I’ve never really known what I wanted to do for a living. Not as an adult anyway.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a few different things. When I was very little, I wanted to be an “artist.” No specific sort of artist, just an artist. After that, there was a long period of time when I wanted to be an “author.” Not a writer, I never used that word. I always said ” author.” I wrote voraciously as a kid. Not just on paper, but I also ‘wrote’ verbally. I’d take a walk or climb a tree and talk to myself in story form. And my next brilliant novel would unfold.
We traveled a lot when I was younger, which was an incredibly awesome move on my mother’s part, because it made me more well-rounded and also really grateful for simple things like the American phenomenon of ice cubes. I have vivid memories of being 11 years old, touring through various European castle ruins, “losing” the tour group so I could walk alone among the rubble and write myself into the story of the Princess and Prince who once lived where I climbed. I would talk my story to myself in an excited whisper that bounced off the stone and moss in the most satisfying way. I never got past the first few pages before we had to get back on the bus, but I could have stayed among those ruins for hours. Had I been permitted to sleep there overnight, besides being crippled with terror, I would have also been delightfully inspired.
I wrote (on paper) whenever I could. Short stories, chapter stories, children’s stories, essays, letters of all kinds. I won lots of contests for my efforts. I didn’t know how to type yet, so I hand-wrote everything. If something had to be typed up for a contest submission, I would dictate it to my mom, who would type it up for me in the morning before school while I squirmed in the chair next to her desk. “If I’m going to type this for you, you’re going to sit here while I do it.”
Somewhere along the way, the “author” dream was gently placed on the back burner for more exciting goals. Besides writing stories on paper or aloud, I’d also act in imaginary commercials or after-school specials aloud. In the shower, while making a snack, at the dinner table, I would talk to an invisible camera, pretending I was selling a great new brand of milk or shampoo. Sometimes, when I was feeling particularly creative, I’d narrate a harrowing mini-drama. It was usually something about how I was orphaned, lived alone on the streets for years, and was just recently taken in by a loving family who made me THIS hot, steaming plate of mac n’ cheese. (Show hot, steaming plate of mac n’ cheese to camera.) Those usually started out with a concerned, genuine, melancholy stare, a deep breath, and the line, “When my parents both died in a horrible automobile accident, I was left alone with no where to go.” I am not sure at what age I decided I wanted to be an actor, but once it entered the building, it stayed, much to the dismay of my very practical grandparents and half of my extended family.
After years of performing, auditioning, taking classes, being a performer at a Renaissance Faire one summer (yes), logging six weeks at an intensive acting camp another summer, I decided I wanted to spend a good quarter mil’ to study acting at NYU Tisch. (No mention of the family drama that followed that decision.)
And it was probably a year into the Tisch experience that I thought, “Eh. Do I really want to do this?”
I still loved it. But the business aspect of it, which is something most of us knew nothing of until our college professors bleakly explained it, really turned me off. I didn’t want to market myself constantly, pound the pavement just to get an audition, have postcards of my headshots made to send out to people who’d promptly throw them away. I wasn’t sure if I *loved* it the way they say you have to *love* it. Plus, by this point, I was a depressed, miserable, overweight, angry teenager. So I’m pretty sure nothing would have appealed to me. Even if I was training to be a TV Watcher, I probably would have second guessed the decision.
I dropped out of college, a fact mostly unrelated to a vacillating interest in my chosen field of study, and due more to a series of factors related to how depressed, fat, and miserable I was. I spent two years out of school, first messing up my life further, then cleaning it up until it was better than ever. Then I went back to college with the intention of completing any degree and learned I had no realistic choice but to complete my theater degree – anything else would have taken too much more time and money.
As life would and will have it, we don’t always have much control over what we love and I rediscovered a love for performing when I returned to school. Once I graduated I wasn’t sure what I’d formally do with my BFA in acting, and I also knew I needed to pay my rent. I’d been working full time while I was in school; the next logical step was to get a better-paying job and see where things fell, so I did. A few months later, my good friend Clayton got in touch with me about joining a sketch comedy group, and a few months after that, I started getting into the improv community.
