Not Like This

Two days ago a photographer (male) told me that “we could make some good pictures IF you can let go a bit. Push back the conservative and let out your crazy fun, sexy side that possibly you keep hidden. IF you can do that, I would love to see what we can create together.”

My feelings after reading this?

I. Was. Livid.

Let’s back up a bit. His project I submitted to was a portrait project showing various artists, men and women, photographed against a plain, white backdrop rocking their own vibe. In the casting description he listed that all body types, heights, vibes, hair colors, tattoos, piercings etc. were welcome to be a part of the project. I applied under those pretenses, wanting to bring my vibe to the project.

Nowhere in the casting did it say “looking for a sexy side”

I think it goes without saying that this request was totally unwarranted and extremely inappropriate, especially in light of the #MeToo campaign and the other stories that continue to surface.

You know what’s almost worse than his skeezy demeanor and lack of respect? The fact that I nearly went along with it. I almost responded back assuring him that I can bring sensuality to a shoot, eager to defend my talents as a model.

I also nearly responded by verbally ripping him a new one…but decided to rise above that.

I simply responded by saying that I felt this project no longer felt appropriate to lend my talents to. If he responds back baiting me, then I’ll happily shed some light on my reasoning and his inappropriateness. But honestly, I don’t have anything to prove to this guy and really I just wanted to move past this ASAP and get back to the many other clients who want to book me for me.

I’ve been doing this more and more lately. I’m putting my foot down on many opportunities and situations I feel are disrespectful, inappropriate or not up to my professional expectations. I’m ruffling feathers with every decline and each time I do part of me is worried I’m diminishing my reputation in this very small industry. I’m concerned that by advocating for myself I may end up becoming labeled as “difficult to work with” or “high maintenance.” The fact that a fear like that even exists within me (and many other artists) is a huge issue within itself.

Before I began my performance career I wrote out a mission statement for myself dictating what I want my “Becca Morello, Actor & Model” performer brand to convey. One component of my mission statement was:

“I aim to show others who want a career in the entertainment field that they can do so without losing themselves; without sacrificing their morals and integrity.”

I knew this part of my mission would be challenged the most, and this photographer is not the first challenger I’ve encountered. Although this was the first one that really got under my skin and made my blood boil. In reality I’m exceptionally lucky because most of the clients I work with are fantastic and courteous almost to a fault. Many artists encounter this much more frequently than I do, and that’s just disheartening.

When I set out on this path, I knew I wanted to do it in a way that didn’t negate my values. What I’ve learned is many photographers, directors, producers, etc. will push to see how far they can get you to go in the interest of “bringing you out of your comfort zone.” Trust me, I’m all about growth and challenging myself as a performer, but there is a time and a place for that. There needs to be a dialogue in place about the new level or circumstance being broached and a trusting relationship established between whomever is guiding the project and the performer.

Actors and models strive to tell stories, and their strongest tool in accomplishing that task is their body. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, this translated to the objectification of women within the industry. Seriously, if I were a male model applying to this casting, do you think the photographer would have responded the way he did? Especially when the project never specified sensuality? No.

I’ve known of many performers, some on a personal level and some only from their work, who entered the industry intent on remaining true to themselves by selecting projects that depict them in the way they want to be seen. Most are able to maintain that…for a while. But then projects come across that are “too good to pass up” with “great exposure” backed by a “highly accredited team” and results in compromises. I want to show others that they can pursue this career without compromising their integrity, even if it means saying no and ruffling feathers. Furthermore, this should not be something we fear. Everyone has the option to say “No. Not like this” and pursue their goal through another avenue. It is my belief that the right avenues will always appear if you stand your ground.

As difficult as it sometimes is to stand up for myself and other entertainers, I will continue to stand by my morals. I know myself. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I know what I bring to the table. I know where I need to grow and I know the circumstances in which I would like to grow. The unexpected boon of this experience is it reminds me that I always have to power to walk away. No matter how great an opportunity may sound, if it doesn’t feel right intuitively, there’s probably something wrong there. Those are instances where you should walk away and understand that the decision to walk away is perfectly acceptable. I am recommitting to my goal written in my mission statement and re-enforcing my right to say “No. Not like this.”

