Saturday, December 4, 2021

The American Dream is Alive and Well



Tara O’Neill

In the artful world, there are a lot of talented people who refuse creative careers because they’re afraid they won’t reach The Top. “You’re either Elton John or some hack playing in a Holiday Inn,” a young, exmusician once told me (the “ex” is his description, not mine.) For him, to dedicate his life to music and not reach big stage SuperStardom was to set himself up for failure. In the same vein, many’s the painter who gave up their brushes because they realized were never going to be the hottest ticket on the New York scene so what was the point.

Really? Those were the only choices? What about all that stuff in the middle? As in many professions, there exists choices for musicians, actors, writers, painters, et al, that, while lacking SuperStardom, offer comfortable livings and great personal rewards. Imagine another field that people would refuse to enter if they couldn’t be the world’s best. Medicine? Construction? Education? Hospitality? Sports? Goodness gracious, the country would come to a standstill.

I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with reaching for the stars, it’s the all-or-nothing fallacy people swallow that constantly amazes me. My musician chose a career in finance and does moderately well, but hasn’t tickled anything ivory in years, says he misses it but simply hasn’t the time. His career choices are perfectly honorable, but here’s the thing: he will never be mentioned in the Fortune 500, so why is he willing to accept relative anonymity in that field and not in one motivated by personal passion?

Why are the arts so intimidating? Is it the fragility of a creative ego? When artful people blithely tell me they never wanted to spoil their passion by turning it into a career I tend to scoff. Yes, occasionally I’ve been known to scoff. Not only does the argument not hold water, it’s leakier than my first boat. Who would not want to experience the complete joy that comes from being paid to do what you love? And what will we ever do better than that which we love to our core? Talk about a recipe for success. Perhaps it comes down to defining success. What is it you need to say, Hey! I’m doing okay! I love what I do and I’m earning a good living. Isn’t that what the American dream was supposed to be about? It certainly can’t be tied to the notion that if you don’t make your first million by thirty you’re a washout.

So to all you scriptwriters, copywriters, and journalists; you studio musicians, live performers, and commercial composers; you set designers, and chorus dancers, you working artists who will never make it to the spot light or the tabloids: Thank you for keeping your dreams alive, and for inspiring me to do the same. The world owes you gratitude for your dedication to your calling… not sure I can say the same for a great many of those SuperStars.


Tara O’Neill, a lifelong, award-winning, artist has been an area resident since 1967. She holds degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida and is currently represented by Blue Mangrove Gallery on Marco Island. Visit her at

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