yesterday i read a post by a young girl struggling with her mental illness and those dreams that never seem to become a reality.
the problem of pain is this: it weighs us down. the things most people don’t think twice about doing, it may take someone with a mental illness days, weeks or years to do. and when we finally attempt to do it, we might fail. we might fall. and it’s not that the “other” people don’t fail or fall, they do. they just get up quicker. when we fail or fall, it may then take us days, weeks or years to try again. what we see as failure weighs us down.
right now the film rudy is on tv. as a small child rudy would watch the notre dame games on tv with his dad and his brothers. he dreamed of attending the university. after 3 rejections from notre dame, his dream finally came true. and then he went after his second dream, to play football on the notre dame team. rudy walked on the team under the coaching staff of ara parseghian in 1974. he played his guts out and treated every practice like it was a real game. rudy never quit and won the respect of his team mates. it was this enthusiasm that eventually got rudy in the game. the movie rudy is a true story. rudy’s dream was real, the tackle was real, the carry off the field was real. the struggle was real. rudy was 5′6″ and weighed 165 lbs. he played on the field once. and that was enough.
a friend of mine worked on the film in chicago. he told me stories that rudy was an asshole and i cringed. but this was coming from a man, bitter and miserable, working in the film industry. a few years later my friend quit the film business. he roamed about the country for a while and then went for his dream. he applied to over twenty law schools. he received several rejections. this year he packed up his amazing apartment in chicago and found a tiny studio apartment in a small town, just blocks from the law school he is attending. he’s in his mid-forties.
it’s now the scene when rudy shows his father the acceptance letter into notre dame. his father is yelling, “my son is going to notre dame!” rudy leaves the steel mill where his father worked. where he once worked.
eight years ago i was working for my father. he owned a foundry. they made grey and ductile iron castings. it was a dirty place and the work was hard. i was his office manager and i was miserable. i saw an ad in the local paper. a universal film was about to start shooting in my town. i sent my resume with no experience…not even a video or commercial. the casting office thought my father’s company was a film casting company. once in the interview, they realized i had no experience. i did not want to walk away without the job. i made that clear. i told them it was a dream, a life-long dream to work on a film. they hired me. i walked away from that foundry just like rudy walked away from that steel mill. my father’s heart broke just a bit, but he was happy, so happy for me. i cast my father, he worked as an extra in the movie. on set, my dream was suddenly a reality to him and he cried. the movie was october sky. another true story of a man, homer hickam, from a small coal mining town in west virginia who dreamed of going to space. he dreamed of building rockets. today, he works for NASA.
did rudy ever want to give up? absolutely. homer? yes. my friend? sure. did i ever want to give up? most definitely. but we didn’t. and two of the above have a mental illness. imagine the feeling rudy must have had running out onto that field. imagine the feeling homer must have had that first day he walked into his NASA office. imagine the feeling my friend had the first day of law school. and i can tell you what it was like my first day on set. looking around, the sets. the cameras. the actors. the first time i heard “roll camera!” my heart felt like it was going to explode. that’s what dreams are all about. but they can be realities. you just have to keep dreaming and keep trying. and you must continue to get up when you fall.
i have no idea how we’re going to pay our rent or my health insurance. but i’m still dreaming. my swain and i are writing a script. i’ll send it to anyone i think might be interested. and then i’ll send it to strangers. it might not sell, people might not like it but i’ll give it my best shot. sometimes a mental illness will keep you on the sidelines. and that is OK. but know in your heart someday you’ll be on that field. even if it’s only once. and i’ll be on that field again, because like rudy said, i’ve been ready for this my whole life.