When it comes down to it, I’d much rather be known as the artist who isn’t afraid to advocate for herself. Even if it prompts some to label me as “difficult” or “conservative.” Even if it means passing up “incredible opportunities.” My work ethic, integrity and dedication to my craft will precede me and eventually connect me to the right people in this industry. The professionals I ultimately want to work with will be the ones who respect my stance, admire my self-awareness and ability to stand up for what I believe.

Here’s to proudly proclaiming, “No. Not like this.” Have you tried it lately?

Not Like This

Thank you for being kind

It was early morning and I was leaving my apartment for the day, exiting down the back, outdoor stairwell of my building. When I reached the gate at the bottom, a woman, a fellow tenant, was on her way inside after taking her dog out for a morning walk. We met facing each other on opposite sides of the gate. We both moved away from the door simultaneously as if to allow the other to pass first and then both stepped forward to walk through when we realized the other would wait for us…I’m sure you’ve done this dance before with another stranger –  “After you.” “No, please, after you.” You get the picture.

We chuckled at our mirrored movements. I went through the gate first and exchanged simple pleasantries with the lady – said good morning, remarked on the beautiful, sunny day ahead, petted her dog, wished her a good day and went along my way.

As I’m walking through the back parking lot toward the blue line station, I hear the woman shout after me, somewhat timidly yet sincerely:

“Thank you for being kind to me!”

My footsteps slowed and I glanced back over my shoulder to ensure she was speaking to me. Sure enough, she was looking directly at me and waving. Caught off guard, I paused for a moment before waving back and shouting “Of course!”

I was baffled. She thanked me for being kind? It was simply small talk…

Our whole interaction lasted probably less than three minutes. To me, it wasn’t a big deal, to me it was second nature. But this brief, simple, friendly conversation obviously made an impact. Her response reminded me that for some, perhaps many, common courtesies and kindness are a rare occurrence.

As I recall this particular morning, I realize this isn’t the first time someone thanked me for being kind. It’s actually happened quite a few times before. Often the circumstances are generally the same in the sense that there’s nothing exceptional about the scenario or the act of kindness. The giver of the kindness mentally chalks it up to “Well, it’s what anyone else would have done.” But in today’s world I feel that statement is tested constantly. Especially when you consider how recipients of kindness react, like the lady in my building. There’s something about the way these individuals express their gratitude for the kindness they’re shown that stops you in your tracks. Something in the expression on their face and the tone of their voice that conveys that kindness is not extended to them often.

I wish I were writing with the knowledge that kindness is extended to everyone, without question and without hesitation, and although I’m an optimist I’m certainly not oblivious. I understand that kindness is currently not as prevalent of a force in our world as it ought. It doesn’t take a genius to deduct that we’ve lost something along the way. While I acknowledge that truth and accept it for what it currently is, I also believe that what’s lost can be found. I believe that kindness can make a comeback. Perhaps more importantly, it needs to make a comeback.

I know, I’m sounding a bit like a hippie, and no, I’m not asking for everyone to join hands and sing “Kumbaya.” That’s way too cheesy, even for me.

But what I am asking, better yet challenging you readers to do is to offer just a bit more kindness to those around you. It doesn’t need to be grand gestures, sometimes less can definitely mean more.

So.

I challenge you to glance up from your ever-so-captivating phone as you walk down the street and say “Hello” when you pass another person. I challenge you to say “Pardon me” when navigating your way through a crowd. I challenge you to truly listen when someone speaks to you. I challenge you to say “Hi, how are you?” and mean it; be invested in hearing the response. I challenge you to say “thank you” to your bus driver. I challenge you to help a mother lift her baby stroller over a curb or stair. I challenge you to hold the door. I challenge you to leave the closer parking space for another driver. I challenge you to send a thank you note. I challenge you to introduce yourself to your new neighbor…

I challenge you to allow your kindness to make an impact on someone else.

