Earlier this week I was chatting with Jason Gilley, an old friend I’ve known since my Dibrell Elementary days. One topic of discussion was related to a comment from another mutual friend from Dibrell, Tim Bailey. Tim pointed out that of all our classmates he saw Jason and me as having really committed to chasing and living our dreams, whatever the cost. And sure, I suppose in my case, I definitely have achieved some of the things I set out to do when I was younger. I guess I didn’t realize that a lot of times the reality of living your dreams is a lot messier and less glamorous than the vision in your head that may have inspired you on that path.
As for me, I have wanted to be a writer since I was a kid and, sure enough, from my stint as a Cub Reporter for the Mini Standard 30 years ago to my current spot on this page, I’ve managed to get some work in print or online here and there. In the past eight years I even made regular money word-wrangling. It didn’t always pay at all, much less “well,” but it’s like the joke about the guy who cleans up elephant dung each night at the circus being asked why he doesn’t get a real job: “What? And quit showbiz!?!”
And in a way, that’s part of the path both Jason and I chose. I suppose if you do it properly, a writer is an entertainer of sorts and Jason, being an indy pro wrestler, is certainly no stranger to stage lights and applause. We chatted about how sometimes living your dream can be much more rewarding than scoring a high-paying job in a field you can’t stand. The romanticism of occasionally getting cheered as a hero, bringing people hope once in a while, that’s something that has both of us hooked.
Like Jason said, “I’d rather be a starving artist than a what-if guy.” What if I’d followed my dreams? Well, from experience I can say it won’t always be a smooth ride. Practically any time I thought I’d finally “made it,” within anywhere from a few months to a few years I’d find whatever future plans I’d built for myself dissolve like a sand castle at high tide.
But barely making it is still making it, and that struggle leaves you proud when you’re struggling, against all odds, in the name of your dreams. At first glance, perhaps the commonalities between a rural “rassler” and one of the Southern Standard’s resident reporters might seem to end somewhere after the shared schooling, but I’ve personally seen the joy and pride in the community that Jason provides and it’s not that far off from the kinds of smiles and appreciation that I and my colleagues here at the Southern Standard receive at times. Those little intangibles, that sense of pride in a job well done - those are the things money can’t buy.
Standard reporter Philip Fairbanks can be reached at (931) 473-2191.