humility along the way has taught me a few things about ignoring the impulses which lead me to staring down my nose at others in the past. I learned somewhere along the line that the only things I’d find living a life of comparing myself to others were misery, jealousy, envy and disenchantment. There will always be someone with more, or with less, who is stronger, or who is weaker. In some ways now I am more willing to bow my head when I think of some of my past feelings, opinions and assumptions about the world and all of the mythological joy and jubilation wealth and money are supposed to bring.
Though I have been studying, practicing and learning how to live with a deeper, richer, more humble understanding and tolerance for years now, the most lucid revelations came to me after I was able to fully digest the observations I had made during my first trip to the far eastern countryside of Turkey. Of the many things I witnessed on that journey, an event which completely spoke to my consciousness… was the moment I was welcomed into the 300 year old stone home of a local village woman.
The floor was dirt, but not dirty. The walls were whitewashed and slightly yellowed from time and fireplace smoke. Imprints of hundreds of years of fingers were pressed into the clay which filled every crack in the stone walls, fingerprints still recognizable in some of the patches. The craggy, arthritic roof sagged and quietly called out as if it wanted to moan and cry with age and soreness. A half-wall of thatch, rock and clay concealed a pile of firewood and farming utensils in the middle of the room. Light from an open door and a lone window were all that lit the room.
Upon entering the room I was awash in my recognition of the absolute absence of materialistic vanity. When our eyes met, she didn’t look upon me with judgment. Her smile was genuine and she didn’t glance around the room in embarrassment because of how she lived or where she was living. She thought nothing of it, for it was all she had ever known. She welcomed me in graciously, offered me a stool to rest upon and silently vanished into the adjoining room to make tea over a small fire in the fireplace. The fire had to be lit, so tea in the country was going to take a while.
In that room I sat silently observing, glancing at every detail and studying the contours and shapes of it’s construction. In a somewhat psychedelic nature the rocks, roof and floor gradually transformed into a mirror in which the shallowness of my material life began to reflect. Throughout a lifetime developing highly tuned, acute observational abilities, this was the first time I was able to so clearly observe my own behaviors and indulgences. I was fortunate enough to witness my past behavior clearly and weigh the the reality of the existence I had so carefully crafted over the years.
I began to realize in that very room that my life up to this point consisted primarily of longing and wanting for something more than what I already had. I had never realized how poisonous that behavior had been to my soul, mind and body over the years. Without warning I discovered just how small my lofty wants and desires were.
Those moments of enlightenment have set me on a path to return to the country for a near 2 month trek. I’ll be setting out on this journey with a little more than 15 hours in language training, a new HD camera and a mind more open to new people, new experiences, unseen cultural observations, flavors, textures and sensations which until now remain very foreign.
It is the current tapestry depicting my short time here on earth that I hope to further adorn. I hope that in some way I am able to enrich myself during this journey, not with currency, but with a richness that money can never buy. The richness of life that only comes with a deeper understanding of how in the dictation of my own narrative over the years, I have seldom stopped and attempted to effectively understand the struggle and journey of others who make do with a fraction of the things I possess – yet seem from a simple greeting in an old stone farm house to have so much more.