Last week, during President Obama’s visit to Orange County, a woman named Isa de Quesada came to the microphone and asked a question. She gave a little background about her situation. Seems she has been a teacher for 25 years and had just received her RIF notice (Reduction In Force) and that both she and the teacher of the year would not be employed the following school year. People with what used to be considered job security are suddenly faced with the reality that they have no guarantees. They’re going to have to start over. I’m not writing this week’s column about politics.
Last week, prior to President Obama’s visit to Orange County, a cousin I hadn’t seen in well over a decade came through town and stopped by for a visit. We talked about a million things, but one of the topics was that our parents were the last members of “the gold watch generation.” Or, more correctly, they were the first members of the generation who thought they would work for decades for the same company, retire by 55, and live off retirement and Social Security for the rest of their lives… and then learned the hard way that they couldn’t do that. Our folks had to get survival jobs as senior citizens. I’m not writing this week’s column about family.
What I am writing this week’s column about is a connection that we now share with the rest of the world. “We” as artists. Y’know, we’re the ones who get grilled over family dinners about when we’re going to “get a real job.” We get asked when we’re going to “stop this foolishness and come home” during check-in phone calls. We’re the ones who got pulled aside by a well-meaning member of the family, letting us know that there’d always be a place for us in the family business, should we find this creative endeavor too hard. Or come to our senses. Or need security.
And now there’s no security. Not for anyone, really. And if you listen to the “experts,” it’s gonna get worse before it gets better.
I think this is actually great. No, not universally great. I see the stress. I hear stories of suffering. I’m fully aware of the downside to our current economic situation. But I love seeing things “glass half-full” and what I realized when I heard the downsized teacher asking her question of the president is that, finally, they get us.
Welcome to our world.
Artists never know where the next buck is gonna come from. Artists never know which relationships will lead to the next jobs. Artists never have the certainty, the job security, the “years of safety” stretched out before them that the rest of the people in our lives talk about, brag about, encourage us to explore.
And now they don’t have that either.
I’m not asking you to celebrate the end of job security for people who’ve never explored the possibility of “getting okay” with the uncertainty of it all. I’m asking you to consider doing a little mentoring at this point. Think of what you might be able to share with these people in your life — people who think their lives are falling apart right now — about how to cope with that “not knowing,” out-of-control feeling you’ve learned to embrace. (And yes, this is my sneaky way of getting you to embrace — even better than you already do — the pursuit. The lack of control. The not knowing. The life of the artist.)
Still pretty sure you’re bad at it? I doubt it. You wouldn’t be pursuing a career in show business if you didn’t have it in you to be okay with the fear. You’ve found a way to juggle a half-dozen survival jobs in order to navigate prereads, classes, callbacks, meetings, workshops, bookings (even the freebie, relationship-building ones), and more. You’ve gotten okay with the weird schedule, the unpredictable cash flow, the excitement of the big job balanced with the crushing blow of the one that got away. And you’re still sane. You’re actually even flourishing sometimes! You get the freelance lifestyle. It doesn’t terrify you like it once did.
Like it terrifies these newest members of our club. These lifers. These careerists. These “real world” people who are joining the ranks of the artists. They’re gonna have to learn how to get creative about earning money. They’re gonna have to self-produce to build their brand to turn freebie work into paid work. They’re gonna have to relax and embrace the freelance lifestyle.
Not everyone can embrace it. Heck, some actors reading this very article are admittedly bad at freelance living. And they feel the stress of that every day. Is that you? And is that stress affecting your auditions? I suspect it might be. Stress starts to eat away at us, which is why stress is best avoided.
So, dig in. Find a member of the “real world” who needs a little guidance from you, the “pro” at the freelance lifestyle, the uncertainty of your career, the world of living your dreams no matter what. They will thank you for the perspective. And you’ll feel stronger for welcoming them to our world.
Who ya gonna inspire today? Let’s chat!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001005.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.