You never know, you may be the only glimmer of kindness someone sees all day.

 

Thank you for being kind.

 

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Ghandi

 

 

 

 

You are Worthy of the Stage Time

Earlier this year I had the privilege of auditioning for a show produced by a professional ensemble I’ve admired for years. This ensemble performs at the community college I attended and I watched many of their performances while I was a drama student there. Part of our drama curriculum was to study this ensemble and its performances. As a result, I became familiar with the troupe members and the other incredible credits they had attached to their names. I marveled at the caliber of each production, from both a technical perspective and a performer’s.

Holding them in as high a regard as I do, you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to audition for one of their upcoming productions. And you can probably imagine how that excitement grew when I was offered a role (full disclosure: I squealed like a little kid when they find out they’re going to Disneyland and then proceeded to dance around my living room for a solid 15 minutes).

Despite all my enthusiasm, I began to doubt myself and started to question everything about my casting and my performance ability. Before this production, it had been three years since I performed onstage and worked with other actors, aside from the little work you do with other performers in an audition room. Granted I was still working within the arts over the past three years, but to say I was feeling a bit rusty as a performer is a bit of an understatement.

I was pretty quiet and tense during those first few rehearsals, still getting my bearings and trying desperately not to mess up. In spite of my greatest efforts to conceal any nervousness and self-consciousness I felt, my skittish behavior began to translate into my acting…until the director gave me a note about it during rehearsal. Stopping me mid-scene he said,

“Becca, slow down your exits. You keep rushing your exits like you’re not worthy of the stage time. Take the stage time, it’s yours.”

Although I know it was a simple note from director to actor, those words continued to tumble through my mind throughout the whole production process. I had deemed myself unworthy of the opportunity; I was depriving myself of what I had earned. I was placing way too much pressure on myself and psyching myself out in every way imaginable. As I reflected on this exchange I couldn’t help but wonder how often do we all do this to ourselves? How often do we take ourselves out of the game before giving ourselves a chance to play because of our self-doubts and insecurities? And furthermore, how much more would we accomplish if we didn’t think this way?

One of the many reasons I love acting is that despite impersonating another character and living in a whole other world and story, I make so many discoveries about myself. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? When I realized what I was doing in rehearsal, I began to attack any thoughts of self-doubt the instant they popped into my brain. I used my director’s words to create one of my favorite personal mantras: “You are worthy of the stage time,” which I still use today, on and off stage. With those words in my head, my performing became so much better (at least I feel like it did). I began to open up more onstage and offstage. I began to make stronger choices for my character, connected more with my castmates and simply allowed myself to play, explore and grow in this opportunity instead of mentally hindering myself.

While this show closed months ago, those words continue to float through my mind to this day. If you earned something, TAKE IT. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Embrace it, celebrate it, learn from it. Stop depriving yourself of the spotlight when you’ve earned it! I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Certain circumstances may challenge us more than others, but I have no doubt that every single opportunity happens for a reason. Often when we push past the times we don’t feel entirely confident or prepared or simply ENOUGH we end up surprising ourselves and discover we already have exactly what we need within us to make the task ahead of us a success.

So this is your friendly reminder to banish any thoughts of unworthiness that may be rolling through your mind. Stop feeding the self-doubt. You are ready and more than enough for the next great opportunity coming your way. It’s time to show the world what you’ve got! And take it from me when I say: You are worthy of the stage time.

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A Year in Review

Well, I have now officially exceeded my quarter-century mark. Ideally, I would have published this on my birthday, but life was moving just too fast at the time to make that possible. Hence the year in review post a month after the fact. Better late than never!

