Since my trip to LA I have been asked how the acting is going. Did I have any progress whilst I was there? What next? Did anything life changing happen? And I completely get it. I understand that friends and family are intrigued. It's a curious business. It's full of unanswerable questions and untangible results. It takes fearless determination and whole hearted acceptance of NOT being in the right place at the right time more often than not. You are going against the grain, the expected, the thing you are meant to do. Sometimes you feel existentially powerful in making the choice to fight for this career and sometimes you feel discernibly weak and insecure for staying in a business that can so easily hurt your soul. If you let it.
It's hard when people ask you questions that you can only half answer. Or that you cannot answer at all or you fear the answers will be terribly disappointing to the one asking, or worse still, disappointing to yourself. You could answer with answers that may offend people, that may have people disagreeing with you or answers people find shamefully too honest or too long winded. Answers that sound like justifications or excuses. You want to make sure you don't sound bitter or deluded or disillusioned or mad. Not to yourself, but to the people wanting to know... have you made it yet? Did you get what you have always wanted? Will you never have to work on reception again? Can you buy a house in the hills or fly first class? Are you in a show and have you met Ryan Gosling? Will you still be chasing something? Will you ever not be? Will you give up? When will you give up? What are you willing to sacrifice? Are you happy?
People may not ask these things directly, but they are questions that are hidden in an indirect curiosity that I myself have when I meet people in the industry. Gosh, often it is all we talk about. We mull over it, discuss it, debate it, digest it. Ask each other a lot of the same questions we ask ourselves. We talk of the disappointing answers we sometimes have to give and we all camp together, one big group of us against the world, sort of in it together in a huddle of madness. Are we happy?
Any progress? Did I have progress in LA? In my career? It's hard to explain to someone that just getting through a day as an actor, can be tough. Not in a 'I'm saving the world' sort of tough. We are not that narcissistic (I swear)... But progress is made just by getting through a day where we may not have acted, we may not have earned money to pay the bills doing the profession we proclaim to be doing. Our day can sometimes just be submitting yourself to castings or finding a class you like or avoiding watching reality TV. The progress I make is sometimes just that of not quitting. Sticking with it. Sometimes progress is just learning to wait and trust and 'be'. Progress is knowing the process and learning to live in it and grow in it and learn from it. Acting is a profession in which you do not have an end goal. There may not be that one big job that changes your life forever. I could go fifty years just working on my craft. Being a jobbing actor. And that would be, should be good enough. To pay the bills with acting money, now wouldn't that be a joy.
Or would it?
I want to tell my family and the people that ask and care and want this acting lark for me (possibly more than I do) that tangible, feesable, seeable progress was made. I want to reassure them that the trip was worth while. That I have proof that this was life changing and a step forward. For them. I want to let them know it's OK. Tell them I booked a job, starred alongside Morgan Freeman and that girl from that show. (You know the one? The popular one with those cute freckles) I want so much to tell my mum that it's paying off. So I can see the excitement in her eyes for me, that all this time, and sacrifice and effort has been worth it. I don't want my mum to think I have just been having a jolly. Just eating and hiking for two months. I want her to know that the belief she has had in me for the last thirty years, is not wasted. It is in fact about to pay off. I can take her on that trip to Bali and I can pay her back all the money I owe her. I want to hug her so tight for all the times she ever felt sad when I heard a no. To see the worry disappear from her face because she knows she doesn't have to worry about me calling her up balling because I don't know what I am doing with my life.
I want to book that job, so I don't have to be a thirty year old working in a hair dresser reception when I don't want to be. So I don't have to ask my boyfriend to cover the rent this month. So I can buy that Zara top. So I can take three months out and write a book, So I can say that all my dreams came true. So I can say, 'See, staying with it, working hard for it, it pays off.' So I can prove to myself that all those times I nearly turned away from it, I can say 'Ahh, see, imagine if you had'
But the answer (I wish I had booked a job so I could play a great character and do some great acting, for a great director and an amazing production.) It comes far down on my list. Because I spent the last two years getting to act and play and tell stories. I don't have to wait for the phone to ring, or WME to take me on, or Seth Rogan to write me a part, or Shonda Rhymes to put me in her TV show. I don't have to be better, or prettier or skinnier or taller or funnier or more charismatic. More talented, more open, more connected, more wealthy, more free, more 'up someones bum'... I don't have to be more anything. I can be me, right now, with no signed contract in my hand to prove that I have made progress. Not for the people asking. Not for myself.
I currently feel OK at accepting that I am angry at the industry, the system. I have no answers. Except knowing finally, that what makes me happy, isn't necessarily what I have been chasing this whole time. TBC