It’s been awhile, but it’s time for another installment of Ask the When I Grow Up Coach! In this series, I pick one of the questions that have been posed on Formspring (or sent to me directly) to feature here, until there are no questions left! Disclaimer: A few of the questions that have been posted are from other coaches or would-be coaches. While I’m absolutely happy to share my story and offer any advice I have on being a coach, I’m only gonna post the questions that can be applied more universally. Hope that’s helpful!
Here’s a juicy question that arrived in my Inbox which, I admit, shook me up a bit:
I wanted to ask why do you think you never made it “big” in musical theater? I’d wager if you did, you would still be doing THAT. I’m asking so I know what to tell my young friends who love the arts. It is hard, it is competitive, but SOMONE has to make it. How do you know its going to be you? How do you know it is not? And it is always sad when someone gives up a dream for reality because they were not the chosen one…And how can your services help those who might have had the same dreams you had? Your insight would be lovely…
This question has stuck in my head since you asked it – thanks so much for the food for thought!
There are no guarantees in this life. Sure, I could’ve stuck with pursuing acting as a business, and who knows where I would be now or what the future would look like – Broadway, regional theater, summer stock, cruise ships, commercials, movies, etc. But I also could have been doing that while working restaurant jobs, or temping, or renting apartments in NYC like I did for two years (and quickly burned myself out on). The bottom line for me was that I was no longer happy doing that in the short-term, and looking ahead to the long-term I didn’t like what I saw. I felt sitting around for 8 hours during an open call to sing 8-16 bars (or get typed!) wasn’t a worthwhile use of my time (the phrase “wasting my life” came into my head more than once). The performance opportunities I was being given weren’t always a good time (there’s lots of bad/poorly run theater, whether inside or outside NYC), and I didn’t like how it affected my personal life – being given notice sometimes 24-48 hours before a gig that lasted for months, having to be separated from my family/home/friends for months at a time, missing lots of important life events (my brother’s high school graduation, et al) because of my performance schedule, etc.
When I was 19, I was an intern at a summer stock theater and was working alongside actors in their 30s-60s. I remember trying to put myself in their shoes and asking if I would be happy to be there then – when I was 30, 40, 50, 60 – and I remember responding, “Yes!”, emphatically. That’s when you know you have to do it. That’s when you know you can’t walk away from The Dream, no matter how much rejection you face or how many hours you “waste” in an audition room or how much money you spend on voice lessons, acting classes, headshots, yada yada yada. That’s when it’s worth fighting for, when the good outweighs the bad, when you know you have to keep trying.
I remember teacher after teacher saying to class after class, “If you can do anything else, go do it. Only do this if you can’t picture any other way.” For years and years and years I couldn’t picture any other way. Until I could.
I feel like it takes more strength to realize that what you’re doing – what you’ve been doing for years and years and years – isn’t working any longer, and you don’t see it working in the near-to-far-ish future. It takes more strength to get yourself out of old habits, to admit it’s no longer what you want, to grieve for that life, to be a statistc of The Biz. The only reason I don’t regret it was because it was my choice. I didn’t make it too late, or too soon – and it took me a year to listen to it, to take it seriously, to accept it – and I’m thankful for all that it gave me.
I still perform (I’m part of a cabaret next month), and also found new ways to express myself – writing, speaking, playing the ukelele, even being an entrepreneur is a creative playground for me. And who knows? I might get out of bed in 5, 10, 15, 20 years and decide to pursue performing again, and can still have my Broadway moment. But for now, this is where I’m at because this is where I belong. This is where I wanna be. And when it’s not? I’ll discover it all over again.
In regards of my services, they can help in a few ways. Life coaching is all about clarity, and I know I help my clients figure out what it is they wanna do when they grow up. Do they want to go full-force into The Artistic Life (whatever that means to them)? If so, we can work together to figure out how to make it happen, based on their strengths, their values, their priorities and what works for them. If not, we can work together to figure out what could be a new passionate career (again, based on their strengths/values/priorities/needs/interests) and, if they want, how The Artistic Life could still come into play for them. The annoying thing about working with me is that I always believe there’s an answer – it’s just a matter of finding it.