One year. 365 days. How can something that begins with so much potential end with so few achievements to show for it? I suppose perhaps I am not being fair. After all I have managed to pay down some of my debt, and my taxes. I was cast in my first equity play and become an EMC cardholder, performing for my biggest audiences yet. One of my plays got its first public reading in LA, I started teaching a young adults writers group that makes me feel really inspired, I did some commercials, won an award for a commercial I made, and have made some real nice friends. That’s not nothing. So, why do I feel so discouraged? It all goes back to expectations, doesn’t it? There are the expectations we fail due to our own lack of discipline and planning and there are the expectations we fail, though no fault of our own, simply due to how things shake out and the millions of variables that go in to anything that happens in life.
Yet, I’m feeling discouraged. A year here was all I expected it to take to be financially bounced back enough to return to LA. It’s not. It looks like at least one more year here is going to be necessary. I had this timeline of scripts (plays and screenplays) I wanted to get done and I haven’t finished any of them. I desperately have been trying to find a new job because for the last year I’ve worked 60+ hours a week, and written 30,000+ words per month (of medical blog posts), between my jobs in collections and as a freelance writer. The last thing this struggling actor/writer wants to do after all that is sit at her computer and write- but still, I have- not the big goals I expected myself to complete, but small bites of poems, short stories, one acts and short films. What I do want to do after all that, what I crave doing after all that, is ACT. My heart breaks everyday I don’t have a script to chew through, a stage to mount. Recently I auditioned for a play by my favorite playwright in the most beautiful theatre in town. Ever since they had announced it in their season last year I’ve been dreaming about it, though I doubted I would still be here to audition. Then, when it became clear I would be here, I started preparing for the audition. I prepared for a month, even though the audition was a cold read for a community theatre production. It felt terrific. I fought my way into this character that I had never understood fully before and I lived in that space until it became authentic to me. I visualized myself on that stage, as her. The audition could not have gone better. I lived it. Each time. I am almost never happy or confident with my work. This time I was. She was inside me. And I knew it was going to happen. I went home feeling utterly exhausted and fulfilled. I could rest. I could go to my crappy job, I could live in Missouri, I could make it to Christmas- it was all bearable if it meant getting to live in that world, finding all the beautiful nuances of her beating heart and bringing them life for others to behold and come to understand.
But, I didn’t get it. How? Why? I tailspinned. Hard. I had been great, they said, but it was my height that wasn’t; one of those one million uncontrollable variables. I didn’t want anything to do with the world anymore. I had given everything, but it still wasn’t enough. I guess a part of me sort of thought going out of the professional theatre scene and “deigning” to enter back into the community scene, one plus would be avoiding some that “looks” nonsense. It hurt finding out I was wrong, that even in community theatre, you can still be knocking up against those immovable walls beyond your control. I retreated, hid, slept, ate, slept, worked, shouted, cried, slept. Here I am, I thought, stuck in Missouri. Working a job I hate. Two years shy of 30. Single. With the same goal and passion I had at 5, at 15, at 25- to be a working actress/writer. I feel like I’m drowning a bit in quicksand, like life is passing by so quickly and how will I ever reach the place I’ve dreamed of all my life? I don’t like living in a small town in the mid-west. It is not “home” to me. In truth, nowhere feels like home any more. Not LA, not New York, not here. I don’t know where it is or when I’ll get there. And that’s a little scary to admit. The closest feeling to “home” these days is in that magical place- in character. Home is being able to do that work every day. But that is not a place you can move to. You have to build it or be asked in. For now I have less lofty goals to focus on- to pay off my debt, and build up savings so I can venture back out and find my next home. And I do think that is an important goal. Just terribly slow going, and not particularly fun or fulfilling at this time.
I’m sorry this anniversary is so blue to read. I guess, in truth, I just feel sort of lost and I’m having a hard time navigating my way out of it. What routes haven’t I tried? I know I won’t give up, there really is nothing else for me. It’s all I want. Recently I asked my friend if she thought it was better to know what you want in life and never get it or to never know. She said to never know is worse. I’m not sure I believe her, but then, I’ve never known what that feels like. You got any advise? Is it all really just a matter of reigning in expectations, keeping your head down, and plowing on come hell or high water, hoping one day enough things stick to the wall to keep you from drowning?
The inner Mom-alogue my Mom programed into my brain growing up wont let me post this “woe-so-sorry-for-myself” tail of clinging to my loses, without searching inside high and low and coming to terms with the positives. And there are always positives. The truth is I know that I am still very fortunate. Things don’t always/or even usually work out how we want and hope they do, BUT sometimes they do, and when they do- boy, then you know the real meaning of the words “grateful,” “fulfilled,” and “stupid-giddy-HAPPY”! And the story isn’t over when the girl loses her dream in the Second Act- No, every day you have a second chance/a fresh page to do better, improve skill, try harder, try different, learn how to try smarter, grow perspective, gain maturity, practice humility, and always keep fighting to stay grateful for the new day you’ve been given to try and try again.
I’ll leave you with this pep talk I wrote for myself on my lunch break only two months into moving back to Missouri. I hope you find some sunlight in your struggles today. And remember the sad/frustrated/depressed feelings are important and valid too- not to be clung to and dwelled upon, but to observe as a sign of what’s important to you and to keep getting up every day and fighting for what you want. Thanks for letting me share my year with you.