I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately, mostly because of a friend’s influence, although Doc has been encouraging it as well.
In regards to my theatrical career, there is one person who I believe owes most of the credit for my current circumstance: Mr. David Kriebs. He was the Production Manager for the Performing Arts Center at my college, and, on the first day of my first college Theatre Tech class, he uttered a sentence I will never forget: “We eat.”
It was his pithy explanation of being a techie. We get jobs. We don’t wait for callbacks. We don’t hem and haw over whether or not the casting director liked us. We work.
And, for the first time, I thought about theatre as a viable career. Nevermind that I loved to act, would later learn I had a knack for directing, and had been writing since age seven. With Kriebs’ one line, a seed had been planted. I could work as a techie for a living.
It doesn’t really matter that I didn’t drop my Math major for another year. I was already heading down the path, already set in the life I would live.
“The question to ask, before you chuck it all to go raise horses in the desert or climb trees for a living, is: why? Take a look at where you are, because on some level there was something about being there that you wanted. Some quality about it reflects some desire within yourself, and that’s why you made things the way they are…
It’s important to know what parts of our lives are subsidized by the habits and environments we cultivate. Because change is gonna happen regardless; it’s probably a good idea to only help it along when you’re sure it’s worth the risk.” – Gray, from The Danger of Desire, Love.Life.Practice.
The problem, though, is that I sat up a false narrative in my mind with David’s sage words. Techie equals job, pay, making a living. Acting equals maybe job, maybe pay, hard living.
I never gave myself the chance to be an actor, never gave myself the chance to explore that desire I had to be on stage, in the limelight, baring my soul for the world. Funny enough, my fears about relationships mirror my fears about being an actor: letting people in, letting people see me, raw, unfiltered, and their judgement that was sure to come.
Now, being a freelance tech, there are many reasons why I have kept this job. A big allure is the freedom. I’m never stuck at a desk, never bound by a steady nine to five life. FOMO, fear of missing out, haunts me at times. This job makes it less a likelihood. I won’t lose my job no matter how much time I take off.
But now, thinking about a life I am pursuing where I know I will be sacrificing so much freedom, so many events I would normally attend, doesn’t scare me. What scares me now is the thought of what I could’ve been if I had tried a little harder, made different decisions.
When it comes to medicine, there was something more insidious in my aversion of that path. It was my family, their influence, that pushed me astray. Two prominent female figures in my life, my mother and my cousin Ella, led me away from that dream.
I was in my early teens when once Ella asked me, point blank, “How would you feel if someone died on your table?” I didn’t have an answer to her question. In my mind, that meant I was not capable of being a doctor, because surely others had thought of this and knew how they would react, knew that they could handle it. I didn’t know how I would react, if I could take it, if it would break me. I still don’t.
But then there was the subtle nudge of my mother. Her example of being less than. Once, when I was young, mentioning wanting to be a doctor, thinking about following in my father’s footsteps, and her asking me to not say that. Somehow insinuating it wasn’t “right”, whatever that is. I don’t know if my mother was ashamed of her life, of her role that she played as the loving mistress, but I suspect whatever reservations she had she unknowingly tried to pass onto me.
And now I’m here, in a job that pays my bills but I do not love, knowing I could be more.
Now I am starting a journey of trying to be something else, something closer to what I imagined when I was younger, something closer to what I hope will be better for those around me and the world as a whole. Because soon I’ll be 30. And then 40. And then 50. And in the precious time I have on this earth, I want to be doing something I love rather than something I’m good at or something that is just safe.
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