Waiting for the fruit
One of my favourite pastimes is reading biographies of famous actors and actresses. Unlike the sophisticated among us – who purchase inspiring books from respectable book stores on successful individuals – I happily scroll for hours through Wikipedia entries on the latest soap stars.
Most of these entries follow a standard format (which I have come to love). There’s the predictable preamble about where they were born and who their parents were, their first pet and a little about their school life. After a reference or two to some famous connections, the introductory paragraph concludes with said actor or actress flying the nest to study acting at some institution or other. And then… Nothing. Utter silence.
In some cases this nothing can last for five years. For some it’s even longer. It’s this mysterious missing interlude that most fascinates me: where on earth were they and what on earth were they doing during this time? Touring in penniless productions, no doubt. Struggling to make ends meet. Auditioning for parts and generally trying to make it onto the ‘scene’. Slaving away to fulfil this dream that they know they are destined and cut out for.
I happened to look at Miranda Hart’s Wiki entry recently. We all know her as the loveable and now super-famous star of Miranda; she is hilarious and talented, writing and acting all of her own stuff, and a bit of a national treasure.
Born in 1972, her ‘big break’ didn’t come until she put on her own show at the Edinburgh Fringe, at the age of 30. Thirty! A good ten years of Wiki-silence. It’s hard to imagine now, but she probably spent years and years trying to convince people that she had something to offer, that her unique brand of funny really was funny, and getting herself into prime show-pitching position. Even after her show in Edinburgh it was a further six years before the pilot of Miranda aired.
Miranda’s story is fairly typical – it’s rare (according to my wide and extensive research) to come across an actor or actress who has left drama school and leapt straight into Hollywood. She toiled for a long time waiting to see the fruit of her labour. You can almost imagine the words of concerned parents and friends to the 28 year-old Miranda: ‘Don’t you think it’s time to pack it in and get a real job?’
I’m glad she didn’t. I’m glad she stuck it out. I don’t think I would have done the same. If something seems hard / boring / stressful / tiring / discouraging / unproductive or costly - I am often the first to say that it can’t be the ‘right’ thing. That it can’t be what I am ‘supposed’ to be doing right now. Surely – I say to myself – this can’t be my calling, can it? Anything I am called to will be easy and energising and successful and fruitful.
Perhaps – like Miranda – we are in a time of silence. We aren’t seeing the fruit of our labour, we aren’t seeing success in our youth work. We don’t see exactly why we are doing what we are doing, but have a vague sense that there is something in the future waiting for us. That we are on a path that leads somewhere, and that there is fruit in the future.
I encourage you to stick it out. We all need the courage and tenacity to wait for the fruit. After all, the world would be a poorer place without the hilarity of Miranda.
Phoebe Thompson is the deputy editor of Youthwork and spends too much time on Wikipedia.