Saturday, March 8, 2014

Career Lessons I've Learned from Fantasy and SciFi #1

Oh, life!  You crazy beast!  All the emotions, all the relationships, all the thoughts, all the experiences...  It's all so big.  So epic.  So vast.

Nothing captures this vastness as well as fantasy and science fiction.

For example, navigating high school felt as big as being a Slayer, even though I was not literally fighting vampires and demons after school.

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Hey, a girl can dream.

Forging a career is just as big as vanquishing demons, just as epic as mastering the Force, just as vast as Middle Earth.  So, no matter how many career groups I attend or Lean In-inspired trend pieces I read, the advice I get will never be as poignant nor as lasting as the advice I get from my heightened heroes of fantasy & sci-fi.

I'd like to share some of those with you, especially as I am in the midst of learning most all of them.  I'm making this an ongoing series.  Mostly because it would most definitely be a TL; DR sitch if I tried to compile them all in one post, but also because I expect to come up with more of these on my quest for Internet fame/nerd-cult icon status.

Lesson 1:  Fear is the mind-killer.
I have always wanted to be an entertainer.

I'm not sure where that instinct came from, but for as long as I can remember I've had a fierce desire to take audiences on a journey with me.  I love making people laugh, cry, smile, hug, scream, do spit takes, feel ALL the feels.

I was always so certain what I wanted to do, and I thought that put me ahead of the game.  Instead of being forced to take a random class my parents chose, I took acting classes.  I started doing plays as soon as I could read the scripts.  I did show after show after show after show.  I even auditioned for some pretty real things, like Steppenwolf and Les Miz and what may have been Jurassic Park.  [They kept the name of the project confidential, but the timing and casting call makes me think DINOSAURS.]

Damn right, I'm clever.

Needless to say, I didn't get any of those things.

If I did, I could totally have been a child star.  And now I'd probably have a glamorous party lifestyle, no money in the bank, and an eating disorder and/or drug problem!!  But, hey, the tabloids would love me, baby.

Lindsay Lohan
I still love you, Lindsey Lohan.

The rejection extended beyond big auditions.  Fast forward to junior high.  Sixth graders couldn't be in the school play; my eligible seventh grade self was cast as just a chorus girl in Grease.  Eighth grade and a big move to the suburbs came, and I had one scene in the school play.

There I was, someone who had always wanted to be a Real Actress, someone who had always been given lead roles, suddenly in the background.  Why didn't they want me as their lead?  As a Sandy or at least as a Marty?  Was I not good enough?

And suddenly there was fear.

Fear of not being good enough.  Fear of being given small roles because I was somehow inherently worse than the performers around me.  Fear of not being entertaining enough or pretty enough or talented enough...  The fear made me nervous.  Like, real nerves, not just pre-show-excitement-let's-get-this-party-started nerves.  Debilitating nerves.  Before the fear, I'd go into an audition or a performance with just enough extra adrenaline to give me stageworthy energy.

Now that there was fear, every performance found me thinking, "Am I acting well enough?  Is the audience enjoying what I'm doing now?  Am I good enough to be up here?  Am I pretty enough to be an actress?  Do I have talent??"

Unfortunately, high school did nothing to tell me I was good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it people like me.  Instead, at the time of life when confidence and self-esteem are at an all-time low, I was being given ever-increasing signs that I should give up on my dreams.  I was rarely cast, and never as a lead.  The closest I got was a handful of featured dancer roles, but otherwise I had fewer roles and fewer lines.

A vicious cycle began.

I was afraid I wasn't good enough, so I would be nervous at auditions.  I was nervous at auditions, so I didn't do well at auditions.  I didn't do well auditions, so I never got a lead.  I never got a lead, so I knew I wasn't good enough to be a lead.  I knew I wasn't good enough to be a lead, so was I good enough at all?

Fear was killing my mind, my confidence, and my talent.

But, like Paul Atreides, I need to let go of my fear in order to tap into my inner power and strength.

Dune:  Chani

My first step in releasing fear was that ol' chestnut: recognizing you have a problem!  So, instead of pretending to be confident all the time, I actually started sharing my real feelings, my fear with people.  This has led to a lot of crying in rehearsal.  And crying at home.  And just general crying.

Hey, don't judge!  Fear is, like, scary.

BUT!  When I release my fear, I have all this extra room for other stuff.  And listening.  Like learning.  And growing.  I actually feel like I'm progressing, y'all!!  I'm, like, becoming a better person and stuff.

All that said, I'm still scared of spiders.
And ghosts.
And heights.
And pretty much everything.

But at least I'm not letting it kill my mind!

Lesson learned, Dune.  Lesson learned.


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