I’m sitting in my new home in Los Angeles tonight going over the madness that took over my life for the past several weeks. Leaving a life behind in St. Louis for a new one in Los Angeles was an intimidating, albeit exhilarating undertaking.
As I hiked through Griffith Park for the first time today, the views of Los Angeles reminded me of a favorite painting: Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. In it, a single man stands atop a mountain looking out on a hazy and undiscovered horizon.
I first learned of this painting in an art history course during college. As any art major will tell you, it is truly an enriching experience to be forced to memorize over 100 paintings, the artist who painted them, and their year of origin. Had it not been for those examinations though, I may have never discovered Friedrich’s work. (You win this round academia.)
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so naturally when I look at the painting, I see myself. (See appropriated version above.) A young man who has reached the peak of his current conquest, only to look out at all that he has yet to conquer. For a fleeting moment he can look back and be proud of the distance he has traveled and the obstacles he has overcome, but that moment is short-lived. For in front of him awaits a horizon full of unknown challenges.
It motivates me to reach for that next summit in my career so that I can feel that thrill of achievement, but it also keeps me grounded in reality and aware of the big picture. There is so much more to experience; to conquer in life. What path will I go down next? Will it be the right path? What if it isn’t?
Since discovering the painting, it has become a constant reminder to stay focused. Even the name of the painting is fitting for a creative like me. It’s not Man Above the Sea of Fog, it is Wanderer. That simple detail makes all the difference. This man has clearly traveled a great distance, but he has done so on his own terms. He is a learned man, so he knows there is a time and place to be realistic and rational, but he will always follow the path that his heart has laid out for him over that which a map lays out. Does that decision always end well? No, but life is all about taking risks. The more we take, the more we learn.
I fear where my own wandering will take me. Despite currently working as an unpaid intern who is about to lose his health insurance, that fear comes with twice as much excitement and determination to succeed in film and television. Before he flew back to St. Louis, I told my brother just how scared shitless I was of everything. The move; lack of income; everything. He simply said, “Dom, I’d be worried if you weren’t scared shitless right now.” That oddly made me feel better.
Some family and friends back home saw the act of moving to Los Angeles from St. Louis as a mountain peak; a major achievement. I saw it as a swift river that needed to be forded in order to continue my journey. The timing had to be just right to cross, and I nailed it. (Good thing I had years of practice playing Oregon Trail.)
On to the next challenge.