I’ve been terrified to write this post because I know it will make what I’m feeling and saying real, which is why I need to write it. Every time I sit down to type I feel my heart start to race and my palms sweat. Here we go…
Let’s be honest, change pretty much sucks. Even when change is a good thing (which most of the time it is), it’s still scary as hell to venture into uncharted territory. But how do we grow unless we fiercely march into the unknown? It’s so comfortable to remain complacent. So cozy just to think and dream about doing things without having to actually do them. There’s no risk of failure in a daydream. With all its comforts stagnation is unsatisfying. Life periodically gives us reality checks that force us to confront the path we’re on and either trudge forward, or change the path.
My reality check came in the form of a gorgeous diamond ring. On October 11, 2012 my boyfriend of 5 years asked me to be his wife, and I said yes; but this post is not about our engagement. It’s about what our engagement has done to help me take a more honest look at my life. I’ve been dreaming about getting engaged to and marrying Brad for at least a year and probably longer. (Truth be told I felt that he was the one within the first 3 months of dating.) They have been lovely dreams. Dreams are lovely. Now those dreams are a reality and reality is, well, real! I catapulted into the transition of dreaming about a thing to actually living a thing and however magical, when dreams come true they can also be jarring. But as I said, this post is not about our engagement. My relationship with Brad is precious to me and I don’t divulge too much about it publicly. I’ll just say this. I’m madly in love with Brad and look forward to planning our future together. I’m grateful for him every day. No we haven’t set a date and no I haven’t started planning the wedding yet, so you can stop asking for now :). This post is about other changes in my life. The dream of marrying Brad becoming real invited me to take a good look at everything I’d been dreaming about, including my acting career.
Marilyn Monroe was quoted as saying “Dreaming about being an actor is much more fun than actually being one.” I know exactly why she felt that way.
Dreams are important but they must be based in reality and they must be realized through action. I wanted to marry Brad so I moved in with him, I adopted a cat with him, I shared my life with him, and I altogether entranced him with my female charms. I even joined AT&T for him! We took action to nurture our life together.
I wanted to go to Tahiti so I started this blog. I created a running and money savings plan to get us there. I ran a half marathon every year to keep my mileage on track. I opened a savings account specifically for this goal. I’m making it happen, and I LOVE every step of the way.
I wanted a creative outlet that would bring me some extra cash so I started Whimsy Do. I invented Bun Belts. I opened an Etsy shop. I created a marketing plan. I made a ton of new inventory. I made it happen and my little business has grown more and more with each passing month. I have sold whimsical hair accessories to customers in 15 different countries.
I wanted to be an actor. I have not pursued getting an agent. I do not go to casting director workshops. I haven’t gotten new headshots in 5 years. I haven’t put my reel together and I’ve had all of the material sitting on my shelf for 3 years. I don’t submit myself for projects. I don’t make myself look a certain way. I don’t market myself. I’m no longer in an acting class. Why haven’t I done any of these things that one is required to do if one wants to be a working actor? I’ve been ignoring that question since I moved to L.A. The answer is because I don’t want to.
I love to act. I will always love to act. I think I’m pretty good at it. I will never completely turn my back on acting. I am honored to be an active member of Theatre of NOTE. Theatre is where it’s at for me. I love it. I feel alive when I do it. However it’s hard as hell to make a living doing theatre. I fear saying that may come across the wrong way. I don’t mean to sound like one of those people who discourages the pursuit of an artistic career because it’s “not practical” or “unrealistic.” I don’t believe that. It IS possible to make a living doing theatre and it is honorable. However, there are certain things it entails. It entails being willing to travel around taking jobs in regional theatre. It entails perhaps taking a job teaching or doing some such other thing to supplement your income as a theatre actor. It entails relocating to a place like Ashland or Stratford to become a permanent resident of a theatre festival. These are all wonderful and viable ways to pursue a living in the theatre. They just aren’t for me. I have a life in L.A. I don’t want to travel around from job to job not knowing where the next job will take me or if it will come at all. I don’t feel called to teach theatre, though I greatly admire those who do. I don’t want to move to a little town like Ashland for as much as I love the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I don’t see that as a long-term life for me. I love doing theatre when I can here in L.A. I am so in love with my theatre company, Theatre of NOTE, and my fellow ensemble members. I was revitalized doing The Crucible. I got paid tuppence, essentially gas money, for these things and I’m ok with that. I’m ok with acting for love and not for money.
