I think I’ve exhausted pretty much everything I know now about “Getting started in Voice Over”, but if you have been reading along and eagerly waiting for me to talk about (insert topic here) and I just didn’t get to it, shoot me a message and I’ll see what I can do to help.
Anyway, as we head into the Holiday Season, with Thanksgiving barely in our rearview mirror, I thought it was a good time to talk about Thankfulness.
If you live here in the USA, like I do, there is an awful lot to be thankful for. Honestly, if you live in ANY “first world” country, you likely have a lot to be thankful for (some of you MAY be thankful you don’t live here!). I’d like to take some time to talk about all the things I HAVE to be thankful for, and maybe some of them resonate with you too.
What do I have to be thankful for?
To begin with, I am thankful for my health. I’m not “a picture of health”. I have Type II diabetes, and sleep apnea, take medication every day for the diabetes and to help prevent another stroke like the one I had early in 2015. On top of that, as each year goes by (It’ll be 60 of them this month!) I find I have more aches and pains. My knees hurt, my back hurts much of the time and every time I walk a round of golf (which I try to do as OFTEN as possible), I find my feet spend a day or so squawking at me every time I stand up. As my dad used to say: “Getting old aint for wimps”. Well, he didn’t say wimps, exactly, but I paraphrase cuz this is a family friendly blog.
What I DO have
Access to modern medicine
But here is what I do have, health wise: Access to some of the most advanced medical treatments and medications ever. I have medication to treat my diabetes, so it stays in check and doesn’t further erode my health, and medication to thin my blood and control cholesterol that staves off another stroke. It’s necessary for me to wear a CPAP machine to stop my sleep apnea (and snoring) so that I don’t negatively impact my heart and brain (Did you know sleep apnea is a leading risk factor for heart disease and strokes?). Because of these things, I can say I am generally healthy and for that I am definitely thankful. After all without good health some of the rest is impossible to achieve.
A wonderful family!
I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family! To be sure I’ve lost many family members over time. My parents died within a year of each other about ten years ago. All of my parent’s siblings died before they did. My wife passed away four years ago in a motorcycle accident. I’ve definitely had tragedy in my life, as everyone has. I remain thankful for them, for the impact they’ve had on my life and how they all helped shape who I am today.
I have a wonderful partner in life, Karen, who is supportive and loving (and who puts up with me spending 12+ hours a day shuffling between the computer keyboard and vocal booth, and then when I’m not doing that I am on the golf course or off playing poker once a month. Plus, I have four wonderful children who I’m able to have a phenomenal adult relationship with, who live far away, but reach out to me regularly and who visit whenever they can. Then to top things off I’ve got two “new” kids (I hesitate to say step-kids…it seems so clinical and UN-emotional) who I love (and hope they love me). I’ve got a LOT of cousins I get to stay semi in touch with through the wonders of social media as well. All in all, I have a wonderful, loving family.
A great group of friends, old and new!
We just moved into a new home in March of last year, and the neighborhood is UNBELIEVABLE. Our neighbors introduced themselves to us at a neighborhood birthday party a WEEK BEFORE we even signed the paperwork to buy the house. It’s been so wonderful to feel like a part of a real community already. It feels like we’ve been here for more than a decade already. I’ve made some new golfing, poker and drinking buddies along the way as well.
Over the course of my life I’ve made some unforgettable friends through my military service and time working for the government after that. I believe if you can make ONE true friend in a lifetime, you know, the guy you can call at 2AM, who lives hundreds of miles away, and tell them you need their help and they come, you are doing GREAT. You know, the one who doesn’t ask any questions, just comes and helps however they can. I’m fortunate to have TWO…I won’t embarrass Don and Duby by going on and on, but I sure hope they know I will drop everything for THEM as well. Love you guys!
Moving on to my third career in voice over, I have become a part of the greatest group of professionals I’ve ever known…and I’ve known a LOT of professionals over the years! Initially, I thought I’d call some of them out, but as I started to list them in my head I realized they are FAR too numerous. Needless to say that my experience is: for such a competitive career field, the voice over artists themselves are almost noncompetitive altogether. From coaching, to mentoring to just asking questions in groups on Face Book these folks are ALL about helping others achieve some level of success along with them. It’s amazing and humbling to be a part of this wonderful group!
TWO (now three!) Awesome careers!
I was fortunate enough to be able to spend 20 years , zero months and 4 days (but who is counting), serving in the best Navy on the planet. Yeah, it’s hard work, long hours, stressful. You live in an industrial area that can untie and leave…and go all over the entire planet. When I joined, the motto was “Join the Navy, See the World”. And I DID. (Note they failed to mention that the planet is About 71 percent water, and the oceans are 96.5% of that. I believe I have seen every molecule of it). You are essentially sequestered (yeah, COVID lock-down has not been a struggle for me) in a floating tin can, 400-500 feet or so long, and about 50 feet wide, with 300 of your “favorite” people for weeks and sometimes months at a time. Long hours, tight deadlines and frayed nerves abound. But in between those times, you get to stop in some of the most beautiful places in the world, even if just for a few days. I was exposed to cultures I never would have been able to otherwise. And listen, you haven’t LIVED till you are dangling by a wire from the bottom of a helicopter being dropped off or picked from a ship underway! And let’s not even talk about high line transfer! If you don’t know what that is, here is a link from the TV Show Hawaii Five-O in the ’70’s. The ships and transfer were real, even though it was shot for the show. Talk about a thrill ride!
