Defining Moments – Response to Peter Dinklage

Hi everyone,

What is a day job?

I know, a weird question to start with.  But that’s what I define as my day-to-day job, my work in I.T. that pays the bills.  My Day Job.

And I’m going to steal a quote from Peter Dinklage: “I hated that job, and I clung to that job.”  Except I’m still clinging to it.  And I don’t know how to let go of it.  I don’t know how…

Peter Dinklage Commencement Address

Image Source – speakola.com

A few weeks ago, my fiancee sent me this video, a part of a speech given by Peter Dinklage at a commencement speech at his former university.  And it struck a chord in my soul.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  In my waking moments.  In my dreams.  It’s a voice in the back of my head saying “these are the words you’ve searched for, they give voice to what you’ve felt for so long.”

Would you believe that Peter Dinklage was once in I.T.?  He was in data entry, and as he said in his speech, he hated that job, and he clung to it.  Like me, he clung to the job that gave him the freedom (outside of work) to live for himself, to not have to depend on others.  And yet, from the sounds of it, for him it barely even did that.

Until one day, when he was 29, he decided he needed to do something more with his life.  So he took the first acting job he could get, quit his Data Entry job, and went hungry for a while…but kept going.  One job led to another, to another, to another, until now, he’s one of the highest paid actors on television.

And in his speech, he pleaded with the college students not to wait until they were 29, like he did.

29.  I’m 33.  He did Data Entry for 6 years.  Counting my work study time, I’ve been in I.T. for 14 years.

Like Dinklage, who put on puppet musicals as a child and acted in school plays at least since the 5th grade, I’ve been a writer all of my life.  No, strike that: I’ve been a story teller all of my life.  Because funny enough, it was in 5th grade that I actually wrote my first story, but before that, I would tell anyone who would listen stories.

Clinging to the Job

Photo by Wayne Adams of Death’s House Productions

Ask any of my friends or family members, for the past year or so, my desire to leave I.T. and write full time has been stronger than ever.  I feel like my day job has been sucking the life out of me, and it’s only gotten worse.

There are days where I even allow myself to feel a little hopeless in that regard.  I feel like I’ll never be able to escape it.  I’ll never be able to write full time.  I’ll never be able to follow my passion, to do the thing that has given me meaning since I was a child!

How do I escape?  Do I take the plunge like Dinklage did, quit my day job, and just write and publish and try to get an agent, and hope that I land on my feet?  What he did took courage beyond all measure.

Yet to do something like that right now would go against everything I was raised to be.  Not that Dinklage was wrong, in fact I admire him for what he did.  But I’m in the rabbit hole too deep.  I can’t just throw caution to the wind and then go “oops, it didn’t work out right away, now I’m living on the streets until I can find a way to land on my feet.”

Whether it was skill, luck, or some combination, Dinklage was able to get through the rough beginning, and came out on top.  But let’s face it, that’s a rare occurrence in life.

…So yes, that means I’m afraid.  Terrified.  Of what?  Failing?

Yes…but what does failing mean?  Dinklage covered this in his speech, too.  He hated his job, he clung to that job, maybe he was afraid of change…are you?

If I were to quit my job and write full time, the chances are extremely high my entire life style would have to change.  Quality of life would definitely go down the tubes for a while, and who knows for how long.

It would feel like a step backwards.  It would be like all of my hard work until now was for nothing…

Would it be worth it?  That’s the maddening thing, I can’t begin to calculate it.  Just as I’m sure Dinklage couldn’t calculate it.  I doubt he had any idea he would one day end up being one of the highest paid TV actors.  Maybe he dreamt of it…but when he took that acting job…  It would be worth it if I knew I was going to come out on top and someday make just enough from writing to live off of, to pay the bills, to have a roof over my head.

Honestly, I’d love to sit down with him and talk, to ask him how he felt as he did it, what he thought, how long he pondered over it before he made his decision.  What was it that prompted him to take such a daring and dangerous course of action?  What got him through the hard times that followed, the doubts as he struggled to pay the bills as an actor?

Hmm…maybe that’s the question everyone should ask those who have ‘made it.’  Not “how did you succeed.”  But rather, “where did you find the courage?”

How do you learn to believe in yourself like that?  Because that’s also what holds me back…my self doubts.  I’m waiting for validation.  I’m waiting for my novels to be at least somewhat successful, as if to prove that I at least have a chance.  Does that make me a coward or prudent?

Honestly I don’t know anymore.  In the commencement speech, Dinklage says “The world might say you are not allowed to yet.  Please, don’t even bother asking.  Don’t bother telling the world you are ready.  Show it.  Do it.”

…I’m trying.

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

PS: if you’d like to see the full speech, click here.  It’s worth watching if you have the half hour to spare.

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