Being a creative person, I grew up with the feeling that I would never be enough if I followed the voice in my head that said make this. No no no. Make that. Writing, photography, painting, baking, acting, dancing, sewing, embroidering. My hands were never not active. Trying to come up with the next great thing.
In college I was told to focus or I would never succeed. What's your type? What makes you marketable? Melt yourself down like candle wax and pour yourself into the mold.
So I beared down on my acting career. To wait for someone to tell me: yes. now it's your turn.
And all of that creative energy that used to be diverted out into branches was channeled into one singular purpose: become a successful working actor or become a failure.
I still dabbled in writing. Every few months I would churn out a couple of pages in a frenzy; unleashing whatever was currently running on a loop in my head trying to knock down the door and make it's way out of my mouth.
I would develop a roll of film here and there but over time it lay dormant on my shelf - its expiration date long gone.
If I was frustrated after a long week at work, I would splash a little paint on a canvas but they would take months to finish. Hanging on the walls of my apartment in various stages of completion. Taunting me in a way. Proof of my inability to finish anything; my acting career, or lack thereof, the ultimate unfinished project.
Essentially, what I was doing was creating walls for myself. Putting myself in a box as they say. Over time that box got smaller and smaller as the restrictions of what I could do got more extensive. Not tall enough for that part, not sexy enough for that role, not funny enough, not cool enough. Until one day I woke up and had to tell myself, 'girl. you're not not enough.'
But that laser focus. That inability to deviate from the path. It led me to playing it safe. To choosing the restaurant job because that's what being a working actor means. Wait tables, audition, and count the minutes until that big break. You make plans and expect to have to cancel them for the next job, the callback, the thing that might just be THE thing. I started seeing myself as just an actor. And if I was just an actor then was I more likely just a waiter because I spent most of my time waiting tables? And if I was just a waiter who acted on the side then what was I really? Where did my ideas go?
Then one day while I was making a cappuccino at work I had an idea that quickly turned into The Womanish Project and I ran with it. Mostly I just wanted to talk to other people and see how they were making their lives work. How they paid their bills and got through the days. What I ended up with was a heck of a lot more. The process of sitting down and having people share their intimate stories with me over the course of a couple of hours forced me out of my seat and opened my eyes.
It's disconcerting when the life you've built no longer fits and when you realize that what you've wanted to do for so long is still what you want to do but your acting career is not a lover you can depend on. It will show up when it wants to and disappear in the same way.
A few months back I said to a friend of mine that I felt halted in my life. That I didn't know how to progress because for as long as I could remember I've wanted to be an actor and since that wasn't putting a roof over my head I needed to figure out how to pay the bills in a way that didn't feel like a chore. I lamented that I didn't know how to do anything else. Or that anything else I could do was ultimately just as difficult to make money at as being an actor is.
She looked at me and said, "You're more than an actor. You're an artist."
Those words set up camp in my ears. They woke me in the morning and were the last thing I thought of at night. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't shake them so I signed up for my very first art class. They were still there so I took a career test. They were still there so I put a deposit down to go back to school in the Fall. They were still there so I reached out to a friend to inquire about pottery classes- a life long dream. And when they were still there, I realized that that's what being an artist means. Asking yourself, how can I be better today? All the while knowing that the question will still be there the next day and the day after that. That the bar of self evolution will probably never be met and you can live in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction or ride that creative energy into learning more about the world around you. That being an actor just means being a human and that being a human is simultaneously a heartbreaking and beautiful thing.