What a pivotal age 25 was for me. Filled with innumerable insights, opportunities and breakthroughs, it was truly a year I will never forget. It was a year that challenged me and changed me in the best ways. It was the year I decided to take charge and take total ownership of my life. A brief recap for those who are new to my blog (welcome! Thanks for stopping by!) and a refresh for those who’ve been with me from the beginning (thank you! I appreciate you so very much.): the day before my 25th birthday I left my full-time job at a performing arts center to focus my efforts on making my dream of becoming an actor & model a reality. I left steady employment in pursuit of an essentially unknown future. I had no idea where this change would take me and whether it would yield great success or total failure. But I had to give myself the chance, and that became the driving force behind my decision. I envisioned a different life for myself and I decided to march confidently in the direction of my dreams. (If you’re interested in reading the post that started it all, click here)

Now, one year later, I’m sitting in a completely different place (quite literally actually…more on that later) taking in the past year. All the ups and downs, the unknowns that became knowns and the new experiences which led me to where I am today. I believe reflection is important, so let’s review, shall we?

One year ago, I sent out my headshot and resume to countless agencies hoping and praying that one would represent me. The night before my last day of work, one agent decided to rep me (just in the nick of time!). Now I have three lovely agents vouching for me across a variety of areas within the entertainment industry. They work incredibly hard and I’m so grateful for all their efforts.

One year ago, I’d never been booked for a photoshoot and my modeling experience was extremely limited (read: I’d never modeled before. Ever. Never even took a class.). Now my photo has been spotted (#SpotTheRedhead) on products in Target and Buy Buy Baby and I have had the privilege of working with a number of outstanding clients. I’m grateful that I have the ability to say that photoshoots are a regular occurrence for me and my comfort posing in front of the camera has grown exponentially over the past year.

One year ago, I never knew that tradeshow modeling existed, let alone had its own place in the entertainment industry (there are models who do this full time. Interesting, huh?). Now I’m well versed in tradeshows, am affiliated with an agency that represents me solely for tradeshows, and have been fortunate enough to work at five tradeshows over the past year.

One year ago, the farthest I’d traveled for a gig or audition was only to a neighboring town. Now I have the experience of modeling at a tradeshow in Los Angeles. The first time I’d traveled out of state for a gig, which was one of my goals for 2017!

One year ago, I was wondering if I’d ever get back on stage. At the time it had been nearly three years since my last, live theatrical performance. My job placed me behind the scenes as stage manager for their youth theatre productions and although I was still involved in theatre, my performance skills became rusty. I was missing performing more than I can possibly convey. Thankfully earlier this year a director took a chance on me and cast me in a hilarious and incredibly fun show with one of the best casts around. The experience is one I will treasure forever.

One year ago, I was living in my parents’ house. My parents’ graciousness made this career change possible. Of course I wanted my own space, and my parents wanted their own space, but allowing me to stay there rent free offered me a chance to save my precious pennies and provided me with the opportunity to leap when I was ready and when the perfect apartment became available. Now I’m writing this post in my very own, charming vintage studio apartment. Funny story about this, at the beginning of the year, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to move into an apartment of my own by June. I began searching in January and by April I was tired of constantly refreshing Zillow, Craigslist and two Facebook housing groups to no avail. It simply seemed that what I wanted wasn’t available and wouldn’t be available for quite some time. So I stopped searching and mentally adjusted my goal to say I would move in September. However, in a flurry of events, the perfect apartment found me just before June 1, following the resolution I wrote at the beginning of the year. Isn’t the power in writing things down fascinating?

Perhaps most important to note, over the past year I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with so many wonderful, kind and generous people who support me and inspire me in countless ways. I’ve built new bridges and strengthened existing bridges and continue to be filled with immense gratitude for those around me. Truthfully this past year would not have been possible without the encouragement from my family and friends. I’m surely the luckiest gal around to be surrounded by so many spectacular souls and I marvel at how the people I know and have met shaped my life this past year.

