CHOOSING TO PERFORM

Tuesday, November 26


My whole life I've loved to perform. There has always been such a genuine surge of joy when I climb up on a stage or don a costume or peek out of the curtains waiting for my time to come. 

At first I put this energy into musical theater. And I loved it. Musical theater is one of my most favorite things in the world. Acting! Singing! Dancing! Most often than not when I go to musicals I'm moved to tears. It fills me up in such a beautiful way. 

But, you see, the trouble is I can't sing. I mean I sing all the time, but the sounds that come out are for close family and friends only. As those who could sing began gaining the better roles and moving up in the theater world, I sank lower and lower on the totem pole, eventually ending up as a recurrent member of the Ensemble. Which is great and all, but I wanted to shine. Back of the house wasn't going to cut it. 

And then came on-camera work. Growing up in San Francisco there was definitely some work to be had, but my parents established from an early age that they weren't going to allow me to miss a lot of school to go to auditions. And auditions are rough, especially for a young girl learning who she is in the world...

...to be told NO over and over again
to be told that you're NOT what they're looking for
that you're NOT good enough
or pretty enough
or funny enough
or dramatic enough

I remember being in about 7th or 8th grade and sitting in a chair at the hair salon with my headshot picture staring back at me from the ledge in front of the mirror as a model for how the hair dresser had to cut my hair. I remember hating that girl in the picture so intensely so painfully so fully. 

By high school I began drifting away from acting. My high school drama program was run with a cult-like mentality that I never was accepted by and auditions were dwindling. 

I dived into other activities -- experimented with sports to no avail, began a Model UN team, excelled in school work, continued with dance. 

After high school I went on to Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs with a concentration in Business, Growth, and Development. I loved my time at Georgetown, but I always felt something was missing. I tried filling it with internships in consulting, network news, journalism, and documentary film, but everything fell flat. 

My senior year I took two acting classes as extra electives -- a Stanislavski method class and a Shakespeare class. I rediscovered a part of myself I had forgotten was there. Leaving class I would glow from the deepest and most precious part of my heart. I worked hard and put more effort and time into these classes than most of the other classes I had taken at Georgetown. Instead of sliding by I pushed myself to actively engage and to listen and to respond. Part of my soul was on fire again. 

There's something about acting that strips us of all pretenses and hesitations and the lies we tell ourselves to get by. The best acting is acting that relies solely on listening to your partner and reacting truly. I found myself having deeper relationships with acting partners in scenes than I was having with most of the people I had been calling my closest friends.

But even though my experience was pure, enlightening, and filled with joy, the doubts began creeping in almost instantaneously. 

you will never make it
you will fail 
you are not funny enough
you are not dramatic enough
you are not pretty enough
your friends will look down on you
actors are superficial, stupid, vain
you will be broke, unhealthy, homeless

As soon as I found something that made my heart soar, another part of me went to work trying to tear it down.

I pushed aside dreams of performing and focused my energies on applying to sturdy, reliable, 401k-inclusive jobs. Consulting, Advertising, Technology, Journalism, Politics. I did it all. I even applied for the CIA. I was flown out to Ann Arbor, Austin, Dallas, Los Angeles. 

I ended up receiving job offers from multiple well-respected companies, but in the last minute of each of their acceptance timelines I turned them down. 

I didn't want to settle.

I packed up my bags, jobless, and moved back to my mom's one-bedroom apartment in Mill Valley, CA. Living on her couch with her two cats I started the process of evaluating what I was supposed to do, what my purpose was. I read self-help books, went crazy with surveys, and even tried guided meditation. 

Confusion and hesitation began burying me alive. 

Then there came a spark. A spark of excitement, inspiration. The Second City. I'll admit I hadn't heard about the training center until after reading Tina Fey's "Bossypants". But something about the idea clicked in a way that nothing else had for awhile. 

And so I registered for the Second City's Improv for Actors class. Blindly. Without an apartment. Only having been to Chicago twice before. With only one friend living in the city. With very limited funds in my bank account. With no source of income in Chicago. 

But I did it. For once the hesitations and the what if's and the self-doubts were quiet. I was going to Chicago and I was going to study at The Second City and I was going to make it happen. 

And it has. In the most wonderful of ways that I never could have imagined back when I first registered. 

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