Today I attended the memorial service for a beloved member of our studio and the acting community. And as it turns out, of many other communities as well. About a thousand people attended. On a work day. With three days’ notice. He was only 29. His name was Brad Piccirillo.
In just short of thirty years on this Earth, he had profoundly impacted the lives of not hundreds, but thousands of people. A rarity, many noted at the service—but it shouldn’t be.
I think it’s rare because fear is so prevalent. Fear of failure, of rejection, of embarrassment. Living under the burden of these and other fears doesn’t mean you can’t mean something to people, or that you can’t do good in this world, or that you can’t be happy now and then. Doing so, however, does severely limit the extent to which you can mean, do, and feel.
Now, if you don’t mind, or even if you do, let’s get personal. After all, this young man had a penchant for invading people’s personal space, and not one person out of a thousand remembered this habit of his with anything less than fondness, even admiration. In fact, it repeatedly was celebrated.
As a child, I believed more wholeheartedly, loved more openly, and took bigger risks. I was never an extrovert, and apparently was never one to reveal to others much of what I was feeling, but despite definite hardships that plagued my family—as they do all families—life seemed a whole lot simpler, happier, more carefree, more fun. Somewhere along the line, I grew up, and while I can trace the roots of certain fears, how they developed and even at times seem to envelop me isn’t clear. Nonetheless, I am, without doubt, fearful. Oh, I am strong. Always have been. I’ve had to be. Of course, a byproduct of that strength is a fear of weakness, and of vulnerability. I experienced rejection time and again, and because all creative pursuits require exposing your imagination, your personality, even your very makeup at times, each time you put your talents and training on display, you risk not just ridicule but also rejection. As we all are acutely aware, rejection hurts. It can be crushing, defeating, immobilizing.
Growing up, I was known to bring joy to a lot of people because I was a joyful person. Looking back over the past decade, I have difficulty thinking of myself as an overall joyful person. That stings, and makes me desire to hurl something at the wall, or to grow even more self-critical than ever (this valedictorian couldn’t even pull off a single college semester of straight As), or to throw up my hands in despair and give up trying.
Having gone through serious clinical depression, I can confidently assert that Franklin D. Roosevelt was accurate when he said that “the only thing to fear is fear itself.” In the icy, unrelenting, steely, morbid grip of fear, you cannot live, only survive. And, to quote Switchfoot, “we were meant to live for so much more.” We are endowed with enough sense, talents, willpower, and vision to accomplish more than we think possible. And to waste that which God has given to us is an insult, and the only real tragedy.
Losing such a remarkable spirit this week has led me to determine that I shall, from this moment forward, live my life with boldness. It won’t be easy, but if all things truly are possibly through Christ, then how dare I live in timidity? Living boldly puts one at risk of failing spectacularly, but it also makes possible glorious achievements. Either way, you make the history books. The problem with preparation is that sometimes we don’t know when to stop preparing and start acting. Preparedness is akin to perfection—there is no concrete definition for either word and, really, while you can constantly approach either, you will never arrive at either, because neither is an actual destination.
Perhaps you are like me: you get inspired by something or someone, feel motivated for hours or even days (if you’re really lucky, weeks), and then the high fades. Life happens. Some event, good or bad, interrupts that lovely, healthy new routine you had thought was just maybe finally firmly established, and a month later you pull a face at your reflection in the mirror because it hits you that you’ve succumbed once more to old habits. Then you attempt to look to where you want to be, but where you are looms large and ominous in front of you, rather effectively blocking your vision. Oh, all the things you must drastically improve, and immediately! Your diet, exercise regimen, finances, job situation, spiritual life…the list continues to pour out of you until you sit on the couch, eat a pint of Haagan Daaz ice cream, watch three movies in a row, and get to bed far too late for waking up early enough to get to work on time.
Stop being so gosh darn hard on yourself. There is nothing wrong with the way that you are, only with the way you sometimes behave. God created you just the way you ought to be, and behavior can be modified, changed, improved.
I can be serious, reserved, logical, sensible. That’s great. But I can also be silly, expressive, spontaneous, impetuous. I just need to stop reserving those latter qualities for special occasions and select people. Unlike our dear friend, I am not, nor will I ever be, extroverted, inappropriate, quick-witted, or outrageous. But that doesn’t mean I can’t impact people in the way that he did just by being me.
You can affect people just by being you. So, won’t you join me in my quest to become the best version of myself? Will you hold me accountable? I will return the favor. It will take some work, but aren’t people worth it? The older I get, the harder life becomes, but the richer and the more beautiful it also becomes. I have grown weary of darkness, inaction, laziness, fear, and timidity.
I want to be brazen. I want to be bold. I want to leave a legacy befitting a child of God.
So, let’s get personal. Let’s get real. And, to quote Switchfoot once more, “I dare you to move.”