Last night I attended the annual departmental reunion for my undergrad theatre program. A program which was terrifically formative for me and which has produced dozens, if not hundreds, of successful and even famous theater, film and television artists over the last 40 or so years.
There’s nothing like an alumni event for your competitive and prestigious alma mater to make you start questioning all the decisions you’ve made that have gotten you to this point in your life.
There were many fresh, young, eager and excited faces there last night – full of hope and anticipation for good things yet to come. There were also a fair amount of faces in the 35- to 45-year-old range, looking a little dazed and sharing thoughts of “What the hell happened? Where am I? How did I get here?”
I’ve known since I was a teenager that I wanted to live a creative life, and more specifically, to pursue a career in acting. There was never a doubt in my mind about that. And for many years, I did just that. Many, many, many years. So many years of struggling to have a voice, to be heard, to find my place at the table.
I don’t think I’ve ever found my place as an actor.
I look around me and see so many of my colleagues in the same position. The market is glutted. It’s really hard to find your way and to make it stick. There is so much struggle, so much hardship, so much financial instability, so many sacrifices. So little success, so little reward.
I got into this business because I had something to say, something to share, a desire to make a connection with people and say “Look at this crazy life. This is something, isn’t it? Being human? Let’s figure out a way to make the most of the time we have.”
But I hardly ever get to do that, be part of something that puts something meaningful out into the world and puts food on my table. There are always road blocks, obstacles, big huge boulders in the way. And after 20 years I’m looking at this and thinking, “What the fuck? Why am I beating my head against the wall? I have something to offer this world. And I’m not getting any opportunities to do it, no matter how hard I try or how many different roads I try to go down.”
Which got me thinking about the idea of finding the path of least resistance. If I keep pursuing the same thing but don’t move forward, shouldn’t I try to find a path with less resistance? Shouldn’t I be more like water in a stream, diverting around obstacles with ease and grace and going off in a different direction? Is there any real merit in continually pounding the same obstacles until I’m thoroughly exhausted?
I don’t think there is. And I find tremendous freedom in that. But to others it looks like giving up, and it can be hard to manage those expectations.
Yes, acting was my first true love. But there are so many different outlets for my creativity, there is no reason I can’t set acting aside and find a path that offers less resistance. I just want to put my story out there, to pay attention to the world and to share my observations about it. I want to help illuminate this journey we’re all on by being honest about my own. I want to connect with people and hopefully in the process make my life and yours richer and more meaningful. Wouldn’t staying on the path that is going nowhere be counter-productive to my end goal of not only living a well-observed life, but also sharing it?
I studied the Michael Chekhov acting technique with the brilliant Lenard Petit many years ago. One of the biggest take-aways I got from it is the idea of working with the Four Brothers – a sense of form, a sense of beauty, a sense of the whole, and a sense of ease. Can’t we apply that not only to creating a character, but also creating anything? To creativity in general? I think so.
I want to create with a sense of ease. And I haven’t found that ease with acting, but I have found it with other mediums, like writing. Sharing with you on this blog and in other venues provides the same connection I seek with acting. So like the river, I will flow around the obstacle and find a new, unobstructed path.
I will find the path of least resistance. I will find my “yes” in a sea of “no”. And I will find a way to deal with the fact that to some it looks like giving up, although to me it feels like being honest about who I am, where I am, and what I need to do to live the life I feel compelled to live.
H.G. Wells said, “The path of least resistance is the path of the loser.”
I disagree. If there is another way for me to achieve my goals and to be of service in this life, a way that provides less resistance than the path that I originally chose, would I not be a fool to say no to it? As long as I am not sacrificing who I truly am inside? Doesn’t it take strength of character to admit you may be going the wrong way and that you need to alter course? Can it not be both exciting and rewarding to take a breath, let go, and see what happens? To see what flows into that space you have created when you let go of the death grip you had on the things you thought you wanted? To understand that maybe all the choices you’ve made along the way were preparing you for something other than what you at first intended?
Have you encountered this? A feeling that there might be another way for you, if you can set aside other people’s expectations, and focus more on what feels right for you personally? How have you dealt with it? Please share your thoughts in the comments.