High highs and low lows. And a lot of mediocre days. That’s what you get when you chase a dream.
Mine is to make a career out of comedy. In what capacity? I’m not sure. Writing, acting, teaching, directing… not exactly sure what I’ll be doing. But I am sure that I’ll make it happen. Here’s the reality, good and bad.
You’re going to be very tired. All the time. If you don’t have a demanding day job, you probably have a kid that is demanding. Or friends to keep up with. We’re all busy. All the time. Which makes dating and keeping up with friends really, really hard. When you have a free night, you just want to sleep (and you probably should).
You’re going to have to compromise and be mediocre at some things. With me, it’s work. I have a natural competitiveness and strong work ethic embedded in me that makes me want to work to my full potential in everything I do. But the reality is that no human can over perform in every arena and you have to pick and choose what you put your energy into. I work hard and produce high quality work, but I don’t go above and beyond. If I did, I’d be exhausted by the time I got to rehearsal and that would compromise my ability to perform well during rehearsal or class. You have to prioritize.
Find these people: a mentor, someone to give advice to and a really good roommate. Not a day goes by where I’m not incredibly grateful for mentorship. Having someone who has been around in this community for years investing in you means that you have someone to help guide you through this crazy journey. They’ve been there and are ready and willing to help you get to where you want to be. Having someone who comes to you for advice is a good way for you to sort out your own thoughts. Chances are, you need to hear the advice you’re giving. As for the roommate? Priceless. My roommates have so much faith in me, which is needed. They’re also the only people who know how hard I work because they see me (or a lack of me) every single day, which means that when I come home exhausted (or crying) they’re there to let me vent.
You’re going to be up against your best friends. To put it in real world terms, imagine if you had to apply for a job against your best friends every single week. Not only that, but every interview is a group interview. It’s very bittersweet. At an audition, I feel incredibly supported and excited when my friends are there. I work better with them. But after the audition, you have to learn how to deal with not getting the job and having your friend get it, or getting the job and having your friend not get it. Both suck.
But you have to remember that none of it is about either of you. It’s about the auditors looking for the best fit. Which means that you have to remove any and all emotion about the audition from your friendship. And from the way you view yourself. Auditions aren’t a way to feel validated – good or bad. Realize that early and it’ll save you a lot of stress.
As you start to get things, you start to feel like an impostor. Who am I to do this? I never thought I’d be part of this community. I remember walking into Second City for my first class, seeing people chatting with each other and hanging out. I thought, “Wow, that’d be really cool.” I thought that I’d come and take my classes, be told that this wasn’t possible, and go home. Now, two years later, if I walk into any theater alone, there’s a 90% chance that I’ll know someone there to watch a show with. I love every bit of that, and adore every single friend I have, but a huge part of me is constantly asking myself who the hell I think I am. I don’t think that’ll ever go away, but I’ve learned to tell myself to shut up.
There will be two voices talking to you – your brain, and your feelings. For me, my brain is what keeps me going. When I feel like an impostor, my brain reminds me that I work really hard and deserve the benefits. When I feel untalented, my brain reminds me that I’m too hard on myself and forces me to look at my successes. When I feel like everything is impossible, my brain reminds me that I just have to take baby steps, to reflect on how far I’ve come. When I feel like I’ll never make a career out of this, my brain reassures me that this is what I’m meant to do. I talk to myself a lot.
You can’t let a theater or a group or a person dictate your worth as a performer. Again: You can’t let a theater or a group or a person dictate your worth as a performer. One more time: You can’t let a theater or a group or a person dictate your worth as a performer. Repeat this to yourself over and over again until you start to believe it. I do constantly. It was one of the first pieces of advice that Jay Sukow gave me. I was talking about how one of my improv teachers told me that physical comedy is a crutch when I was a teenager and it devastated me because it’s my favorite type of comedy. Want to know what he said? You can’t let a theater or a group or a person dictate your worth as a performer.
The best thing that ever happened to me along this journey was not getting into Second City’s conservatory after my first audition. It derailed me from this ‘traditional’ path that I was on. It taught me that there is no single way to go about this. After not getting in, I signed up for classes at iO, took workshops and went back to writing. I didn’t keep re-auditioning, because I honestly didn’t want to be in the program yet. I stopped caring so damn much about feeling validated as a performer, threw away my ego and started to learn from a place of wanting to improve instead of wanting to be validated. Then, one random day about a year later, I realized that I wanted to go through the program and signed up to audition. Throughout the course of a year, I learned that I have to create my own opportunities, and I did. When I auditioned, I was assistant directing a musical and writing a show. I no longer auditioned with this feeling of “I need this to be successful” and instead auditioned thinking “I’m ready for this. I’d love to learn and be in this program and I know I’m good enough for it… but if I don’t get in, look at all this other cool stuff that I’m doing.” And with the pressure to prove myself out of the way, I got in. I’m now able to go through the program without the fear of failure and with the eagerness to learn and grow. If I got in the first time, I’d just be terrified the entire time.
So yeah, this is hard. And tiring. And scary. And wonderful, rewarding, breathtaking, magical and absolutely insane.
But always remember, you’re chasing a dream. How fucking cool is that?