I never thought I’d be a teacher. I have the utmost respect for those who go into teaching as a vocation,
but I always felt that if I went into teaching it would inherently mean I had failed at my own profession. That since I had not been able to "make it as an actor,” I would have had to resort to teaching. And then, an opportunity came my way. I didn’t look for it or ask for it, it fell into my lap. A theatre teacher had had to leave her position at the school where I coach debate, and knowing I was an actor, the administration called on me. I resisted it adamantly at first. I thought to myself, “this is the beginning of the end of my acting career. This is when I start to settle for something more comfortable. This is when I forget my dreams!” The people pleaser in me had a rough time of it though: “they’re trusting you to do this. They really need your help. It’s only a few months.” So I caved and did it.
Today, a few months later, having turned grades in and cleaned out the classroom, I am changed. No, I will not give up on my dreams and start teaching, although the possibility was opened up to me. No, I will not settle into the comfort of routine and an assured paycheck (as much as the anxiety ridden part of me wishes I would). No, this was not the beginning of the end of my acting career. It was, however, the beginning of starting to see other options moving forward. Actors so often refuse to have a Plan B, because that means they are expecting to fail. In an irresponsible middle finger to fate, we proclaim we will be working actors one day, and disregard other possible avenues of professional fulfillment. The result in cities like Mexico City or Los Angeles - where, as someone in Lalaland once put it, “if you throw a stone in any West Hollywood bar, you will hit an actor” - is a population of largely unemployed actors trying to find their place in the industry. We resort to survival gigs to pay our bills and put the rest of our time into performing in local plays and student films, taking acting classes, and working out. All the while refusing to taking on more serious or fulfilling jobs out of fear of loosing sight of our main goal.
Today, a few months later, having spent this time with a group of talented, enthusiastic teenagers, I was reminded of why I got into acting in the first place. Listening to their reports on different theatrical world traditions reopened my eyes to the diversity of craft the world has to offer. Reading their ideas on how they would stage a play made me want to get back on stage and perform or direct. Discussing different theorists’s views with them awoke a renewed interest in acting methodologies and in experimenting with other ways of working. Leading warm-ups and workshops got me back in my body as a performer and theatre practitioner. My passion for theatre, performance, dance, writing, and creativity was reignited. Having taught, I found myself a student again. Such was my creative reawakening that a few weeks before it was over, I found myself weeping over anything in realizing that I would have to go back to the professional world again soon. The world of the working actor, where we are rejected ten times a day. Where we send out our headshots and resumes to the vast cyberworld hearing nothing back but an echo. Where we continuously take on small projects to improve our reel; spend money to get better headshots; rearrange our entire day to get to that prized audition; watch our food intake to avoid gaining weight; work out to keep our bodies in shape; meditate to keep our anxiety at bay. The world where we’re always ready to turn it on, but are actually only able to do it a few times a month, if we’re lucky. Just writing this makes me want to shrivel up under the covers. But we keep doing it. Because those few times a month, those minutes on set or on stage, that’s when we’re happiest. I was reminded of that happiness in working with my students. I was reminded that that happiness is also in the searching - for knowledge, for creativity.
Today, a few months later, I am still reluctant about taking on a job that will not give me the flexibility I need, but am more open to finding fulfillment in the work I do on the side. In an awful realization that life goes by, without stopping, without waiting for me to find the success and happiness I want, I have decided to allow myself to enjoy life a bit more. To give myself a break and allow myself to find jobs, activities, hobbies that I enjoy and that nurture my mind and spirit - all the while working towards my goals as an actor. One of my favorite college professors used to say say, “Live life: travel, go to museums, say yes to whatever shows up on your doorstep. That will make you a better artist, because you’ll be a better person.” Today, a few months later, I am deciding to say yes.
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