"I have a lot left to learn. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I know almost nothing, and that I’m often wrong about what I think I know. Life has many lessons left to teach me, and I’m looking forward to them all." - Leo Babauta, ZenHabits.net
I want to be a life-long-learner. Part of this whole journey of wanting to get back to school and get my MFA in acting has been motivated by my desire to continue to LEARN and, specifically, learn how to create a sustainable and fulfilling career as an artist.
Hence...applying to NYU, Yale & Juilliard...arguably three of the BEST acting programs in the US. What better place to submit to the process of learning about the craft?
Observing New Yorkers since I moved here in 2007 has expanded my perception of what is possible for ordinary people to be able to do in the world. Being here has made me more aware of the impact that everyone is making on our society every day...and the question is.. What kind of contribution are you making today? And what more would you like to do if you showed a little initiative and guts?
These are the kinds of questions that NY has caused me to ask myself.
I am surrounded by successful people EVERYWHERE. People making their living doing EXACTLY what they are passionate about, taking risks, not compromising and making a great living from their work. This is incredibly inspiring to me.
So now that I KNOW that this kind of life is possible and that even regular people are doing it. I have to ask..how do I make this a REALITY for me?
A little background on my experience as an actor in NY...
In 2009, I went to over 200 theatre auditions here. I got three callbacks and booked one show.
That. Was. An. Exhausting. Year.
Let's not even talk about how devastating that year was for me financially or psychologically... Needless to say, to continue with that approach to my career was not a sustainable business model or healthy for my soul.
However, I acknowledge that I am an experiential learner...and I feel like I had to experience that awfulness for myself in order to know that it wasn't going to work for me.
200 mornings...waking up at the crack-of-dawn to stand in line with hundreds of other "me" types...all of us wanting jobs...needing to pay our rent...hoping to get an audition appointment and be "seen" for 2 minutes...sing our 16-bar-cut or speak a short monologue...and maaaaaybe be remembered by the casting assistant's intern behind the audition table...in hopes that you'd be that one "perfect" person for the job and your headshot would end up in front of someone with "actual casting authority." Such is the life of an agent-less actor. I realized that even with my Equity Card it was a looooong shot, but I kept "showing up" because I thought it was a numbers game...and EVENTUALLY I'd book something...and then I'd be "happy." Well...eventually, I did book a job...but...HAPPY?...Not so much. That job was not creatively fulfilling and it was over, start-to-finish, in less than 5 months...and back to the audition circuit I'd go.
This is not what I thought life as an actor would be...this life is not fun. Why do I feel like I'm desperately begging for a job every day? Bleh.
"Wrong approach, Wilcox. Sorry, Sweet Heart. The juice ain't worth the squeeze."
"There's gotta be a better way!"
I had to do SOMETHING differently. Because giving up acting for good was NOT AN OPTION.
I thought to myself, "You're not in Northern California anymore, Virginia. This is N.Y.C. There are new rules to this game. And you've got to learn them and figure out how YOU are going to be able to play YOUR way and not feel like you're being played. How are you going to be able to create an acting career in New York City that's... A. economically sustainable (gotta pay the rent and not get into debt) and B. creatively fulfilling (this is what you LOVE to do, right?) Being actor in NY is NOT an easy task or for the faint-of-heart or the "dabbler." You've got to be COMMITTED to failing and taking risks and thinking outside-the-box in order to LEARN how to make this career happen for you."
And I discovered that...I don't like feeling like the "long-shot" at an audition. I hate walking into the room and feeling like the casting director is thinking, "Virginia Wilcox, who? And why should I care?...NEXT." Actually...that's what I was thinking when I walked into the room...And THAT was the REAL problem.
I realized that I had get to a place in my own head where I could feel like the "sure-thing"... Eventually, I would like to be the person that walks into the audition room and the casting director's reaction is "Oh, thank goodness Virginia Wilcox is here. I love her work." So how do I get THERE?
I am still in the process of discovering the answer to this question. I'm hoping that part of the answer will be the confidence and exposure I will gain from my grad school experience.
But the most urgent question that pertains to NOW... is... What do I need to do TODAY to get myself on that path?
"It's often from a sense of discontent, feelings of incompleteness, or even a twinge of true unhappiness that the seeds of great accomplishment are sown." - Mike Dooley, Tut's Universe
I didn't want to buy into the "starving actor" mentality anymore. I'm not interested in "surviving" as an actor. I want to THRIVE as an actor.
So, what did I do after my marathon 200 audition year? I did what every self-respecting actor/actress in their right mind would do...I stopped auditioning and got a "day-job."
F*%k auditioning...I have to eat, make rent and these credit card bills are NOT going to pay themselves.
