Check out your forehead. If you don't have a Harry Potter scar there (tats don't count!) you're not The Chosen One! I know you've been told from birth that you're special. You've been given trophies for warming benches... You've been told your doodles would shame Picasso; the stories you write deserve Pulitzers; your walk-on in the school play was a starring role but let me break it to you -- it was all a crock!
The truth is, you're no more special than anyone else. We're all special. We've all got that cosmic spark inside of us that makes us unique. It's our job to express that uniqueness in the best way we can and to do our utmost to make others aware of it. But there's nothing that says people have to get out of our way or genuflect in our presence.
In 1965 Bob Dylan sang "Advertising signs they con, you into thinking you're the one, who can win what's never been won, who can do what's never been done..." Nothing has changed. We're still being conned. In this politically correct world of banal equality, we're told that all of us are number one and that we all deserve the best of everything. We're told we need to dream big and that those dreams will surely come true if we just click our heels together and believe hard enough. And while those sentiments are great for Oz-ites, if the rest of us continue to rely on magical thinking to materialize our dreams, our rabbits will stay in our hats.
Back in the day, I watched Jimi Hendrix sing, "Are you experienced? Have you ever been experienced?" before he set his guitar on fire and smashed it over a 10 foot amp. Today, he'd probably be singing, "Are you entitled? Have you ever been entitled?" And he'd probably still set that fire and smash that amp.
Are you constantly late? Do you miss deadlines? Do you cut people off on the freeway while flashing the finger? Do you refuse to obey instructions, barge to the head of lines, smoke in no-smoking zones? Are you rude to waiters? Do you expect to travel first class even though you've paid economy prices? Are you angry you didn't get into your number one school choice? Are you disappointed that you aren't rewarded richly just on the strength of your potential? Are you amazed that people don't buy your excuses for sloppy mistakes? If so, then answer Jimi's new question with a resounding "Yes" and wait for that guitar fire.
Here's the latest -- life is entrepreneurial. You've got to actually do things to make it great. And lots of us don't want to accept that. We believe that just because we live in America, we've finished high school, we're nice folks, and maybe even pretty, that we'll reap rich rewards. Ha! Getting somewhere takes really hard work. That's true in the arts as it's true in any kind of profession. You've got to make good decisions and you've got to take responsibility seriously. And sometimes, even if you do those things, there are other people who will do better than you and get the breaks. Karma perhaps, but a fact of life. And a sad wake-up call for those of us who've bought the con that just because we're who we are, we'll be taken care of.
It's true that we're way ahead living in America. We do have access to things people in third world countries would never even dream of having. But we shouldn't coast on that. We should stop taking our American privilege for granted. More of us need to travel to some of the places that time's forgotten. We need to take a good look at them and then at ourselves. And guess what? We might not have to go farther than our own hometowns to do that.
Maybe if we get over ourselves and stop looking in the mirror we just might realize we're not special wizards, entitled to profound wizard perks. Finally! A cure for the Harry Potter Syndrome!
Marilyn Beker is the author of The Screenwriter Activist: Writing Social Issue Movies.
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