This is not intended to be a post where I flaunt my achievements of the past year. This self-reflection is intended to demonstrate the difference one year makes. It’s a small difference, and it’s nowhere near my end goal, but I am farther than I was before. A year ago I stared a daunting, seemingly impossible task in the face and somehow mustered up the energy to attempt to conquer it, one day at a time. Every single day built upon the last, propelling me forward. Even on the days where I felt stuck and hopeless I urged myself to look back at what I have achieved and reminded myself of one of my favorite quotes,

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I will continue to reach farther, to build upon what I started a year ago, what I’ve been building upon my whole life. I’m still giving myself this chance, still chasing the dream, but I’m celebrating the fact that I’m gaining ground. Slowly but surely, I’m gaining ground, which may be one of the most powerful motivators around.

Even though I’m technically beyond a quarter century now, I still want this blog to be a part of my journey. This outlet holds its own special role in my quest and I admit there were plenty of times where this blog helped me maintain my sanity. Therefore, allow me to introduce you to “Quarter Century & Beyond,” a revised title to this blog so I may continue to chronicle this marvelous adventure as I add to the foundation I spent the past year establishing.

As I set out on another year of reaching farther and aiming higher, allow me to remind you, dear reader, that if you’re not quite where you want to be, trust me, you’re farther than you think. You’re farther than you were a year ago, a month ago, a week ago, even one hour ago. You have no idea how close you may be to your next breakthrough, your next great milestone. The important part is just to keep going. You did not come this far to only come this far. Stay true the course and trust the process while holding your vision front and center. Keep reaching beyond and you’ll make it.

Let the Universe Do Its Thing

As many of you know I frequently work as a background actor for many of the television shows filmed in Chicago. (Fun fact, production is pretty adamant on abandoning the term “extra” and using “background actor” or “background artist.” Pretty cool, huh? #TheMoreYouKnow).

Anyway, I was on set the other day for a rather long, extensive scene, which we worked for about 16 hours. This was one of my first gigs for 2017 and although I started the new year with tremendous vigor, feeling totally empowered, somehow my enthusiasm for the year ahead began to dwindle and it ironically happened to occur while I was on set.

I was waiting while crew set up for a shot and just letting my thoughts wander and much to my chagrin, they went to a dark place. I started to feel hopeless and somewhat pathetic thinking about the future of my career. I ended 2016 on a great note with some exciting prospects for 2017, but since the new year, everything’s taken its time getting started, which results in a lot of frustration and anxiety on my end. I watched the stars of this show who were physically so close to me yet their status & success so far from me and just felt like I was hit with a brick. What am I doing? What am I thinking? I must be insane to think I can get from here, working in background, auditioning with hundreds if not thousands of other hopefuls, doing small photo shoots here and there and think that I can get THERE, to the entertainment promised land. I felt stuck. I felt daunted and afraid by my dreams and doubt crept in. And once I started on that line of thought I couldn’t stop. I began to panic. To the cast and crew I probably looked cool, calm and collected but on the inside my heart was pounding and my pulse racing as I allowed myself to ponder statistically my chances of making this a viable career. I’m an optimist through and through and thus felt surprised to be feeling such dismay.

I’m standing there, silently imploding and a crew head walks over to me out of the blue and says, “Hello!”

Now for anyone who does background, you know you essentially don’t exist. You’re a set piece helping create the tone and atmosphere for the production. And you also know you cannot speak with any crew or cast member unless they initiate a conversation. So imagine my surprise when this department head (I’m being vague with titles just in case) approached me on set.

Upon his greeting I instantly snapped out of my mental, downward spiral. We small talked for a bit but then he launched into a story about how his career started.

“I’ve been working in production for a while. But for years many of the shows I worked on failed. I don’t know why, hopefully it wasn’t my presence, but they failed. And one day I found myself without anything lined up. I began calling show after show asking for a job. No one had anything. I spent days, weeks searching and pleading and had nothing. I reached out to this show for the pilot and they rejected me. So I just let it go for a bit and then production called me back and asked me to join their crew. And now I’m coming up on four years with this show.

“I was grateful for the job, as anyone would be, although when they called me it was for a low man on the totem pole kind of job. I was a dolly grip, so I just pushed the camera where it needed to go. And again I tried to promote myself. I asked for more responsibility, and told production I wanted to move up, that I could do more. Again, no positive response. So finally I said. ‘Ok. You know what. I’m here as a dolly grip. That’s it. But I’m going to be the best damn dolly grip this production has ever seen.’ And then, boom. They had an opening for a head position and they offered it to me.

