It is too often in our lives that when we make up our minds to do something out of the ordinary, beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone, it leads to even greater things beyond our boldest visions when we made that original decision.
When weighing the different options that come with the territory we give up something in our lives to pursue what we love the most to do. A price is indeed paid whether large or small but a price is exacted from us somehow; leaving one’s immediate family, foregoing the stability of another career, etc. even though what may hold the gaze of one beholder may not enthrall another. Moving away from one’s family may be an adventure to someone else. You get the proverbial picture.
The price that I paid was moving away from my home in Hawaii, the close embrace of my close-knit family, and my beloved comfort zone. But the options before me at the time were quite paltry. I had been summarily turned down for a job by the only game in town, a company that shall remain unnamed but that did produce an all-CG film, “Final Fantasy”. I had to decide whether to stay in Hawaii and give up on my cinematic aspirations or to take the leap across the deep blue Pacific to stake my claim in the visual effects world.
Fear has a way of crippling your ability to make sound judgements and you end up at times trying to rationalize yourself out of a solid decision with irrational thoughts. I remember trying to make up every excuse not to move to California. Yet whatever mind games I came up with could not avoid the fact that deep inside I knew I had to go.
The fact that after settling in California it took me another 4-1/2 years to achieve my goal of working in visual effects does not matter in hindsight. That initial grand journey provided me with the joy of meeting the most wonderful and giving people and the fun and agony of riding steep learning curves while learning so many new things. Its ironic that within the 4-1/2 years I was still practicing architecture, I actually achieved a greater measure of success which I have to sadly say I was enjoying less and less.
When the day finally came one uneventful day in late 2003 that I received an offer from visual effects studio Rhythm and Hues (thank you Anjelica!), it unexpectedly shocked me into indecision. Again, fear had seized me. Luckily the gods looked favorably down upon me and that moment of panic lasted less than a few nanoseconds. My path presented infinite possibilities of pure wonder so I took a deep life-affirming breath and made the leap.
Little did I know how wide the chasm that I had to traverse but in time I grew new wings on almost a daily basis learning things on the fly that tested my abilities to no end. The jarring effect of making a career change in mid-flight eventually gave way to embracing all the challenges before me and enjoying every moment of it.
After gaining more experience over the next 2 years I encountered firsthand the mounting pressures of globalization; vfx work was moving away from our shores on such an unprecedented scale. After extended gaps in work I knew that I was still a newbie and in order to gain more seat time I had to go where the work was which at that moment was in San Francisco. And yes, fear reared its gruesome head once more but my desire to just work was stronger and reason prevailed. I reveled in the experience of just being there as I so love that city and I gained invaluable experience working with such wonderfully talented people.
My path then led me back to southern California and working at different facilities around town. Then the doldrums hit L.A. in mid-2006 and endured a 6 month period of no work. After the fourth straight month of unemployment only tempered by brief spurts of work here and there I seriously reassessed my situation. Somehow the prospect of going back to the grind of my previous career looked promising compared to looming darkness ahead. A former colleague from my architecture days was very encouraging and told me that sometimes one has to hold on beyond one’s limits just a tad longer to get the break you need. Two weeks later I get offered the chance to work in Montreal on a 7-month project.
At this point of reading I know what you’re thinking. No it can’t be, not again…not another fear attack. Yes, my poor reader, it happened again only this time it was deeper than ever. Of course the opportunity was the brightest blip on the radar at the time but to me Montreal was as far away as the moon. What are visuals effects houses like there? The culture was too different. Will I have to learn Quebecois French before I got there? And the deathly cold winters I heard about. My brain somehow went through the motions by rote and I accepted the job but I kept hearing alarm bells just like in those old WWII submarine movies. I swear I could hear John Wayne yelling orders above the din.
On the day I was to leave for Quebec while my best friend Manny was driving me to LAX I kept telling him to turn the car around and drive back south on the 405. He just laughed and held a steady course to make sure I got on the plane to Montreal.
I managed to make it to Montreal in good shape and it turned out to be the single most life-changing experience of my existence. While I gained confidence I lost so many fears and embraced change. Each day was filled with learning new things not just at work but also about myself.
My journey has been brief in comparison to so many of yours. But it has been a wondrous one full of unexpected delights. You never ever know where the current will take you when you first enter the water and it is best experienced when you stop resisting it and enjoy each unseen bend in the river wherever it takes you. It will take you farther than you ever imagined the moment you took the first dip; that’s what makes it so worthwhile.