But what about acting? Was Virginia Wilcox giving up?! Maybe... maybe not...
"A young woman with an extra ten or twenty thousand in her pocket has a lot more room to maneuver than a girl who's broke at the end of every month...There's no disgrace in waiting tables if it's part of a long-term strategy." - Hugh MacLeod (taken from Tim Ferris' blog)
I knew I needed to figure out a strategy before I could move forward again... I knew that what I'd been doing wasn't working and wasn't making me happy and that if I continued on that path that it'd ultimately lead me to damage my love for acting (NO!!!). I couldn't let the challenges and competitive nature of the "business" destroy my desire to participate in this art form.
But what exactly was getting in my way? How could I approach all this in a smarter more fulfilling way?
And more specifically, was I really ready and willing to let go of everything in my life that's keeping me from my goal...thoughts, habits, relationships...anything that doesn't support me or has become unhealthy and no longer serves me...Would I really be brave enough to let it all go in service to my dream?
Needs to know that the juice will be worth the squeeze.
I became drawn to stories of successful people and how they became who they are today. Though many famous people I admire have amazing stories...I felt a certain distance from many of their tales because a lot of them started out with more resources in life than I felt I had. So, in my mind, I thought...well...NATURALLY they'd be successful...if they came from money... or if they were BORN into a family of industry leaders...or they found an influential MENTOR early in their life that enabled them entry into their field of choice. But those were not my circumstances.
So I kept searching until I found a story of an ORDINARY person, with similar resources to my own, no significant advantages to speak of, that found a smart and self-loving way to make their dreams happen in spite of the odds...
And that person was not an actor (surprise!) and came from the most unlikely of places...Guam...His name is Leo Babauta and it's his success story that has inspired me the MOST!
From Leo I have learned HOW to get over resistance to doing something you've never thought yourself capable of before and HOW changing your life in small ways can lead to changing your life in BIG ways...
READ LEO'S STORY HERE.
If Leo found a way to achieve his goals, then I can too! And my way may be slightly different than his way...but I will use his tools and adapt them to my own needs.
Some improve-your-habits-to-change-your-life guidance from Leo:
- Do one habit at a time.
- Make it easy to do.
- Do it consciously, very consciously at first.
- Don't allow any exceptions.
- Post your progress publicly.
- Keep doing it every single day.
- Enjoy the habit.
Sounds like a description of AcceptanceProjectNYC, huh?
Yes. I am totally unoriginal. All my good ideas are stolen and regurgitated from others.
Maybe that's my true calling...selective regurgitation. ;-)
Leo inspires me because his is a story of an ORDINARY man, with ORDINARY resources, and with EXTRAORDINARY aspirations. He has completely changed his life... all because he was unhappy with the way things were going and he wanted a change. And he figured out a way to make the changes in his life soooooo easy and soooooo simple, that he couldn't make excuses for not doing it. For him, he made TINY changes...one thing at a time, one day at a time, step by step, inch by inch...nothing sweeping or grand. But NOW...all of those little moment-to-moment decisions have added up and he's living the life of his DREAMS and loving the life he's created.
I've been following his blog for a couple of years now. He's had such a HUGE impact on my life. But it's funny... I've never contacted him once, or commented on his blog or anything. He's changed my life by telling his story and he'll probably never know my name!
That's the beauty of the internet, I suppose. You put yourself out there...and somebody's happy to read what you've written. (You'll never really know the impact you've had on people. And that's probably best anyway, 'cause it's really too overwhelming to process psychologically.)
Thank you, Leo...for sharing your story. It has motivated me to stop sitting around and waiting for the life I wanted to find me...Now I'm taking action to create it, one tiny moment and one blog post at a time.
So hopefully, in the future I'll be able to make a whole huge awesome list of things I've accomplished with these baby steps...things that will have great meaning to me...because I took the reigns of my own life and did what I could to get the ball rolling.
I'm my own knight in shining armor...saving my own inner damsel in distress. And I know that no matter what happens with the "outcome" of this grad school goal, we're gonna live happily ever after.
Thank you to all of YOU, my readers, who CARE about pursuing your dreams! Please know that I am personally invested in your success! It's always such a thrill for me to press "send" and know that you're reading! And I'll keep showing up on this blog...6 days a week. Because I TRULY BELIEVE that you can create EXACTLY the kind of life you've always secretly imagined, by doing a little bit every day to move yourself in the direction of your dreams.
We're gonna get there, people. Where ever "there" is exactly...will become clear later. But, right now, at least we're on the way.
You may say that I'm a dreamer...but I'm not the only one,
"Think only as you can think, which will lead to feelings that only you can feel, from which connections will be made, lives will be changed, and worlds will come tumbling into existence." - Mike Dooley, Tut's Universe