Once upon a time, a burgeoning young Hollywood director bought an 8,000 square foot Beverly Hills mansion. Only to immediately realize that he had made a huge mistake.
“There I was, standing in my house that my culture had taught me was the measure of the good life, standing alone in the entrance foyer after the movers had just left, and I was struck with one very clear, very strange feeling: I was no happier.”
Which, not surprisingly, he found quite puzzling.
This director of several successful comedies, including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Nutty Professor, Tom Shadyac went on to buy another mansion (this one at 17,000 square feet), before seriously downsizing, and moving into a mobile home (albeit the nicest mobile home I’ve ever seen).
Shadyac has a new movie out, a documentary called I Am, about his search for a meaningful life. And last month he spoke with Oprah about his journey navigating our consumer culture. (Click on link below.)
“It’s a conversation I know you all are having,” suggested Oprah. “Has the world gone mad? … It’s like we’re in this envious race to get more and more and more and are still feeling emptier and lonelier and more disconnected.”
“When I got that success,” reflected Shadyac, “I found it absolutely neutral. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good. It was absolutely neutral. It didn’t give me the things I had been led to believe it would give me.”
For Shadyac, his expectations of financial success intertwined with interpersonal peace is a story he’s heard told over and over again. Indeed, it is our dominant cultural narrative (money = freedom, as opposed to money = freedom of choice). And for Shadyac, that story was a lie.
“I think many of us are living inauthentic lives,” reflected Shadyac. “Authenticity means to be the author of your own life. And I think many of us are telling stories that have been given to us, rather than our own stories.”
So Shadyac sold his Beverly Hills mansion. “And when I let it go,” he recounts, “I became free.”
Free to be who he is, and to attempt to live his life as best he can. Which is still a lifelong process.