The following Career Dispatches essay was written by Brandon Kyle Goodman, a writer for Netflix’s “Big Mouth,” and actor who recently starred on the streamer’s “Feel the Beat” as well as the Amazon Prime anthology series “Modern Love.” He is “proud to be a nonbinary, queer Black leader and a staunch adovcate for Black lives.”
I had a professor at NYU once tell me, in regards to writing, “Sometimes cheesy is good!” Over the years I’ve come to agree, so here it is: Love yourself. I told you it was cheesy! But these two words have taken me decades to master, and when I finally got a grip on them, my career blossomed in a way that went against everything I planned.
If we’re anything alike, your focus is on productivity: “I need an agent”; “I need credits”; “I need my big break.” But nowhere in that is the need to love yourself. Celebrate yourself. Give yourself credit for the strength it takes to fight for your art, the fortitude to not compromise your dreams, the resilience to not give up on yourself. And baby, that deserves a parade. That deserves the award. An actor friend said to me once, “The journey is the goal.” When you’re so focused on “productivity” you miss the entire journey, and the “journey” is your life. You miss your life.
About two years ago, a few days after celebrating New Years, I found myself sitting at my dining room table at two in the morning, weeping. Not crying, honey, weeping. Sobbing. This fountain of tears was brought on by the realization that I was in an abusive relationship with my career. And I was the abuser. I expected my career to pay my bills, feed me, clothe me, satisfy my need to make art, fulfill my dreams of fame, buy me a house, take me around the world, give me power, acceptance, validation, celebration. When it wasn’t doing any of those things, I was bitter, resentful, miserable. My misery kept me in a cage unable to see my life—my loving partner, my phenomenal friends, and a brand new puppy. I was blind to it all. None of it mattered.
It’s painful to even write that, but it was true. So, I apologized to my career for the pressures I had placed on it. Then I let that shit go. Instead of productivity, I put my value in experiences, in experiencing the journey of my life. Its ups, its downs, its backwards, forwards. It sounds like a dance, which it is, and I began to trust my dance partner, which it turns out, is me.
Auditions mattered less. Booking mattered less. Success mattered less. Joy was finally what mattered. I’m telling you, anything that didn’t make me happy, I let that shit go. Which is an act of self-love. This new attitude shifted something in the audition room. Since I was enjoying the journey of my life, I approached characters differently, fully. I approached casting agents fully. The energy of “please pick me” was gone because I love me. I value me. I don’t need anyone to “pick me.” I picked myself. Booking a role no longer defined how lovable I was. That saved my life and created a new career. One where I get to be authentically myself, where I revel in my Blackness, I shine in my queerness, and activism is baked into the DNA of it all. So yes, it’s cheesy, but get about the business of learning how to love yourself and the rest will fall into place.
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