Sunday, July 20, 2008

"When you grow up, you can be whatever you want."

Were any of the rest of you guys told this when you were kids? I bet lots of you were. The thing is, my parents/teachers/loved ones thought they were being helpful and encouraging. I was a pretty bright kid and was encouraged, as are most, from a very early age to think about "what I wanted to be when I grew up."

I wanted to be an actress. I started saying so when I was three. I have no idea how I even thought I knew what an actress was, or who put this crazy idea into my head, but I've never let it go, at least not entirely. Reality has intruded upon my vision of what being an actress would be like. Six-year-old Red thought that it would mean fame and lots of money and a house like the one Daddy Warbucks had in the movie of Annie. My favorite part of this childhood dream is that it included, "Making enough money that Mommy* could get her nails done every week." I like having some proof that I'm not entirely selfish, a character flaw common to actors, at least some them.

I was always a good student. Not the absolute best, maybe, but I finished High School in the top five in my class and graduated college magna cum laude. I wish someone had told me that
1) getting A's is not actually a useful life skill. Being "smart" may not actually get you that far.
2) if I was really serious about being a full time professional actor, that should have been the thing I worked hardest at. When push comes to shove, I find myself more or less unable to work quite hard enough.

So I've spent my career thus far working in crappy office jobs and doing shows at night sometimes, with a couple of periods (once for 2 mos. and once for a year) where I actually quit my "day job" and went on tour for children's theatre companies. This isn't the glamorous side of show business, and I made almost less than no money doing it, but I did learn a lot. Not necessarily about acting, but about people, which could help me when I finally get around to writing a play. (This is now on my list of things to do before I die.)

I have a good friend from college who is in the Broadway company of A Chorus Line. (Actually, she may be done now, but that was her full-time job for almost two years.) Now, her family is richer than mine, so she took voice lessons sooner, and maybe she's just got a better voice anyway, but she's also got something I don't. She's incredibly driven to succeed in her career and she just refuses to fail. She's been lucky, and arguably she's always been better than I am, but when I think about her, I remember how she was always practicing dance moves - in the lobby, in the dorm, wherever - always trying to make her arabesque a bit better. She didn't take her first dance class until she was 15 or 16, you see, and she was always practicing to try to "catch up" to girls like me, who had danced since they were five. Again, she was in the Broadway company of A Chorus Line.

I had a somewhat crap day at my not-entirely-crap job on Friday. Nothing bad happened, but I got jack done. I've rarely felt less motivated, and I was just kind of blue. I actually get to do some writing and proofreading at this job, which is my favorite thing about it. However, I'm also working reception. I'm kind of a natural for reception, since I like talking to people when they come in and I like talking to people on the phone, but reception is a job for a 22-year-old and I'm quite a bit past 22. There were a few people hired the same time I was. I'm the only girl, and I feel like that's the biggest reason I answer the phone and the door, and it pisses me off sometimes. On the other hand, my boss is really nice and the money's not bad and in this economy I'm happy just to have a job.

No whining, though, right? I had a plan in the past, involving getting my Ph.D. and teaching, but that doesn't look like it's going to pan out. My new plan is to stay with my current job until after our annual meeting in September (In Chicago, if any of you guys wanna try to do a meet up) and then look for something where writing and editing is what I do, probably for the government.

I remember asking my Dad once how the way his life had turned out compared with the way he thought it was going to go. He shook his head and puffed air through his lip (in a unique my Dad gesture) and basically said it wasn't even close. But it's not bad, either. On my worst day, I've got the love of a wonderful family and gainful employment and good tunes on my iPod and (fingers crossed) the love of a good man and "the sun in the morning and the moon at night". EG sometimes accuses me, I recall him doing so in this space, of being a little too sunny. I guess I thought if I shared my dark clouds maybe they'd disperse a little. Thanks for "listening".

*N.B. This is not what I call my Mother as an adult; it's what I called her as a child.


lulu said...

I still call my mother "Mommy".

My life has turned out nothing like I'd planned--where is my husband? House? Perfect family? I live in Bangladesh for fuck's sake. But I wouldn't trade it for the world.

There are a lot of frustrated actors out there--many of us teach high school English. Just a thought....

Gnugs said...

I've upgraded to "mother," but only when I'm angry. And then it's prefaced by a blasphemy.

Life is never what we expect it to be, is it? Maybe I should take some pointers from you as how to act at the front desk, or at least some how to take it with a smile. So please cheer up, lovely lady. Life may not be what we expect, but the things that come out of nowhere are usually the ones we find we wanted all along.

Ok. that's enough hallmark for today.

Falwless said...

I love this post.

Flannery Alden said...

Amen to being "not even close" on where I would end up. Then again, I never could settle on a future for myself, which is how I ended up with a degree in Classical and Medieval Studies.

Red said...

Sometimes, it freaks me out how much your life is like mine (except I gave up on my acting dreams long ago). I mean, I actually do write and edit stuff for the government. Weird, right?

Flannery Alden said...

Writing for the government is a good place to be. Where else can you be involved so personally in changing things/running things/f-ing things up. It's very satisfying.

wileykylie said...

Different continent, but the exact same place.

Evil Genius said...

I am neither a Rock star, nor an astronaut. And my current career path isn't leading in that direction. This is a big reason I am now Evil.

Gifted Typist said...

I think that post is inspiring, accepting what is and appreciating it for what it is.

pistols at dawn said...

I always wanted to be an astronaut fireman rockstar center fielder for the Boston Red Sox as a kid, and I went 4 for 4, you bunch of underachieving losers.

Red said...

Don't know if anyone will see this response at this point, but thanks to all of you for reminding me that (Red at least will get this), "No One Is Alone."

Doc said...

The old adage about "life being what you do in between making plans" holds true.

At no point in my life did I see myself as a stay-at-home dad and working in the bakery part-time, but here I am. For what it's worth, I saw myself being a world traveler that always had a story to tell. Half of that last sentence I've lived up to, and I have never been anywhere.

When I made these plans, I also had a completely different list of things I valued too.

If you are looking for a nickel's worth of unsolicitated advice, you are doing grand dear, not to mention you have EG and that counts for a lot more than a ten year stint on Broadway. Look into playwriting, as I would love to read anything you wrote.


Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

"writing a play."

...sounds like a plan. I'd also like to write one someday, esp. a musical.