Months had gone by and I still had no regular work. The bank account dwindling dangerously low. I was consumed with anxiety on a daily (if not hourly basis). Forward motion had come to a stop. I was doing anything, but addressing the issue, hoping beyond hope that some magical big break would come my way.
I would try to distract myself by taking the family out to eat or going to a movie, but would find my mind drifting during our outings.
We’re running out of money? What am I going to do? What kind of job can I get that will pay our expenses?
Then one day, while I was out, I had a very calm and gentle thought.
You need to go back to Disney
I was fortunate when I had left working for Disney. I had exited with grace and had not burned any bridges on my way out the door.
I started reaching out to a couple of friends who were co-workers and managers and asked if I might have a chance to return. They said it looked hopeful.
One afternoon I made a phone call to the head of casting at Disneyland. She was incredibly gracious and got me a part-time position in the park.
I was nervous coming back.
I had a lot of emotions returning to Disney. One was a feeling of failure.
I had left thinking that I was just moving on to bigger and better things. Now, I feared I would be met by fellow actors who would look at me disapprovingly and say sarcastically “Well, look who’s back!”
I did get some of that.
But mostly I was received with open arms by a lot of people at work. More than anything else, I felt some hope. I was given the chance to use my abilities and skills again.
I put my nose to the grindstone and took any work that came my way. Including those television extra jobs that I didn’t enjoy so much.
I was in a place where I couldn’t be picky about what I was doing. I was just grateful for anything that I could do.
Within a few months I started getting more work than I had ever had as an actor.
I was cast in more shows at the Park than before, and soon I was cast in more television commercial work than I had ever booked previously.
Something had broken through. Or what I should say, was that something had been broken… my pride.
In looking back at this experience, I learned several important lessons.
The first lesson: God uses periods of difficulty to strengthen us.
1 Peter 1:7 “…It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold…”
There were definitely times like this that I was being refined and tested. Junk from my life was being burned away.
Another lesson: The fruits of labor come from labor… pure and focused labor. I didn’t have a plan or support group in place when I launched out to do my own thing. Haphazard work produced haphazard results.
My final lesson: I was humbled. I’ve become very grateful for the work that I have received since then. All of it is a gift. Any day that I get to use my skills and abilities to help others, whether I am getting paid or not, is something to be grateful for. I can’t live a life comparing myself to other people and their successes because I have no idea what pain, suffering, sacrifice and struggles that they have gone through.
From my experience I know that when I make another shift in my work, I need to have other work in place. Some version of income coming into the house is better than nothing. If I find myself suddenly unemployed, getting some type of work immediately is vital. If that means being an Uber or Lyft driver, substitute teaching or working at Starbucks part-time, so be it. Part time work (no matter how small the pay) gives a sense of purpose and can serve as motivation to hustle and find the next thing that utilizes your skills best.
My inactivity, indecisiveness and lack of motivation stagnated me. I kept getting deeper and deeper into my hole and if it wasn’t for that calm voice of God suggesting what to do, I’m not sure what I would be doing today.
I am also in a different place today because I have surrounded myself not only with the support of Kate, but also with a key group of close friends. When I make changes in the future I will be able to consult not only with Kate but also this group that can call me on any shenanigans I might be getting myself into.
We are not meant to go through difficult periods alone and there were many times during my unemployment stretch that I isolated myself, even from my wife.
If you are finding yourself in a similar predicament I would encourage you to find whatever part-time work may be available just so you have a little bit of cash coming in.
This is not a failure. This is a season that you are going through.
I would encourage you to talk to several key friends that know you well and want the best for you and can help push you in the right direction. Talking helps.
I would also encourage you to bring God into the middle of it. Not only ask for His help and guidance, but take the time to be still and listen.
It was in that still calm moment that I received that prompt and direction and I am ever grateful for it.
Take heart, for as C.S. Lewis said “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”