I’m writing this note to save your life. If my motives seem selfish, that’s because I’m you, and “you-gotta-listen-to-me” letters from your future self are by definition, a little self-serving. But you really gotta listen to me. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
The time, place, and manner of this note is on purpose. I considered catching you in first grade, right before you wet your pants at student assembly. But instead, I see you under the gaze of the crescent moon. I see it too.
See those mountains through your office window? You made that happen. The suede, not-leather, sofa upstairs? You let that salesman talk you into it. Your job, your friends, and your family. You have everything you ever wanted. And you don’t appreciate it at all.
Instead you are obsessed with fame. You have been since you were six. Maybe it started when dad brought home the Camcorder; or maybe the bug was inevitable. You always wanted and needed to be famous.
If I timed it right, today is the day that you actually do something about it. You finish that one-act you abandoned last year, and start sending out tapes. You get an audition. And another one. I remember this time well. I remember feeling the boundless energy and exhaustion that comes from creating one’s self.
And I hate spoilers as much as the next guy, but let me spare you some anxiety. You’ll book a guest spot on a major TV show, and it goes well. You get a recurring role shortly after that. After a lot of “right time right place” you’ll end up here. In the shade of a bent palm tree, next to a pool, under the houses on the hill, scribbling a note through time.
What’s it like here? Well, you can pay your rent, no worries about that. You live in Beverly Hills. You have no choice but to live Beverly Hills, because you can’t quite afford Celebrity New York and you’re too famous to live in a normal American city. (We tried and lasted two weeks in Albuquerque.)
You’d be surprised how little freedom you have when you start making gobs of money. You take jobs you don’t like to pay for things you don’t need. You have an apartment overseas you’ve only been to twice, because you have no time. Even though you pay some clever men to manage your money (hi Ira, hi Mike), you constantly feel like you’re on the brink of bankruptcy. Forget about swimming in your money like Scrooge McDuck: you only see a tenth of what the tabloids report.
Speaking of tabloids, they are your life now. You are followed around by photographers, because you are a celebrity. So you hang out with celebrities. Which sounds cool, but it’s exactly hanging out with rich teenagers, and we already did that in high school, remember?
Becoming a celebrity makes you hate strangers. Your face can turn ordinary people into snarling monsters who feed on selfies with you, no matter how you are feeling, no matter how down you are. Strangers beg you for smiles every day. You love it at first, then you hate it, and then you accept the bizarre normalcy of fame.
Because you aren’t just a performer. You are part of people’s lives. They believe they love you. Every day you have to reassure citizens as they hyperventilate in your presence. You tell them to “breathe, it’s OK,” and you can’t help but feel guilt for having this power.
And that’s just the ones that love you. Your detractors are not shy about their feelings. I remember complaining about how much email I got. Now you get 40 times that volume in hate mail. You say you won’t read the comments, but you do. You say it doesn’t bother you, but that is just another lie you tell to keep your soul intact.
So yeah, you can pay your rent, but turns out there is no amount of money that can keep your friends around. Everything changes once you are famous.
You start replacing the people that love you with folks that sorta kinda like you. Celebrities who have access to other people you want to have access to because of their access, et cetera. Eventually, your friends learn that don’t have access to you. And they will give up.
Before you ask, yes, you get to have some crazy sex with unbelievably beautiful people. Let me know how it goes. Are all your problems solved now?
I’m not writing this to undermine my life, I’m writing to highlight yours. You have friends that love and admire you. You have a family. And from what I remember (because drugs are cheaper when you’re rich, and you do them a lot), you have a job that you don’t hate. You were a writer, remember?
Well you don’t write much anymore. Your staff writers do a better job. You think they resent you. You’re on TV, and they’re not. You’re rich, and they’re not. But you’re jealous of them. They have lives. You have… an existence. Celebrity isn’t a status, it’s a pathology. The opposite of anonymous is socially radioactive. You’re walking lump of plutonium.
And I’m just so over it.
In my research, I found two ways to neutralize this existence:
The first is to wait it out. Embrace obscurity and move someplace like Bali for 10 years. (For this, you’ll need to get into psy-trance and grow a beard.) You’ve been to Bali by the way, and you don’t want to spend a decade there. You love routines too much, like walking the dog and getting beans from the local coffeeshop. You’ll miss your your view of the mountains and your not-leather sofa. And date night with Rebecca. Remember your wife? How long do you think she sticks around after you make everything but her a priority?
Of course this method doesn’t work. Everyone who’s tried it has failed. But there is a second way, that I learned from a shaman during an ayahuasca ceremony. (Dave also happens to be my personal DJ.)
This method involves two components, the plea and the sacrifice.
This is the plea.
Look out your window to the space between the peaks that always caught our attention when writing got too hard. See that sliver of cheese? I see it too: the exact same moon. I must make this plea and offer a sacrifice before the rise of this crescent moon.
I’m writing this note to save my life. Today, you’ll make the choice that changes your future and my past forever. You will move us through fame, fortune, heartbreak, emptiness, and loneliness. I am the stop at the end of the line.
(As I write this, it’s hitting me: you’re the only person I know and the only one who knows me.)
My plea is this: Blow the audition. Destroy those tapes. You’re not chasing anything you don’t already have. You are famous—to your friends and your neighbors. You already have fans: your wife and your dog. You ski when you want and get Fridays off. You write what you like. You can move through the world with freedom.
You want more, but I promise you, if you make it here, you will want less. On my today, I am ready to settle for nothing at all. There is nylon around my ankles. There is too much Ambien in my brain. My eyes are locked on the rippled dagger floating on the surface of my pool.
It is the moment of sacrifice.