A Big Life: Encouragement for People in the Arts –
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?”
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.
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.