Monday, November 13, 2006

It's the Journey, not the Destination

"A life lived in fear is a life half lived."
-Spanish proverb quoted in Baz Luhrman’s Strictly Ballroom

As a teenager, I was deeply fascinated with acting. I loved going to plays and musicals, watched an excessive number of films and competed with my high school drama team. At school everyone knew me as a writer and artist, talents I was far more confident in, but I was secretly in love with acting. I never talked about it. I don’t think anyone aside from my beloved drama coach could see that I was so passionate about it (I also worried that she was the only one who would think I had so much natural ability). After high school, I just stopped. I worried that I was not good enough to keep going with it. I feared failure and I had been told - like so many of my peers - that the choices I made in the next few years were going to shape MY ENTIRE LIFE. I was terrified that a misstep would ruin my future happiness, so I decided that acting wasn’t a sufficiently practical choice and set it aside.

Everyone, I think, is familiar with the idea that if you go to a class of 1st or 2nd grade children and ask them who can dance, who can draw, who can sing - they will all raise their hand. They will want to show you. They will do these things with great joy and abandon. Ask the same children when they are 15, 16 or 17 and the majority will tell you they cannot draw, cannot dance, cannot sing. Not everyone has an innate talent for these things or is accomplished at them, but even children who have some capability will hesitate to raise their hand unless they are particularly accomplished.

I know that there is a difference between the enthusiasm small children have for self-expression and genuine talent existing in a young adult, but I think some of the decline is also based on two important factors. As we grow, we learn self-consciousness. We learn to worry that we are being judged by our peers. We learn to give the outside world’s opinion a higher priority than, perhaps, it deserves. Also, in school we are often taught that creative pursuits are less valuable or less prestigious than more “practical” or academic pursuits (or athletic ability, for that matter). Parents and teachers worry about the teenager’s well being - because they DO care, and as a result will often push them toward career paths that have greater monetary reward with less concern for the child’s creative fulfillment. It’s understandable. Many decisions made in guiding youth are made out of fear and a desire to protect.

So where does this leave me? I found a practical application for my creative abilities and have been in the same field for a decade now. I like my work, but don’t find it sufficiently fulfilling. I have spent the last ten years wondering “What if?” about acting. My suppressed desire has left me a compulsive film buff, with a knowledge of film that leads friends to call me up when they can’t remember the name of an actor or need help deciding if they should go see a film. I have rarely gone to theatrical productions, however, as I find it uncomfortable - watching people on stage being reminder of what I never found the courage to pursue.

I have been slowly dipping my toes this year. I auditioned for and was cast in a “no acting experience necessary” production that was a charity benefit. I have been doing some work backstage for a local community theater. But tonight comes a big step for me - tonight I am auditioning for a part in a production at the community theater. Even if I am not cast, auditioning is a big hurdle. I am tired of living in fear. Tired of walking around feeling I have the potential for things that I will never pursue.

When we are small we tend to believe anything is possible. How sad it is to lose that. I don’t want to live like that any longer. That’s why I went to New York, to remind myself how full of possibility the world is. And that’s why I’m going to an audition tonight. I have this long list of things that want to do with my life, and I’ve waited ten years to get started on the more adventurous items on that list. I’m not going to waste any more time.

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