May 31, 2011

The New Job

[Just found this unpublished post from last year. Reading through it, I was happy to find that it still resonates with where I am now, which is encouraging. I may actually be on the right track. Still struggling, still broke, but a year wiser and with some pretty encouraging developments in the interim. -Beets Ed.]

Sometimes to my detriment, I'm not usually one to get all rah-rah about landing a role. That's what actors are supposed to do - land parts. You, astute reader that you are, have undoubtedly surmised by now that this is an exception.

I just learned today that I've been cast in an episode of a fairly popular cable series and I'm a bit unsure of what to do with myself at the moment. Thrilled? Yes, of course. And how quickly things can turn around (another thing that should not surprise and actor yet always does). Last week, I felt like I couldn't get arrested in Seattle. I had come up empty-handed at a bunch of auditions earlier this spring (including two for this very show) and the day-job market wasn't looking any more promising. Now there's this opportunity. I realize it's a small part, I also realize that it's probably not one of those career-jump-starting small roles either. But it's something, finally, where there was nothing.

I think I've been doing this long enough to quit pretending ego doesn't (or shouldn't) matter as a performer. Everyone's got an ego - it's our armor and our rudder, socially and emotionally - but an actor's ego necessarily needs to be extra durable to protect against our uniquely potent workplace hazards. For my part, I haven't tied my self esteem to acting or performing as is often the stereotype, but there is a very real and palpable craving to simply work. To be asked to do a job for which you are trained, that you enjoy and do well. There is no shame in wanting that, of course, whether you're an actor or a software developer or a ditch-digger. Mostly, I've grown tired of not working, and specifically, not working in my field.

I've spent the last year or so trying to re-tool my mind to accept the fact that I should be pursuing work that I'm good at, work that fulfills me and pays me and challenges me. The simple equation that dawned on me is that I have a better chance of succeeding if I pursue the type of work in which I have a considerable level of expertise and experience (HINT: it's not office work). As hard as it is to be a self-sustaining performer, and all things being equal in this crappy economy, I think it's a path worth pursuing, if only because the alternatives are pretty unappealing to me.

So this is simply, wonderfully, thankfully work. Celebrity is not the goal here, it really is the universal satisfaction of doing the job well. Since being unemployed, I've found that following my nose and making it up as I go along, while scary as hell, is infinitely more gratifying than trying to fit in where I don't belong.