“So it’s a tough grind sometimes. You have to put your whole body and heart into the work. Be persistent, stay dedicated and have patience. And sometimes you just have to step back and let the universe do its thing.”

By the time he finished his story, crew was set up and we were ready to continue filming. So he said his farewell and headed back to work. But the spontaneity of this conversation and the message behind it left me stunned and chilled long after it ended. Hearing this man’s story of perseverance and passion was exactly what I needed in that moment. This man doesn’t know anything about me; not my name, nor that I’m an aspiring actor. (Although I’m sure the crew assume most background actors are somewhat affiliated with the arts.) He shared his story on a total whim completely unprovoked by me. But I’m forever grateful that he did.

This whole exchange reminds me of author Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech from 2012 in which he mentions how beginning a career is often like sending out messages in a bottle and hoping someone will find your message and write back. While it might be easier to blame the other party for not picking your bottle, it’s the repetition that leads to successfully having a message received. Sheer grit and focus even when nothing comes drifting back, and above all trusting that eventually something will come from your effort. Acknowledge that you must do everything in your power to make it happen and never relent on that commitment. But also acknowledge that timing plays a role as well, and while it may sound cheesy to say, one must allow the universe time to respond. Learn to trust that your bottle will be picked at the exact moment it’s meant to.

This bout of radio silence leads most people to falter and compromise. Based on my observations, many reach this point and consider it the end. Consider it a failed attempt at making something happen, despite having come so far. On the contrary, I believe it is the beginning. As Eric Thomas says, “You must outlast your old you long enough to get to your new you.” This is that moment. And this experience affirmed that truth for me…especially since within the twenty-four hours following this conversation I got an audition and a booking. (Eerie, right?)

So wherever you are, whatever you’re striving toward, if you’re feeling panicked, stuck and hopeless, don’t give up on yourself. Just breathe. Trust yourself and your abilities. Keep grinding and let the universe do its thing.

Oh, the sacrifices you’ll make

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You realize the true depths of your desires when you recognize just how much you’re willing to sacrifice. That realization becomes even more profound when you find yourself not missing the sacrifices. Certain sacrifices create momentum to propel us forward to our objective. Making sacrifices are not easy, we all know that. To make the difficult sacrifices easier requires one to hold a concrete vision of the future. Without that vision the sacrifices prove futile and arbitrary because you cannot identify the extraneous details within your world. Knowing what one must sacrifice does not make sacrificing easier, but makes it easier to justify. Sacrifice now to obtain a better future.

The greatest and perhaps only equalizer in life is that we each wake up with the same 24 hours ahead of us. (Remember the quote “You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé?”) Time possesses tremendous value and beauty in the fact that it is constantly fleeting and every minute must be spent wisely. In my humble opinion, time is a multi-faceted sacrifice we make continuously to other significant sacrifices such as relationships, money and rest. Lately, I’ve noticed how much I manipulate time and how time manipulates me. Everyone has the time to do what they constantly tout they never have the time for, that is an inarguable truth (And quickly becoming one of my greatest pet peeves. “I don’t have time” is NEVER an excuse). It becomes a matter of prioritizing and maintaining focus of one’s goals. Time is sacrificed when you choose how to spend it. When time is spent incorrectly, it deters your overall momentum.

Over the past few months, my personal life and my relationships have become very calculated. (Just to clarify, I’m referring to all types of relationships – familial, friendly, etc.). My personal life still exists, but in a very structured form. Since the entertainment industry runs constantly, I am never off the clock and often running from gig to gig, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While I love the constant, exhilarating grind and hustle of this industry, it’s not very nurturing for relationships and not everyone understands. Despite my attempts to keep everyone in my life, I’ve felt more and more connections fade lately as my time becomes scarce. Of course, I strive to be there when it matters most and I will move heaven and Earth to be there for my family, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Thus, people remove themselves from my life. Although that can be bittersweet, a pleasant and comforting boon is I’m quickly begin to discover my “ride or die” people, the people who understand me inside and out, who understand my objectives and goals, and will stick with me as I see them through. Having this clarity becomes paramount to success, and not just success within a career, but within life. It allows me to move forward in the most profound ways, reassured that who is by my side should and will be by my side.