I began to ask myself, why didn’t I want to do film & television? That’s where you could make money, and that’s what I thought I wanted to do for so long. The answer felt simple in my heart but took more complexity to put into words.
I believe there are two sides of us that dream. The dreams of our true self and the dreams of our ego self. The true self is the voice in our heart that drives us down the right path. Brad describes this as a “God voice.” Joseph Campbell calls it “following your bliss.” In The Alchemist it’s described as finding your “personal legend.” Then there are the ego dreams. The dreams that are about gratification, about attention, about working through and satisfying neuroses, about complying with societal expectations. My ego wanted to be a movie star, my heart did not. I wanted the attention. I wanted to be the winner. I’ve never much felt like “the winner” in my life. I always wanted to be popular but wasn’t particularly. I always wanted to be the pretty girl but wasn’t particularly. I always wanted to be things that I didn’t think I was. Successful actors are winners, they are glamorous, they are the definition of popular. My ego longed for this because it would have been the final triumph over my insecurities and my neuroses. I have only now realized that there never was a battle to be won, only an ego to quiet.
It’s painful to admit all of this. I have to emphasize that this is MY personal experience with the entertainment industry. I in no way think that the reasons I’ve stated above are the reasons that people want to become successful actors. I know that’s not the case. They are just the reasons that I wanted to become one and they weren’t healthy for me. I’m ready to say goodbye to them. I’m ready to listen to my God voice, which has little to do with Hollywood. If financial success as an actor ever does come my way it will not be because my ego drove me there. It will be because I did what I passionately loved and happened to be lucky enough to, as Jason Alexander once said to my acting class, “step in the right puddle of mud.” In the meantime, I now asked myself…
So what do I want to do with my life? This is the new question that has spiraled me into several anxiety attacks over the past month. Interestingly enough, the answer to that question popped into my head almost immediately once I admitted that I didn’t want to pursue a professional acting career anymore. It just took me awhile to accept the screaming answer in my head.
Four years ago I started a blog called Peacock Stories. The very first entry in that blog sums up, well, what I want to be when I grow up. Here it is:
When I was a small thing, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, and it wasn’t an actor. Not to make a dig at my current ambition, but I think there are things left uncovered in childhood dreams. I bet you’re dying to know what it is I wanted to be aren’t you? Well, actually, I think I’ll keep you hanging for awhile and say more about the nature of the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s an interesting question isn’t it? As soon as kids are old enough to speak, someone promptly asks them the tell-tale question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m a babysitter, and I’ve done it myself plenty of times. I don’t think there’s really anything wrong with asking that question but when you analyze it a bit further (which I always do), why do we ask it? Why are we so obsessed with rushing through the carefree unpredictability of childhood? The world where you wake up one day wanting to finger paint the bathroom and you wake up the next wanting to dig worms out of the garden. It’s almost as if, in asking that question, we are starting to focus our children’s minds on the world of “being something.” I’m a ‘doctor.’ I’m a ‘teacher.’ I’m an ‘archaeologist.’ We’re starting to tell our children, “you have to be ‘something’ you know? you have to BE something.” Kind of a shame.
I am now an actor. Well, sort of. I’m not paying the rent with it yet, but I am indeed an actor. When people ask “What do you do?” that’s what I say, “I’m an actor.” That’s the ‘something’ that I’m working to become. But it’s funny because some days I wake up and I think to myself, SHIT, what am I doing? I’m not making money as an actor yet, I’m working for a restaurant, I’m living paycheck to paycheck, SHIT. I don’t feel like I’m ‘something,’ and I know that I’m supposed to be ‘something.’ It’s better to be ‘something.’ But is it really? Is that what life is about? Big philosophical question which I will save for a future entry. But the point is, maybe I wouldn’t feel such angst if I hadn’t had adults grilling me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I think I shall add that to the list of “ways grown-ups screwed me up as a child.”
