What’s real? I came across four interesting things lately.
One was a series of before and after photos of actresses and models. The before was a Photoshopped picture of each person. They looked every bit as gorgeous as the public has come to expect. They were properly coiffed, tanned, and perfectly proportioned; not a blemish on their faces or a bump on their bodies.
The after photos were simply photos taken in normal, natural settings. They might have been wearing a little makeup but not much. Some were coming out of the ocean. Some were walking their kids. It was the kind of life you and I are used to: The grind without much glamor.
The second thing I saw was an article talking about the realities of some of the most alluring, sexy, and rewarding jobs in the world: Modeling and acting. The point of the article was to peek behind the curtain a bit into the real reality of these people.
Most models, the article said, don’t get paid very much and many times nothing for walking down those glamorous runways at fashion shows. Many of them get articles of clothing from the designers but, as the article noted, “clothes don’t pay the rent.” Many of the “reality” shows are scripted but their real lives are a true mess.
The third thing I saw was an article about actors’ income. It’s frequently reported that such and such an actor got paid $5 million or $10 million for a movie. What we hear about less frequently are the expenses that come along with that payday: agents, publicists, assistants, taxes, other expenses.
Also, the number of actors who even come close to making this kind of money is tiny, miniscule. This isn’t to say that clearing a few hundred thousand or even a few million a year is pocket change, but it’s frequently not nearly as much as we assume.
The fourth thing is the Academy Awards, which was broadcast around the world just a few weeks ago. The lights, cameras, red carpet, gowns and suits, makeup and hairstyles—it’s all very glamorous in an industry whose public face (the movies) is also pretty glamorous. Go behind the scenes for more than a few minutes on a DVD extra and you’ll see that the process of making a movie, from beginning to end, is a grind. It takes a lot of work—tedious, painstaking, often excruciatingly boring.
Here’s the thread I saw running through all of these stories: Much of public life is an illusion.
More to the point: Much of the life we frequently dream of is not even remotely close to what we think it is. Even winning the lottery, which requires no particular skill, inflicts no boredom, and demands very little time, has decimated the lives of most who have won big. Lottery winners usually end up more broke than they were before they won, and they have a higher suicide rate.
We dream about something bigger outside ourselves; we dream of being seen and adored by fans; we dream of luxury and plenty of money gained by glitz, glamor, and maybe a little work. It doesn’t exist. It’s a fairytale for some and a curse for others. So often when the dreams do come true we realize that there’s far less substance to it than we thought—and a lot more work.
This certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go after your dreams. Just realize that they won’t be handed to you, and they may not look like the fantasy in your mind.
Do some research about what you want. What is it really like? Then you can make an informed decision about whether or not you’re willing to do the work to go get it.