Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Theater Card. Revoked.

I work in the Performing Arts.

Oh, you think, how sexy! How interesting! How Glamorous!

I'm told "How lucky you are to work in something you love."

That's the one that always gets me.  How lucky I am to work in a field I love. 
It always surprises me because no matter who I'm talking to when I tell them I work in the Performing Arts, I've never told them that I love it.  I know that I've never told them that because I don't tell anyone I love it.

When you're in college and you have these stars in your eyes about being onstage, you're told that if you choose to do this as a career, you must love it because you'll never get rich doing it.

"Oh, I do, I do!"  The young impressionable person cries out.  "I do love it!  I can't LIVE without this!"

 "Well, good." They say.

Then you go on in the field, studying in college and grad school and eventually landing the incredibly competitive internship at the enviable BIG NAME theatre company that doesn't pay well at all but damn it's such a good thing to have on your resume that you don't mind that you have to eat ramen, or nothing, for weeks on end and live in a dump with six other people because you're only making $500 a MONTH in Washington, DC.  You focus on the positive instead.  The great name on the resume, the amazing new things you're learning,  that living with six other people in a four bedroom walk-up is actually very boho trendy, or that, while being malnourished, you're also ragingly skinny. Even starvation has it's perks, you tell yourself. Hello size six, or four, then two!  Oh heck, you think, if I get really desperate, I can go to the bar and eat the free chips, and maybe drink some calories since there's always a guy there who's willing to buy a girl a beverage.

Of course, I'm speaking totally hypothetically here.

Back in college, they're very honest about how you won't get "rich" doing this, but what they neglect to tell you is that you probably won't actually make any money at all.  I have countless friends who have no savings or retirement of any kind.  They live paycheck to paycheck, working exhaustingly long hours.   When asked why they do it, their response, in a voice filled with fatigue and defeat,  is "I love it." 

I think some of them do, or at least did at one time, and six months ago if you asked me why I did it, I'd give you the response we performing arts people are trained to say.

I love it. I do it because I love it. 

As I aged however, I've come me to terms with many things in my life, and one of them is the reality that I've quite possibly been lying to other people, and to myself, for years.

You see, I don't love it.

Sometimes I didn't even like it very much. 

I didn't love not making money. I didn't love having to choose between a family and my career because the hours I have to work in order to pay my living expenses leave little time for another person, or god forbid children. If' I get pregnant then at some point I won't be able to work because I'll have to stop long enough to push another human out of my body.  And who has time for that when the next paycheck is all that separates me from living in a box under the I-10 freeway?

It turns out, sacrificing for art isn't my thing, and so I left the poverty based art world for greener pastures.  I don't find it less fulfilling. Sometimes I feel like a should, especially when my very artistic friends look at me sideways and say, "Don't you feel like a sellout?" 

No, I don't feel like a sellout.  I feel like I traded one type of life for another one, and I'm happier for it.  If I had to leave the performing arts industry forever, I would miss it, but I'd still be happy, especially if I traded it for the real love of my life, whomever or whatever that is.

Just don't tell anyone I said that. They'll take my theater card away.  

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