I am not what I do.
Well it's officially a snow day. I have to admit that I don't quite enjoy these as much as I used to. Maybe because "snow day" means that I actually have the time to do some indoor de-cluttering/organizing projects I've been conveniently putting off and I have no excuses.
But before I do that - I wanted to share this post. A friend posted this article on Facebook so I wanted to share it and some thoughts.
I'll sum it up like this. We are not what we do. So maybe next time, at a party when you're introducing friends - don't introduce them by what their occupation is. Maybe share a different, interesting aspect of their life that may help spark a more dynamic conversation
As an actor, I've always found it fascinating to see people's reactions to what I do. It runs the gamut. Some people are amused, some look down on you for it, but the best is when people feel they need more information. They decide to challenge you on what kind of actor you are. I'll illustrate with a story. I was getting my haircut by a new hairdresser. He liked me instantly because he could tell I was part Filipino and he was as well. Good start. We chatted for a bit - probably about NYC and trival things like the weather. Then he said "What do you do?" To which I said "I'm an actress". He gave me this disapproving look and said "You mean you're trying to be an actress?" To which I laughed and said "No, I'm an actress. That's how I make my living. Solely." He gave me a look I can only describe as this "I don't believe you, but I'm not going to call you out". The look annoyed me but was ultimately amusing. Not because that's funny but because of the ridiculousness of it all. Then he proceeded to tell me the names of some actors who are his regular clients. A few were people I have worked with before. I told him that and he produced that look again. I realized quickly that there was no winning in this situation and just let it be.
It's fascinating because I think we have the only profession where people feel comfortable challenging us on what we do. Can you imagine what a similar conversation would be to, say, a doctor? It might look like this: Are you practicing a lot? Do you see 5 patients a day or 25? Do you work for yourself or are you being employed by the hospital? Are you a locum tenens or do you work from one location? (I just added that last one to show you I know some of the lingo associated with doctor-ing)
These questions are sort of invasive and in my opinion, not really anyone's business. Especially, and I'll write that again, ESPECIALLY, if I'm meeting you for the FIRST time. And here's what those questions, at least to me, really mean: Are you worth my time? Is it worth my time to talk to you? How much should I value you? Because I don't think they really care about what you do (ok maybe in the rare situation they do) but I think they're trying to figure out if you're important.
So, here's the point I really want to make. Acting is just something I do. Our jobs are things we DO. I am not my job. And I'm not saying this and writing this without a selfish reason. I have to remind myself daily that I am not what I do. Because I've gone down that slippery slope of finding my value in my work and what I do, and boy does that lead to somewhere bad fast. Especially in an industry where nothing is certain, unemployment is common and competition is high.
So here's what I think IS important. For everyone, but especially for actors.
I think the most important thing you can do for yourself is to do things that make you like who you are. Work on who you are and who you are becoming. What does that look like? I don't know, I guess that depends on you and what you respect, what you'd like your life to look like and the kind of person you'd like to be.
For me, it involves working on my character. Simple things like: Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Or just making sure that I help people when I have the resources to do so. Volunteering my time with organizations and causes I believe in. Giving up my seat to people who look tired on the subway. Having patience for people. Trying to value all people, no matter who they are - even if I know they could never do anything for me - ever.
Because working or not working - I have to live with myself. I have to be in my head and in my body every day. If I can't like or be proud of myself, I'm going to have a real problem on my hands.
Here's the other thing. Sometimes, part of that work should be silent. There's a merit and value to not broadcasting the good work or deeds you do. Just let them stand for themselves. It's like a little secret between you and God.
The last thing I want to say about this is that even though I attempt to like myself and do things I'm proud of - I fail often. A lot. I could have the best intentions leaving my house in the morning, but get me on that crowded subway where someone decides it's more important to push you off that train so they can get to work and you might catch me yelling "Back off you s**thead!!" or some other expletive my mom would get mad at. Justified? Maybe. But that kind of behavior doesn't necessarily make me like myself more. So I have grace for myself and then just try to act differently the next time. Nobody's perfect.