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.