Acting (a follow-up)

9 weeks.

Just over 2 months ago I was seriously and realistically considering walking away from acting and improv. Maybe forever, maybe for a year or two. It hurt. It hurt so much. Death of a dream and all that.

In that place of hurting and breaking I knew something had to change. That was my frustration. That I (me, myself) was the problem. Which I said in that post and people worried about me because I sounded (apparently) like I was super depressed (I was, sorta, but not in the dangerous way) or broken (I was broken). I didn’t say it well. I said it in a way that upset and scared people but I said it. (Take imperfect actions)

I cried a lot. I couldn’t stop. It felt horrible. And I prayed a lot. That felt horrible too. I said, I can’t keep on like this. I hurt too much. I’m not strong enough. I’m breaking. I feel it. Like a brittle tree I just can’t bend any further, I’m splintering. I’m not sleeping. I’m not exercising. I’m not writing. I’m working and working and stressing and being sick. I’m all worn-out. And I can’t keep doing this. I have no hope left.

I know not everyone reading this is a Christian and I don’t give a damn if you believe me or not but God answered me. Not then, no movie moment. For over a week I was there. For over a week I sat in my own sadness and I looked, really looked, at my goals and ideas and I realized that I was trying too hard. Which is weird. Because I am normally all over myself for not trying hard enough. But in some things it’s the letting go that matters. And I’m very, very bad at letting go.

(I need to work even harder at the work. I need to let go of the results. I tend to do the opposite.)

I realized that I wasn’t going to get everything. That hurt. And I realized a lot of other things that generally made me feel even more miserable.

Then I made myself go out to an event a friend had invited me to, get out of the house. I was still raw and still scared and still looking at walking away from it all after that run of classes was up. And feeling very anti-social.

That night I had a random, unplanned, completely chance in the sort of way that’s impossible to imagine, encounter with someone who works in the film/tv industry. She said I was perfect for a role she was casting. Absolutely perfect. As she blindly listed off several things that made me perfect for it (and handed me her card- this was a major house here in Chicago) I just stood there. The things she was listing off were some of the things that were preventing my success. Some changeable, some not.

(The things a talent agent had told me would keep me from getting work.)

The audition never happened- the role was cut.

I don’t care. 

(Well, I do. It was a “launch your career” sort of role. But that’s beside the point.)

It was God. And it was hope. And it was a relief.

Not a promise. I might never, ever get a single role. I might never act in anything. I might never sell a script or produce or ever make any money whatsoever from anything related to theater or film or tv.  

(Except I already have. It’s easy to forget that I’ve been paid for doing improv. Several times.)

Hope. That was all I needed. And from that came a realization that I didn’t say anything about because it’s easy to have a revelation that only lasts a few days and fades. But it’s been 9 weeks since that night and it’s stronger now than it was then.

I am the thing in my own way.

I was 100% correct.

I am what’s been holding me back.

Just, not in the way that I thought.

Not that I lack skill, that’s an objective statement. (One I can fix)

Not that I’m not suited for certain roles- of course I’m not. I’ll never be cast as the sexy lead, or even the cute best friend. That’s not how I read in scenes. (I think I’d rather be the cop or the murderer or the jerk anyway)

Not that people don’t like me. (Some don’t. Some do. That’s life.)

I realized that weekend- in between when she gave me her card and she emailed me Monday to let me know the role had been cut- that I had never once actually believed that was possible. I held her card and I had the realization that despite my occasional fantasies of making a living at writing and acting (these are tied together in my head), I never actually believed I could do it.

Never.

Yeah, I’d daydream about being interviewed on late night shows or flying to Europe to film but I never BELIEVED it. As much as I wanted it I never once thought it was possible.

(I thought I did.)

If you’d asked me, do you think you can make a living writing for tv?, I’d have said, yeah- of course. And I believed that. I thought I believed I could do it.

I didn’t.

I held that card that weekend and I felt something inside me wake up. It uncurled out of the bottom of my mind and only once it was there did I realize that it never had been before.

Belief.

Actual, real belief. That this is possible. I actually, really, truly, fully, believe that for the first time.

Ever.

It’s always been “I want to” and “I’d love to” and “I wish” and “One day” and “Maybe” and “If I can”. That’s how the voice in my head talks.