Investing in this new venture has not been financially easy. With the right network, experience, and break this can be a very lucrative endeavor, but it also takes time to reach that level of income. Financial compensation within this business varies tremendously. For instance, I have projects that pay $100/hour all the way down to $10.50/hour or nothing at all. Every artist’s conundrum is not necessarily deciphering or seeking which project will pay me the most, but which project will pay off the most and instill the greatest feeling of fulfillment. For the right project, money plays no motivator. Often the gigs that fulfill me the most are the ones doling out $10.50/hour or nothing. Although these don’t pay much, I believe they will pay off. They invigorate me, remind me why I love this artful expression, and reinforce the important impact the entertainment world has on society. Furthermore, those lesser paying gigs connect me with individuals with the same dedication as myself. Each project provides me with a sense of purpose, but my sense of worth within each project is not perpetuated by the dollar sign tied to it, but the connection I personally have to it, and that is worth more than any paycheck.

As I mentioned earlier, this industry never stops and thus adequate rest becomes a consistent sacrifice for me. Despite becoming more accustomed than one should be to waking up at 3:00am in order to make a 5:00am call time to set, I rarely feel tired. Sleep is scarce, but I find myself leaping out of bed when my 3:00am alarm goes off because I simply cannot wait to start my day doing what I love! No matter that I only slept three hours each night the week before, I am exhilarated by my profession and the direction I’m going that I can shake off any exhaustion I feel. But don’t be fooled – when I have a chance to sleep in, you better believe I take it. I know I function best on 6-7 hours of sleep, but when every part of me is engaged in what I’m doing, sacrificing a full night’s sleep becomes easy to justify. Especially for someone like me who’s striving to break into a tough and highly competitive industry, turning down a great job because I’m “too tired” is simply not an option.

One fact of life we can always depend on is that it will be in constant flux; constantly changing. Our balance is constantly threatened, and thus our goals become consequently threatened. We make sacrifices daily, and some are easier than others but these sacrifices carry the most weight when we know WHY we’re doing them. Life is short, which makes sacrificing intelligently and intentionally essential. Work like no one does to live like no one does. One way to know you’re making sacrifices for the right reason is when each sacrifice becomes unnoticeable and that becomes a real testimony to your passion. When they’re made effortlessly and still leave you feeling energized and happy, you know it’s right. Know what you want, find what feels right to pursue, and sacrifice as needed to create the life you envision.

“If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice.”

Your & You

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This quote became a mantra of mine a number of years ago bringing me courage and reassurance through any obstacle and remains my favorite quote to this day. Through my own journey, different words or phrases of this quote will resonate with me more at one point over another. Many times it’s been “confidently” or “imagined.” As I adapt this quote to my life yet again those words are currently “your” and “you.”

At first I thought it a bit strange and random that out of the whole quote these two particular words started to stick out more. But lately as I mentally, and sometimes verbally, repeat this quote to myself, I find myself emphasizing “your” and “you,” as a reminder that my journey is personal. It encourages me to maintain focus and clarity on my own objectives and standards, and to constantly strive to break my own records, excel at my own pace and celebrate my own accomplishments.

In our fast paced and ever changing world, we are constantly pulled in a million different directions, exposed to a variety of routes and possibilities which all have a certain allure to them. There are so many options popping up all over it could give a person whiplash. More often than whiplash though, it often results in confusion, self-doubt, and adopting another’s goals as your own. Especially in the age where social media rules our world it is easy to get caught up in each other’s lives and wonder maybe what “Person X” posts should be something you’re also working toward. After all, it appears Person X discovered the “formula” for success…

We all know Person X. Person X works 3 jobs, serves on 2 committees, is writing the next bestseller, and might be on the verge of discovering the cure for cancer yet still has time to knit a lovely scarf for a friend’s birthday. People like this are definitely people to admire, but they can also make others feel they aren’t doing enough to make their lives great. While their stories can be extremely motivating they can also deter focus from one’s own path to adopt a similar lifestyle.

