I have rejoined the ranks of the unemployed, and let me tell you, it would be easy to fall into the Pit of Despair right now. I’ve been glancing down into its depths since my last show closed.
If you’ve read this blog before, you’re aware that my life is a tightrope walk between domesticity and artistic fervor. Sometimes I’m a consummate homebody, as I was last week during our winter weather event, cooking and eating at an open hearth. Other times I make my home at the theater for days, grabbing food on the go and hoping there are enough frozen dinners at home to keep the family from starving. Most of the time I’m balancing between the two, walking the high wire, knowing there’s something wonderful at each end.
This time, as I perch on the domestic end of the wire, I’m finding it harder than usual to see the other side. I think it’s a universal truth that actors believe their last job really was their last. No matter what we’ve accomplished, we’re sure no-one is going to hire us again. It’s been fun, but it’s over. Time to buckle down to a Real Job. Or at least clean up the house.
What would that real job be, exactly? I have no idea. Theater is what I know and love. I’ve considered every other use of my talents imaginable, including teaching middle school math (no joke, really), and I can’t come up with anything I could do for more than six months without losing my mind.
Which brings us to the question of what to do “between engagements.”
I do voice over work. I teach the occasional acting class. I coach individual students. I do some dialect coaching. I don’t do film or television (yet); I’ve never really gotten the hang of keeping in touch with an agent and doing on-camera auditions.
But mostly I just live. I get up, I make tea, I do a little yoga, and I realize – again, again, again – that life is what you make it. I can be lonely and sad, or I can reach out to other people and give them a tiny smile of recognition. I can tumble faster and faster into my own well of doubt and depression, or I can look up and see how much I have to be grateful for. In other words, I can feel sorry for myself, or not.
I won’t lie; when I’m between jobs, self-pity is always a temptation. I can certainly justify at least a modicum of sadness over my mom’s dementia. But then I read something like this and realize (again) that I am not alone, that other people are walking this path with me. I can worry about the job I didn’t get for this summer. But then I remember that nobody owes me a job, that, in fact, every job – every minute of life – is a gift. What’s more, I remind myself, I do have other work lined up. I can choose to focus on the tasks before me instead of on the disappointments behind me.
Where does this leave me today? At home, in my messy kitchen, with time on my hands to go pick up Mom and do a little volunteer work for a small theater company I care about. At my computer, with internet access and the chance to schedule a meeting with someone who might have interesting work for me down the road. At my table, giving thanks for good food to eat and loved ones to share it with.
I am so lucky. The only question is how clearly I see my good fortune. And how well I keep it in focus as I step back out on the tightrope.