How many motivational posters, slogans, and stories have we heard? Never quit. Don’t give up. Just do it. How many times did all those famous people fail before they succeeded? As much as that makes me feel better about my failures it doesn’t make me think I will be so lucky. Not everyone “makes it.” That’s a fact. If everyone tried as hard as these success stories, would they make it? No. That would be impossible. The very nature of “making it” is being at the top and of course not everyone can be at the top, because then it wouldn’t be the top anymore. WE ALL CAN’T MAKE IT. No one ever tells you that. Most of us won’t get to the place we want to be. What then?
A lot of this motivational advice comes from people who have made it. Of course they can give this advice, because they’ve made it. But what about those of us who have done everything the successful ones have done and we haven’t made it. It’s like those married people who tell the single people, “Just you wait, it will happen.” or “When you know, you just know.” And all you want to do is punch them in the face! Some things are just out of your control. You can’t just live your life waiting for it to happen. Every contented single person I know who would like to get married someday is living life, making plans without that certainty. Of course there is still disappointment when a potential relationship doesn’t work out, but without it a very happy and fulfilling life continues. Can I approach acting the same way?
In my career, I find there is a chasm between where I want to be and where I find myself now. When I recognize that that gap isn’t getting any smaller, I find it difficult to keep going. And how can I be content, keeping this goal in front of my face without being able to grasp it? Sometimes I feel like this:
Why am I doing this?
Lately, I’ve been really discouraged. Faced a lot of rejection. It makes me wonder if it’s all worth it. How much money have I spent on gas, classes, headshots (and the list goes on)? How much time have I wasted because I was trying to keep my schedule open for auditions? I’ve given up on having a regular well-paying job. I’ve made sacrifices (including missing weddings and not going on vacation) for this career and where am I? I’ve devoted years to this and I’m still only getting paid for MAYBE one show a year. The rest I am doing for free. The other shows that I get a stipend for barely pay for my gas. Why am I doing this? I had hoped to get to the professional level, but I feel very little progress in that area. Every time I think I might be close to that next tier, I get another “We went in a different direction” letter. Will I ever make it?
If I’m not making it, why do I keep going? I’m starting to question my commitment. I’ve told myself I would never quit. Is that just because our culture shames quitters? Is it just “fate” that is keeping me going? Acting seems to always find me. I can’t stay away. Yet, I have this love/hate relationship with it: I love the work; I hate not getting cast and it discourages me so much that I consider giving up.
I suppose that there are a few reasons why people quit.
- You don’t want to look like an ass (see above).
- You face resistance, fear, challenges and start to back down.
- You figure out that other things are more important.
Although #1 is true, I’ve had just enough nibbles on the carrot to keep me going. Yes, #2 has been tempting, but looking back I know that I have or can find what it takes to face them and break through. #3 is the kicker. This is what I’ve been sitting with all week. Is there something that is more important? For that matter, what is so important about acting? Would I continue auditioning and acting for the rest of my life if I never got paid another cent? Would I continue even if I never got into my goal theatres or onto my target TV shows? I need to know what I want in return. Is it money(because I’m certainly in the red on that one)? Is it personal fulfillment? Is it a contribution to the community at large? Is it fame?
An inspirational graphic by Bill Watterson has been going around lately. I love this idea. It is the the reason I haven’t pursued anything that I thought would make me a lot of money. I want art to be a part of my life no matter what. However, what if you give up all of these things that the world says we need, and yet you still don’t get those things for which you made these sacrifices?
It’s been a week since I wrote the first part of this blog. While I’ve been contemplating all these questions, I’ve been in rehearsal. You say, “You mean you’re complaining, doubting, and thinking about quitting while you are actually IN a show?!” Yes, yes, I am. You see, this show (not getting paid, at a fringe theatre) is not where I thought I’d be at this point in my life. Perhaps I’m greedy and ungrateful….Yes, I’ll grant you that. Even more reason for me to reflect on where I am and why I am doing this. This week, a few things caught my attention.
- When my director pointed out that this play is only happening because we all agreed and committed to making it happen.
- Through collaboration, I am still surprised by the magic that results.
- Story is powerful.
As I sit here, trying to explain what happened this week to give me hope, I can’t put my finger on it exactly. Some experiences are beyond words.
These are glimmers of why I starting doing this in the first place. Perhaps that is all I needed. Am I quitting? Not today.