a note on finding meaning and being a full time artist

Hi my loves.

I’m feeling a long life update blog post is in order after having a whirlwind of a month transitioning to living in New York City and figuring out my next step.

This past month has been beautiful and such a testament to trusting in the universe and letting it guide me instead of trying to hustle hard on the pavement.

I feel I haven’t been very creative this month because my whole focus has been in finding a job. I quit my full time job back in October to go on my 3 month solo trip to Southeast Asia and knew I would be moving to NYC in the new year without a job or an apartment.

Part of the reason leaving my job behind was so scary was because I knew I would be entering this white space of the “unknown” and didn’t know where I would be living or how I would be earning an income. Since I had just come from a 9-5 job, I was looking forward to trying the artist “freelance” lifestyle and was looking at babysitting, catering, and doing temp receptionist type work. I thought it would be nice having mornings free so I could focus on auditioning, like the rest of my actor peers.

my audition story

I went to an open call audition and learned so much from this experience. Not all of the NYC auditions are like this, but this is just a taste of the reality non-equity actors face in this city. Here’s the schedule of my day to give you an idea…

5:30 am: wake up

6 am: leave apartment

6:30 am: arrive to audition where there were already 200 people lined up in the SNOW since 4:30 am that morning

6:30-9:30: stand in line in freezing cold. yes you read that right. for three hours. luckily, I ran into some friends from college and so we kept each other entertained while waiting.

9:30: get inside only to be told to come back later that day at 3 pm

At that point, a lot of people had to go to work so they couldn’t even make their audition time later in the day. Since I was still #funemployed I was happy that I could still make it, but was like okay so as soon as I’m actually making money I can’t do these anymore?

I had to fill my time for the next 5.5 hours, so I went to the grocery store, called my mom and cried, and then went back out to audition.

2:45 pm: arrive back to audition studio

3-4 pm: wait inside for my audition time

4 pm: finally get to go inside audition room. Sang 16 bars of a song. Left the room. This took about 30 seconds. All of that waiting FOR 30 SECONDS in the room.

4:30 pm: Back on the subway to train back home.

This means from 5:30 am to 4:30 pm my ENTIRE DAY was wasted on this audition. ONE AUDITION. Did I make any money during this time? No. If you look at the earning potential for any of the things they were casting for, the reality is, most of these regional theater non-equity contracts pay $280/week. How is this sustainable for literally ANYONE? Unless you have parents that fully support you. Which, I think the sad reality is that a lot of the people going to these auditions are only able to do it because they DO have someone supporting them. Otherwise, I don’t understand how you can afford to “not work” (or work long nights waitressing) in order to have your time free to be able to go and audition for these things.

This audition opened my eyes in so many ways, because my immediate thought was “I am not doing this, there has to be another way”.  I refuse to wait in line in the cold. I am a full time artist and am worth so much more than that. So are all the other people waiting in line. It made me so sad to think about all the insane talent of the people waiting in line. And to think about the hundreds of thousands of dollars they spent getting degrees in this field (myself included).

I can’t imagine another field or society where people with higher education degrees are standing outside in the cold, lining up for their 30 second “job interview” spending a full 11 hours hoping to get the one job that pays around $280/week.

It was a big wake up call to me to decide, do I actually want this that badly? Is all of this really worth it?

Do I want to be an actor/singer? Yes. I want to perform. I want to tell important stories. But I’m not going to be waiting in line in the freezing cold in order to do so. Is it my life’s purpose to be on stage singing and dancing? No. Is it my life’s purpose to tell important stories and impact society in reminding us of our humanness? Yes.

I realized all of this so quickly. It only took me one audition to decide that this was not going to be my path. If I had come to the city after graduating college, I would have fully hit the pavement doing the whole audition “grind”. I was fully prepared to do “whatever it takes”, but now after spending two years looking deep inside myself while living in CT and after all my travels, I know that I am worth so much more than that.

I know there has to be a different way.

I’m in a bit of an odd space now, where I still want to act and sing, but if I’m not going to be doing the typical audition route, then am I just giving up on my dream of performing? Am I meant for something else? I’m not sure. I have a lot of questions. I’m not even sure if I’m meant to be doing this work or if I’m actually meant for more of the coaching/spiritual/teaching side of things.

All I know is that I have to keep following the next right thing. The next right thing was to move to NYC. Now I’m here, and I’ve landed a full time job in arts administration at the Public Theater and a few part time jobs doing meditation facilitating and yoga teaching.