For the past 9 weeks it’s been “When I”.

That’s nice.

I hear you. I know some of you well enough to imagine that look in your eyes. The one where you want to be encouraging but you know that it’s easy to talk and hard to act. I get that. That’s why I didn’t say anything right away. That’s why I’m debating writing this now.

Hell, I didn’t realize the difference right away. It took a few weeks before I realized that the shift wasn’t emotional. I mean, it was in the moment it was filled with emotion. But my emotions have been all over the map since then for other reasons and this, this whatever it is, hasn’t shifted. It’s not a feeling. It’s… a worldview? Lifeview? I don’t know. It doesn’t need a name to change me.

(I’ve felt this happen before. It was when I was 12 and I wanted a horse and my parents said, sure, if you pay for it. It was unreasonable to expect and impossible for a kid and there were months (years) where all I had was determination-there was no visible hope. (At 16 I bought one.))

I’ve believed for years that I didn’t have emotions. And even when I felt them, deeply, I convinced myself otherwise. That I was defective. Actually, I learned (somewhere) that I wasn’t allowed to take up space (mental, emotional, physical, relational). So I didn’t.

(head full of lies.)

I decided that weekend to try to enjoy what I am doing instead of freaking out over what I am not doing. Ultimately, none of this is going to make or break anything- it’s just what it is. Nothing more or less.

With the belief that I what I want is actually possible I’ve quit fighting for it.

(Working and fighting aren’t the same thing. I’ve been fighting. It’s made me too tired to work.)

In the past 7 weeks, since July 1st, I’ve-

Told probably a hundred people that I’m a writer and/or actress. Without qualifying it or apologizing for it or rushing to assure them that I know how ridiculous it is and I have reasonable descriptions of myself too.

Admitted to someone that I thought her goal of running play seminars as a living was amazing and something I loved. Which I would have done before. Then I basically added, “Let me know if I can help you. I’d love to do something like that, and I’d love to work with you sometime.” Now, it wasn’t that straight-forward in the moment but I still marveled at my boldness that night as I lay in bed.

Been the main character in a friend’s video sketch . She was talking about them, she does once a month, and I said, “I’d really love to be in another sometime.” I’d been thinking that since I had a small role in one in Jan, but before I would never have asked to be in one. Then I did. And then she said, “Oh, yeah. I’ve actually got a role you’d be great in.”

Had several exercises in Meisner class where I’ve had genuine emotional responses. I mean, really felt something. And SHOWED it. I cried. In front of people. And got angry. Really angry. I sent a scene partner scuttling across the room because I scared him so badly. That felt good. And then I said, “that felt good”. To my class. So impolite. Which felt even better.

Signed-up for the two writing classes that I moved to Chicago almost a year ago to take. That I’ve been too scared to take because, what of I screw them up? 

Had an authentic emotional scene in an improv class. Improv. I was sad and scared and upset. It was the sort of thing I always thought wasn’t for me. Out of my reach.

Got a huge laugh in the same class. Without trying. I half derailed the scene where it happened because it startled me so much. I’ve always seen myself as the one who doesn’t really get laughs. And, that’s been true. I don’t get tons. Didn’t. The last 3 weeks I’m getting a fair share.

Finished, and posted, a fanfiction story I started 8, yes 8, years ago.

Auditioned for a big, audacious improv show. I got a callback. I’ve never, not one time, gotten a callback for a show. And now I’m in their 3 week intensive audition process. It’s going well.

Asked for permission to enter an acting class out of order. And I got it.

Signed-up for and am currently attending at out-of-state improv intensive.

Made several big decisions about the next year of my life. (Future posts)

Quit a job that I hated. I just quit. I didn’t wait until I had the excuse of another job or a move- I quit because I was miserable. No other reason. I took a proactive step to care for myself. Which felt real weird.

Scolded a homeless (?) man. He had it coming. It’s a long story- the point is, I’ve spent the first 8 months here ignoring him and keeping my mouth shut. Not to be polite, or out of compassion, or because I didn’t care. Not even out of fear. Rather, out of the idea that I didn’t have the right to have an opinion about the way he talked to me. (I never would have said it that way, not even to myself)

That post 9 weeks ago led the way to all of this because it made me SAY what the problem was. And then ask for help. And then I got help.

I’m still marveling over that.

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