James Gandolfini passed away this week. Upon hearing of his passing on social media, I read the top ranked Google News articles written about him. His brilliance as an actor and as a performer, it was said from those close to him, came from a deep sensitivity, forged by a life filled with pain. You could see it in his eyes.
Kinda bittersweet. Struggle is a double-edged sword.
I realized that this is one reason I enjoy working with youth. I would say I even enjoy working with people my own age for the same reason. I’d speculate that probably half of the people, by the time they hit my age (28), have not yet experienced a deep and significant amount of life-changing pain, that it hasn’t yet soured their outlook on life. It’s very hard to work with someone that has no life left in their eyes.
It’s not that we die on the inside every time we face struggle. It’s not that if we do “die” that we die forever. It’s that there are times in our life when our eyes are filled with hope. One is a naive outlook with endless possibilities. The other is the result of a fighting spirit that decided to try again after temporary defeat.
Pain can take you in one of two directions: it can serve as a means by which you pay your dues – an initiation to the beautiful struggle that is adulthood, or it can cause the light to temporarily or permanently fade from your eyes, into an acceptance of common mediocrity – a life of quiet desperation.
And while it’s nearly impossible that anybody will ever avoid the pain that causes a part of us to die inside, there is a beauty in the struggle – like a diamond forged in fire.