“Go confidently in the direction of YOUR dreams. Live the life YOU have imagined.”

What does the life YOU imagine involve? Do YOU imagine yourself backpacking across Europe? Does YOUR vision feature getting married and having a family? Do YOU see yourself as CEO of a company?

Stressing “your” and “you” in Thoreau’s quote provides a valuable and reassuring checkpoint when it seems everyone around us accelerates past and we feel stagnant. When it appears everyone else is achieving endless promotions, completing academic degrees and certifications, or having the wedding of a lifetime, it sometimes creates a type of urgency for others not making the same accomplishments to reset and chase similar goals. While I believe it is greatly important to surround yourself with people who attract success and provide inspiration for your own life and goals, it is also important to know what you want and need for YOUR life.

All too often I hear myself, my family, my friends and strangers measure their personal victories and failures against those around them. To compare yourself to others is easy and frequently encouraged in our society but is futile and irrelevant. You must make choices, take risks and seek achievements that resonate with YOU. No one else has the power to dictate our ultimate dreams and desires. Our passions are so intuitively based, that no one outside can truly comprehend and thereby judge, quantify or schedule whether anyone is “on track.” To dilute and alter your vision because of another is a tragic disservice to yourself.

This habit of comparison is one I’ve been working to combat for years. Thankfully, I’ve become better at battling my own insecurities sparked by other’s successes, but it is nowhere close to being eliminated from my psyche. And perhaps it never will be, for me or for anyone else. What I understand more clearly now, especially as I’ve immersed myself in an industry essentially governed by status and image, is acknowledging or congratulating another on success does not impede or diminish your own success. To applaud another as they pursue or achieve their own goals does not threaten your own dreams. Cheering others on, especially your competition, demonstrates tremendous strength, selflessness and maturity and should be done more.

Along with comparison, we’re often also swayed by other’s input and advice on our actions. I will never forget high school for multiple reasons, one of the biggest being the number of teachers who held me after class to talk about my future. They were so concerned about me pursuing theatre in college telling me I was “wasting my intelligence” and I would be better suited for a career in politics, international studies, foreign languages, science, math etc. Truthfully, I was interested in all the areas they suggested and could see myself working in any of those fields but it wasn’t what I imagined for myself. Besides, as an actor I can experience all those professions and more!

I was close to all my teachers and valued their feedback and frequently felt the pressure to change my focus, and consequently felt the sense of disappointment from them when I didn’t. Despite this prominent memory I still find it extremely valuable to seek advice from others, trusted advisers and even acquaintances, provided you have a strong sense of self-awareness to take whatever comes back in stride. Outside influences can be greatly motivating and beneficial, if you know how to use them to supplement your own vision. Researching and branching out based on a suggestion when it feels right, disregarding it when it doesn’t. Pursue the life you have imagined even if others think you are better suited for another. They don’t have to live your life, you have to live your life so it is imperative to make it one you love!

Everyone is different and everyone’s aspirations differ thus everyone’s path to success will differ. Written out and articulated this statement sounds incredibly simple and obvious yet becomes difficult to internalize. Strive to outdo yourself. What works for others may not work for you and vice versa. Let another’s work inspire you if it helps you with your own objectives. If adopting another’s tactics as your own provides a breakthrough or brings you added happiness, then by all means integrate them into your day, make them your own, but remember to focus on you and your journey. Challenge yourself to reach new heights. Seek outside influences that are not detrimental to yourself and invest in what has meaning to you. Prevent anyone else’s journey, their successes and their failures to stifle your own growth. Never doubt the passion and fire inside you, allow it to direct you to the life you have imagined. Trust it. It won’t lead you astray.