Nonetheless, I’m happy on the path I have chosen. Being an actor is a crazy, tumultuous, rocky road; but I love it. I love the craziness. I love not knowing when something really exciting is going to come my way but knowing that it will indeed come. It’s somewhat manic, but extremely rewarding. Aside from the passion I have for theatre and acting, I have another desire that I have never been able to shake.
I have been haunted by my answer to that childhood question for much of my adult life. The answer is, are you ready, it is… a writer. Tah dah! Really exciting, no? I know, it’s not the most unique answer to that question but I have to tell you, it felt unique to me. It felt unique because I wanted it with such fervor. I was so determined. So ambitious. So passionate. I used to write storiesconstantly. Ideas just flowed out of me. Sometimes they were pretty obscure, but that’s because I had no censor, no inhibitions, my imagination was completely unleashed. I loved it. And I was certain that I could become published by the time I was 10. I figured, it couldn’t be that hard. I remember thinking, when I was about 8 years old, that I could easily write a story, color the pictures myself, send it to an editor and be done with it. Voila! Caldecott medal here I come! I strive for such confidence these days.
I wrote a story in first grade. I honestly don’t remember what I titled it back then but I’ve come to call it “The Magic Mushroom.” Psychadelic, I know, but it really is an appropriate title. It was a wonderful story which I think spoke about certain themes on a level that I hadn’t actually matured to yet but perhaps I knew about intuitively. When I told my boyfriend the gist of the story, he said to me, “You know, that’s actually really good. You should definitely write that down.” He’s right. So that’s what I’m going to do. With this blog.
I miss writing. And I wrote children’s stories, perhaps because I was a child, or perhaps because I could be as inventive as I wanted. I’m starting this blog to get back to my roots. To put pen to paper again. Because, I am an actor. That’s the ‘something’ I strive to become. That’s also my passion. I’m lucky that passion and profession go hand in hand with me. But once upon a time, the child within answered that gosh-darn question without any sense of society or responsibility or expectation, and she said “writer.” So that’s in there somewhere and I’d like to share those stories again. Enjoy!
Going back and reading that entry is telling. I remember writing it. I remember writing about being an actor and feeling false but writing it anyway. I remember thinking “it’s NOT really what I want to do,” but I was so in denial that I wrote it anyway. Writing. Writing is what I want to do. It’s what I want to be when I grown up.
I have a loud mind. I over-analyze and over-complicate absolutely everything. Ideas are important to me so I don’t want to numb out the activity in my brain. I need a way to express it all and the best way for me to do that is to write stories. I’m passionate about it. I now have a million story ideas bouncing around in my head. I want to start with picture books for children and who knows, maybe one day write a novel. I’m not sure where the path will lead, but I believe that I have found my personal legend. Expect my first book to be published within 5 years 🙂
In truth, the road ahead is unknown to me. My life has basically been flipped upside down. I am in the process of figuring out how to become something new. How to get to know a new industry. How to get involved. I know that it won’t be easy and it won’t always feel like I’m on some sort of divine path, but I have faith that no matter what it is the right path.
I have no way of knowing whether this passion will stick. In 5 years I may wake up and hate writing and decide that what I really want to do is become a park ranger. That could happen. But today, today I want to write, and I have already been more pro-active about becoming a writer in just one month than I have in the past 5 years of trying to be a professional actor. That tells me something.
I won’t stop acting, I promise. You can see me in A Mulholland Christmas Carol coming up at Theatre of NOTE! I’m excited about the prospect of pursuing acting projects that I’m passionate about just because I want to create them, not because they’re going to make me money. I’m not throwing my headshots aways . I’ll probably leave my Actors Access account active. I think I may still pursue getting a commercial agent just because it sure would be nice for one national commercial to pay off my college debt. In other words, I certainly won’t turn down work, but I’ve released myself from the pressure of succeeding in an industry that plays a game to which I don’t like the rules.
I’ll end by sharing a quote that Brad introduced me to, and that is hanging framed on the wall in our apartment. I could definitely learn some things about writing from Goethe. It’s ok, he’s got a few years experience on me.
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now. -Goethe-
I share all of this because it makes it real for me. Putting this out into the universe via the blogosphere is powerful. I also share it hoping that maybe I can inspire at least one other person to listen for the passions whispering in their heart. I believe the world would be a better place if we all did this. So get out there, and follow your bliss!