I feel good about these things because I’ll still be in the theater scene and pursuing the teaching/facilitating side of things and will be able to have job security and the financial means to feel secure and be able to continue to pursue my creativity without worrying about where my next paycheck will come from.

A NOTE ON CREATIVITY

Something I learned about creativity during this time, is that I truly need a container of safety and security in order to pursue my creativity. I’ve dreamed for years of being able to wake up and not go to a day job and be able to have the day free to go to yoga or to coffee shops to write, but the truth is, my energy was SO focused on finding an income that I didn’t have any creative brain space to focus on creating, because I was so focused on surviving. Even though I had the TIME to go to yoga classes, I didn’t feel comfortable spending $30 on a class when I wasn’t sure when I would be getting paid next.

During this time, I took a freelance catering gig that lasted four days long (of 12 hour shifts each day) and I met so many interesting characters. People of all ages, colors, sizes, and backgrounds were doing this temp job, and I learned so much from listening and talking to them.

Most of the other cater waiters were artists.  I met actors, models, photographers, painters, and dancers. I listened to them talk about how they were $1,000 short on rent this month and they didn’t know how they were going to pay their rent in time and were asking for any recommendations for more catering gigs.

I listened to men in their sixties talk about how they left theater or photography years ago because they couldn’t make any money in it and now they were still just “freelancing” wondering where there next paycheck was coming from.

One french man told me he was a successful photographer and had photographed Rhianna when she was young, but had to leave photography because tech companies like Google and Apple killed his business and he lost everything and ended up practically homeless and with no income. He told me it put him into such a deep depression that he almost took his life and would have if it weren’t for his daughter.

I started to really question life and felt so untethered by not having a routine/structure in place and wondering if this was how my life was going to turn out: struggling to survive in pursuit of my craft OR be like some of the older cater waiters and give up on my craft completely, but still be stuck in jobs like catering/waitressing/temp jobs, with no end in sight.

Because of all this, I’ve had a lot of creative blocks come up like

…is any of this worth it?

…what’s the point of life?

…what gives me meaning in life?

…what is my life’s purpose?

…are we all just supposed to work and then die?

I’ve felt myself stop myself from sharing my life on Instagram or even on the blog because I didn’t know how to share what I’ve been going through when I’m questioning the artist’s life as a whole.

Are we supposed to just conform to society and get a “real job” so we can at least have money in order to survive, or are we supposed to pursue our art, but maybe end up being 60 years old and still having to take freelance catering gigs and being bitter about the world as a whole because this society doesn’t respect or value artists.

Even the institutions that are hiring artists don’t respect artists, because if you truly respect an artist, you would come up with a better system (since this is 2020 after all) to schedule auditions then having 400 people line up at 4:30 am to wait in the cold to wait for a 30 second audition.

I say all this with the acknowledgement that just being an artist is an incredible privilege. I don’t take it lightly that I even have the OPTION to pursue art and creativity when many of my fellow human beings in other countries and my ancestors never even had that option.

In light of Kobe Bryant’s recent passing, I’ve realized that even when you have it ALL (by most of society’s standards) of fame, success, and riches, it can all be gone in an instant. In the end, none of it really matters.

I was in California this past weekend celebrating my mom’s 60th birthday and I had this moment where I was sitting in the sunshine, eating peaches, and watching the ocean, and I knew immediately that this was my dream life. That’s all I want. Being surrounded by my family and the people I love, enjoying Earth’s natural beauty and bounty.

It doesn’t matter so much what I do, it matters how I live.

So, like most of us, I don’t have it all figured out. I’m not sure where my life will take me. I’m not sure what I’m meant to do. All I know is that I’m lucky enough to be alive.

And so I will keep following the right, next thing. I will keep listening to the full body YESes and keep remembering that this life is a miracle and that there is so much magic.

keep remembering the magic, and don’t take it all so seriously, because in the end, does any of it really matter? maybe yes, maybe no, so we might as well enjoy ourselves in the time being ❤

sending so much love. thank you for being here.

 

One thought on “a note on finding meaning and being a full time artist

  1. I also fear becoming the sixty year old freelancer! I was passionate and driven by art in my twenties, then ended up selling out during my thirties, doing soulless work that paid very nicely but crushed my passion into dust. Now I’m in my forties and fortunate to be in a good position that allows me to focus on those old passions again… but everything is digital now, which means nothing is real any more. Quite a Devil’s Bargain indeed!

    Like

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