Today I took what, on the outside, may seem like a rather insignificant step, but, I’m hoping, it’s a step that has more long-lasting implications than what one might glean from the surface.
I registered for an acting class at Chicago’s ActOne Studios, the second acting class I have signed up for, having signed up for the other at the Piven Theatre Workshop in Evanston. It’s the beginning of what I see as an arduous and defining journey in my life.
I certainly don’t want to assign too much weight to it; for all intents and purposes, the actions of my life currently are as inconsequential as spitting in Lake Michigan. However, after coming home in May and facing rejection at every audition I’ve gone out for (a few callbacks, but nothing from those either), I realized I had to do something. I’ve been told that I have good instincts, but not enough formal training. All I have at this point is a job at a casino impersonating Buddy Holly and dealing blackjack. And that’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed the job itself, or the people I’ve met. But I’ve certainly realized that this isn’t my calling; it’s really the defining difference between “a job” and “a career”. What I’m doing right now is my job; signing up and taking these classes is what I want as my career.
The most difficult thing, not to harp on this point, is not having caught on somewhere (either in terms of going to graduate school or, since coming home, in a professional production); I keep reminding myself of a mantra a friend once told me that, in this industry, “you have to face a thousand nos before you get to that one yes” you’re looking for. It’s definitely shifted my perspective on how things work. It’s, in fact, quite the opposite of what anyone is led to believe in the first twenty or so years of their life, wherein you go to school, and then more school and then, if you work really hard and apply, more school. Game, set, match. Connect Four. Yahtzee.
The life a person faces after graduating from college (and I’m sure much the same for graduate school) is not the cut-and-dry sequence that we’re all presented with as we grow, mature and develop. That’s not to say that there’s a problem with structure, it’s just to say that there’s a problem with this kind of “pass GO and collect $200” mentality we’ve developed. If anything, real life is more like “pass GO and keep looking for that job” or “don’t pass GO, at least not yet”.
I’ve started to try to come up with a much more long-term view of where things are headed, where they’re going and what I need to do to get there. It’s the “long game” in every sense of that phrase. The way I see it, I’m going to take these classes, train for what I hope develops into my career, keep this job (both because it’s been quite a bit of fun and is definitely an interesting study in human behavior) and keep trying.
I just finished reading wrestler Mick Foley’s fourth memoir Countdown to Lockdown: A Hardcore Journal and, in his afterword, he says something that, where I am currently, speaks very deeply to me: “If I’ve learned one thing in life, one truly important thing – it’s not to allow anyone else to define what success is. We get to do that for ourselves.” And you can bet your bottom that, by my definition, success is going to knock your socks off.