And that brings us to today. I’ve been working to pay the rent and performing for fun since then. Comedy, rather than serious acting, is my preference. I rehearse and perform weekly with the aforementioned sketch comedy group, Harvard Sailing Team, and I also practice and perform weekly with my improv team, The Baldwins. Sometimes I go on auditions when an opportunity presents itself, sometimes I get paid to act in something, sometimes I act in friends’ short films or comedy videos. I have a feeling acting is always going to be in or around my life in one way or another. Maybe not, but maybe.
I enjoy it a lot. It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s relatively rewarding, and it can certainly feeds one’s ego at times. Plus, my best friends and my boyfriend are all performers, comedians, and artists. I know insanely funny, attractive people with mind boggling abilities and talents. If I had all the money in the world, I could organize the making of a most amazing piece of film or theater, just by asking the people I talk to every day to collaborate on the project.
But I do know, for whatever strange reason, that I don’t want to aggressively pursue acting as a career. I enjoy it, but it doesn’t excite me like it did when I was a kid. If someone handed me a starring role in a major motion picture, I’m not remotely suggesting that I’d turn it down. I’m not even suggesting that I’d like to stop performing or that I wouldn’t miss it a lot if it wasn’t in my life. I am, however, saying that to actively pursue it as life-sustaining work, to the exclusion of the other daydream jobs I’ve daydreamed about with you guys so far, doesn’t quite cut it for me any more.
I’m honestly not sure why that is. I just know how I feel. The idea of being a yoga teacher, a baker, a writer, a weight loss coach, a small business entrepreneur – who also performs comedy, is more appealing to me right now. Maybe that will change. Maybe I’m closing an already open door by being disinterested in pursuing my acting career. Maybe if I threw myself head long into comedy writing and performance I’d be surprised and delighted by the outcome. Maybe I’ll never know. Maybe I’ll find out tomorrow. Performing comedy is a lot of fun for me. But it doesn’t fulfill me. I know deep down that if I pursued and achieved a successful acting or comedy career, I’d wake up one day ten years from now and say, “What else. This is not enough.”
I really enjoyed my friend Phil’s responses in yesterday’s ‘payday.’ One thing he said particularly struck me. When I asked him if he’d rather a job provided him a big paycheck, or personal fulfillment he said, “If I needed a job to fulfill me personally I’d blow my brains out. When I leave the office, I leave the job behind me until the next day. If I could get a paycheck without coming into work, I’d live exactly like I do now, minus these daily visits to the office, and not miss it a bit. I have my writing, my comedy, my little woman, my friends. I’m more than personally fulfilled.”
I was so intrigued by that response. I really respect and envy about him that he feels that way because I…do not. I am personally fulfilled in some respects, yes. I have a healthy, happy relationship, I’ve achieved amazing, rare things in my young life, I actively care a lot about my health and well-being, I love my family, my cats, my friends, and my hobbies. But in certain respects, like how I earn my living, I am anything but personally fulfilled. And for some reason, those two things do intersect for me. I need for the time I spend in my day to be about what inspires and interests me. I sometimes wish I could be more like Phil and find fulfillment where it already exists.
My trouble is that I have very little tolerance, to a fault, for things that I find myself doing only because I am obligated to them. Like my desk job, for example. There is nothing wrong with obligation. It can be a very healthy thing. The problem arises when people continue to fulfill obligations that make them unhappy, uninspired, and sometimes even physically ill. People sometimes limit their potential to achieve the things that matter most to them when they work to fulfill obligations, big or small, just for the sake of fulfilling them. Life’s too short, the world too filled with people unapologetically doing things they love, not to reach out and live your life in whichever ways fulfill you.
So whether that ends up being comedy stuff, writing stuff, or just climbing-through-castle-ruins-whispering-stories-to-myself-and-getting-paid-for-it, that’s what I’ll do.