Pizza and a Toilet Brush

A Big Life: Encouragement for People in the Arts –

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One side of me in a pair of my signature sunglasses. Along the Payette River, Idaho border. Oregon is across the river.

Before my sister lived in Spain (see my previous post), she and her family lived in Colombia for two years.  One evening while ordering pizza, she realized she’d forgotten to buy a toilet brush.  One of her guests asked, “Why don’t you just ask the pizza guy to pick up one on his way over?”

My sister was flabbergasted. In America no one would think to make this request.  The pizza guy was the pizza guy. The handy man was the handy man.  But this was South America…a land where people negotiate (and are confused by us when we don’t).  She followed her friend’s suggestion and was told over the phone, “Of course! No problema!” and the pizza man delivered a toilet brush along with their pizza.

As professionals in the entertainment industry, our identities are very much tied up in what we do.  I remember after college when I first hit New York  I got a few acting jobs pretty fast.  None of them completely paid the bills.  One day, a particularly frank and crusty family member asked me how my career as a temp was going.  I was confused.  I said, “Well, Granny N, you know I’m an actress.”

“I know, I know,” she gleefully repeated with a devilish grin, “How’s your career in word processing?”

Oh.

It is easy to allow other people’s perception of us as artists to shake us.  We often feel (along with others both inside and outside our profession) that if we are not 100% doing our art…and getting paid for it…then we must not be artists.

There is an issue of status associated with this.  I was making money at acting, but Granny N didn’t make her dig at my acting career as though it were a lowlier thing than being an office temp. And well she shouldn’t. I loved temping. I made lots of money and was given tremendous flexibility in my jobs. I learned computers before anyone had a home desktop.  I am grateful to every business man and woman in New York who enthusiastically let me take lunch at odd times like 3:00 to attend last minute auditions. These people had positions of money and power, yet they humbly cheered me on and asked me to remember them when my name was in lights.

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Another side of me…the opposite end, in fact. In my favorite polka dot rainboots along the Oregon Coast.

Remember it’s you who gets to decide who you are.  Don’t be shaken. Don’t let anyone else decide for you.

And remember we can be many things.

It isn’t all we are.

This entry was posted in Acting, All, Self Identity, Status and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Pizza and a Toilet Brush

  1. Nayomi C says:

    I think that this showed the difference between places and things is sometimes hard to see or recognize for people. The people like the grandmother can’t always see these differences but as long as you know who you are it makes it alright.

  2. Jonathan Moskowitz says:

    I enjoyed your writing. Your cultural example was very well put. I loved your advice on how we make our own choices. I enjoyed reading sbout your expirnce as a temp and how it has gained you experience and knowledge.

  3. Ben F says:

    This captures two important lessons. The first is that our identities are ultimately decided by our selves. Others may provide input, but they do not get the final say. The second lesson is that sometimes, that identity upon which we have decided requires some potentially undesirable work in positions that do not seem to live into our ideal self.

  4. Deborah L says:

    As a writer, I too have felt the sting of people trying to devalue my art because I have nothing “official” to show for it. But I feel it most keenly when I tell someone that I am an English major, and they ask me one of two questions. Either I hear, “So what grade do you want to teach?” or “Then you’re going to be a teacher?” as if those are the only conceivable options for someone studying my field.
    Every time I hear these questions, it’s like someone has cut my legs out from under me. I can’t make them see past their own expectations, and I know I can’t do my own dreams justice in their eyes. I have an excellent support system; my mother has read almost every thing I have written and has shared her vast library of women writers with me. I emulate these women as I see them as the best in their field.
    Now, repeatedly, I am coming into contact with a more terrifying question: “What are you going to do after you graduate?” I can’t follow my childish instincts and plug my ears, hoping that they’ll realize that I don’t know. It always seems too much to point out that who I am and what I have done cannot be watered down to fit into some 9-to-5 job. I can’t fill out their expectations because it runs contrary to who I am. They can’t answer something I don’t fully know myself, and I can’t start putting limits on that.

  5. Jefferson C says:

    I enjoyed your message of humbleness in two aspects. One in a cultural aspects with the pizza deliver and the second was your temp job letting you take lunch at odd times to do auditions. This was a nice blend.

  6. Julianna Edwardson says:

    I definitely agree with you when you say, “As professionals in the entertainment industry, our identities are very much tied up in what we do.” With that being said, I think this can be said for just about anyone, not just those in the entertainment industry. I started playing sports when I was in kindergarten, and I was known as ‘the sports girl,’ or something like that, until I graduated high school. I went through this weird transition of having to redefine my identity since I decided to step away from athletics. When you want something that you are so passionate about to help define who you are, and it doesn’t, that can be difficult to process.

    • Katie Bennett says:

      I agree with you about identities no matter what the field. Thank you for telling your story as it relates to athletics…I have been wanting people to tell their own stories as they read mine because I don’t want this blog to be all about me. Now it is happening! Thank you for sharing, Juli.

      Here’s a post which addresses why it was so important for me as someone in the entertainment field to start this blog: http://katiebennettstoryteller.com/2013/10/09/you-picked-it/

  7. Benjamin Kociemba says:

    When we strive to become who we want to be, the weight of the world can make us stray of the path. The yellow brick road we follow can branch off into several different paths. No one doorway leads to the dream that got us to go in the first place. It can make us forget why we started the journey so long ago. It can make us wonder if we do it for ourselves, or if that was a lie from the beginning. Dreams can turn into the never ending chase without a way to turn back. The dream of yesterday is crushed by the pain of today, but it is not dead. No sword or spear can pierce though a dream. This cruel world is not forever. The light of tomorrow will shine though. All that is needed is the hope that got us going, and the will to carry on.

  8. Julia Feeser says:

    I enjoy the reminder that things may not always look successful and glorious from the perspectives of others, but if you enjoy what you are doing and are making ends meet, you are filling the definition of success. Even if challenges arise and ends seem a little farther apart, doing what you love and keeping your head above water will bring it all together. We also need to recognize negotiation and favors as something simple and not, as a country, deny them so much.

  9. Gwen H says:

    I like what Ben touched on, that others have input in your life but they don’t get the final say. When I was younger, I was very indecisive and didn’t like taking charge. When others took charge, I didn’t always like the decisions they made or the tasks they assigned me. One instance in particular was my junior year in high school when my friends convinced me to go out with a guy that I wasn’t actually interested in. It ended very badly, and I decided to never do something a) because everyone else thought it would be good and b) just because someone liked me. I try to listen to everyone’s input in my life, but I make the final decision. Thank you for talking about this important subject.

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