and attempting to vanquish it.
by Emma Rosenthal (actor)
Hey Kittens. Emma here. This week, if it's all right with you, I'd like to take a little field trip. At first, I was reluctant to "go there," but then I read Rachel, Kate, and Keurim's latest blogs and felt a little braver about "going there." So. We're gonna hop on the bus that's leaving sassysillytown, and cross the border into gettingalittlebitmoreseriousville. If you'd prefer to stay in sassysillytown, that's fabulous. I'll see you here next Monday. Everyone else, get on the bus!
I want to start today's field trip by telling you a bit about myself. I really like lists, so I'm gonna go ahead and make a list:
- I've been stuck on level 35 of Candy Crush Saga for much longer than I'd care to admit.
- I really like quotes.
- I've got an overactive imagination.
- I'm a fearful person.
Ok, to be completely honest, #1 is a complete nonsequitor. But #s 2 through 4 have everything to do with where the rest of this post is going. #2 is important simply because I'll be invoking quote a few quites…excuse me…quite a few quotes today (and probably in the future). That's all you need to know about that. On to #3…
Here's the thing. As an actor, it's probably rather helpful to have an overactive imagination. As an actor, I'm grateful for it. But as a normal human being, my overactive imagination is probably responsible for taking at least a year off of my life, particularly in conjunction with #4: "I'm a fearful person." Let me explain, again via list:
- Last year, when I hit my head REALLY HARD on the corner of a wall, I was convinced that I'd given myself a massive concussion and was very well going to die from a brain hemorrhage. (I didn't die from a brain hemorrhage).
- Last month, when I noticed that I had a spot on my collarbone that was taking a while to heal, I was convinced that I'd developed a melanoma IN SPITE OF THE FACT that I wear sunscreen every day. (It wasn't a melanoma, it was a zit).
- Last month, I had a less-than-stellar first-time audition for a casting director, and was convinced that they'd blacklist me and never call me in for anything again. (I went in for the same casting director this past week for a different project).
So, overactive imagination + fearful personality = spontaneous psychological combustion leading to the eventual creation of a mental black hole. Not great. It's something I'm working on, with varying degrees of success. And here's why I want to talk about it.
Fear is normal. It's part of what makes us human. And I think (and don't hesitate to correct me if I'm wrong) that fear is something that is felt particularly deeply by those who are pursuing a career in the arts, sometimes more so than those pursuing something else.
First of all, we traffic in human emotions. It's our job to feel things, so we tend to REALLY REALLY FEEL THINGS...But also, unlike other professions (and let me be clear, I'm not trying to knock other professions), in our business, we are the product. It's difficult to not take things personally when the thing that we're trying to sell is one and the same as the salesperson. To me, it's scary that I sometimes feel as thought it's impossible to separate what I do from who I think I am.
Rejection is scary. It's scary to be rejected more than once. More than twice. More than many times. Uncertainty is scary. Forget about a 5-year plan, I feel lucky if I've got a 5-day plan. Some days, I'm convinced that I'm never going to work again. I'm convinced that my best simply isn't good enough. I'm convinced that I should pack it in. Some days, I'm scared shitless. But honestly, I don't know many people in the arts (and in not the arts) who aren't, (or haven't been at some point) scared shitless. I imagine that it's a part of growing up (whatever the hell that means).
Here's what: I think a certain amount of fear can be helpful, because it makes you want to do better. It makes you insist on doing better. So I'm trying to let myself ingest just a teaspoonful of fear every day. I'm trying to use that fear in a helpful sort of way, like a small fire under my ass (as opposed to a giant fire that's burning my house down). Emphasis on trying.
Here's what else: most of the time, what you're afraid of doesn't happen. And even if it did or does happen, you are or will be okay. Case in point as stated earlier: I didn't die, it wasn't a melanoma, and the casting director didn't blacklist me.
Here's the biggest what else: most of the time, fear just gets in the way. In a big way. And that's where this quote comes in, courtesy of the unbelievably prescient, brilliant Cheryl Strayed:
"I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn't long before I actually wasn't afraid. I was working too hard to be afraid." -Cheryl Strayed, Wild
I want to leave you with that. I've been trying to eat those words for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day since I first read them a few months ago. Sometimes I digest them. Sometimes they come right back up. But as TS Eliot once said, "the trying is all, and the rest is not our business." So I'm trying.
A life in the arts is scary. Life itself can be kinda scary.
But here's a final what: You are ok. You are alive. You are perfect. And you are enough. YOU can decide to want it more than you're afraid of it. Now go out there and make some noise.
EMMA ROSENTHAL is an actor/singer/dancer currently living in NYC. She stands 5'0" in socks and has a passion for baking, arts n' crafts, dresses with pockets, and space exploration. www.emmarosenthal.com
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