And as if THAT’S not enough…
The final quarter of that career was spent stationed in Naples Italy, one of the greatest cities in one of the MOST beautiful countries ever. Five years in Europe, with access to ALL of Europe easily and inexpensively was an amazing opportunity. The culture, the food, the architecture, the history…truly unbelievable. Listen, if you are reading this and are young and considering a career in the Navy…stop considering and do it! You won’t regret it.
All the comforts of modern technology
And I’m not just talking about my cell phone, computer and WI-Fi enabled smart television either. Those things, for sure, but here are some things I (and many of you!) have that you just don’t think about much: Electricity to run those things (that is consistent and reliable), drinkable water at your fingertips, Heating and A/C to keep you warm/cool, a solid roof over your head to keep you dry. Believe it or not much of the world doesn’t have those things.
A couple examples…
I spent three weeks in the Central African Republic one year. We were there to help build a school for an orphanage. I can tell you I was not prepared for the living and working conditions there, even though we were warned before we left. Just to give you a sense.
There was ONE paved road in the entire country, and it was paved because it was also the runway for the airport. Yes, when planes were taking off or landing, they had to clear the road. VERY few houses (if you could call them that) had running water or electricity. Essentially, only the very wealthy had those things, and they were not reliable. The infrastructure to support them just wasn’t there. The running water was not potable, so it was only useful for cleaning and bathing. The majority of residences in this country were made of tree branches, and consisted of a single room with a dirt floor.
If you were a LITTLE better off you had a one room, dirt floor house made of bricks that were handmade out of clay that you dug up in the yard, mixed with straw/grass, pounded into a form and then left to dry in the sun. Basically they built mud houses. IF they had some amount of wealth.
Nearly everyone cooked over an open fire outside. Each day the men would walk mils out to the woods to gather wood for cooking fires (and some to sell) and the women would walk a mile or more to a community well to get water for the day. EACH DAY.
Yet the people were some of the happiest, most thankful and generous people I’d ever met.
Even some “First world” countries…
As I mentioned, I had the good fortune to live in Southern Italy for five years. Let me tell you those were five fantastic years! But they didn’t come without their troubles either. We had running water, but not only was it not useful for drinking or cooking, it was reliant on snow melt in the mountains to be available. We needed a cistern in the garage that would fill up whenever water was available and then get pumped into the house. In the late summer months, water routinely did not trickle into the cistern and at one point we were without running water (a family of 6) for six full weeks. Finally, the military contracted with a company to truck water in to fill cisterns, or it would have been longer. On top of that, my entire house was on a 20AMP breaker. The MAIN breaker was 20AMPS. What does that mean? Well, in your house here in the US, you likely are on one (or more) 200AMP circuits. One plug in your living room is probably 20AMPS. In practice, this means if you are brewing coffee, you can’t use the microwave. Or if you are taking a shower and the water heater is on (they are on switches there because of this) you couldn’t turn on any appliance that had a heating element or motor. If you tried to do too much, the main breaker would trip. On top of ALL that, the entire electrical grid was just as fragile, and some main breaker somewhere on the grid tripped pretty routinely. It was not unusual to go for a day or two without electricity even without a thunderstorm to knock out power. But I wouldn’t trade a single minute of that time, and I’d do it again given the chance! I am very thankful for that experience.
But not everyone is thankful
Sure, today there is quite a bit of division in the world. From politics here at home, to wars, to horrible economies, to dictators to (lest we forget) a global pandemic, there are certainly enough negative things going on for everyone. And sometimes, it is hard to see the good things in our lives because they are obscured by the bad.
Does this mean we should ignore these bad things? Do we just turn a blind eye to racism, sexism, hunger, global diseases? No, certainly not. We should pay attention to these things, and more…and we should do everything within our own sphere of influence to reduce or eliminate them. But we MUST do it with the understanding that amidst all of these things, in SPITE of them, we still have a lot to be thankful for.
For me, I have a great deal to be thankful for!
So what does all that mean?
In short, it means if you can just look around you and find that someone loves you, that you have a place to stay, that you have food to eat and water to drink, friends to share life with…even if you only have ONE of those things, you have reason to be thankful. Thankfulness leads to happiness. Instead of having everything you want, it’s better to want everything you have, and be thankful that you have it.
Look around you, be thankful for the blessings you have, work to reduce or eliminate sources of frustration and anger. BE HAPPY.
Thank you for sharing, as the movie says…. and I quote “What a Wonderful Life”.
Gary Mason says
All things considered, it certainly has been for me!
Joshua Alexander says
Gratitude is a hallmark of our homes. I have four limbs still. Some people don’t. I can be grateful for my four limbs, if nothing else! But truth be told there is SO much else to be grateful for. Thank you for sharing a bit of your own gratitude odyssey, my friend!
Gary Mason says
Thanks for reading Josh…and of course you are at the TOP of the too-long-to-list people I am thankful for in this VO world!
Frank Dobnikar says
This was fun and interesting reading. I agree with all you said. You’ve got a great mind set to be able to be thankful for what you’ve got and not unhappy for what you want.
It was nice to be related to you (albeit stressed)
Gary Mason says
Thanks Frank…I’d say we are STILL related, but maybe not as closely. I’m glad to have re-made contact.
I have SO MUCH to be thankful for, and so much more than a lot of other people. When you look at things from that perspective, how can you fail to be thankful?