Now or Never

My name is Claire and I want to be a professional actress.

So, I moved to New York.

Now, I don’t know what I’m doing here.

Three years ago, I moved to Brooklyn with my boyfriend, and started auditioning in the city, and working as a waitress in a bar-b-cue restaurant, (which is funny, because red meat makes me ill.) I auditioned two or three times per week, and got some valuable feedback. Somewhere along the line, however, I adopted a negative rationality about my chances (based on the few auditions I had attended) and a growing contempt for the industry.

Within the year, I grew less interested in auditions, and more worried about money. Auditioning was exhausting – mentally and physically. I seemed to be surrounded by negative people. I convinced myself that I enjoyed performing, but was meant to do something else. For quite a while now, I’ve taken every measure to find out who really am, and what I am meant to do.

In the process, I’ve been an administrative intern at a Broadway management company, a recruiting assistant, a receptionist, a nanny, a telemarketer, a voice teacher, and a waiter. The process of reinventing myself has left me exhausted, confused, and polarized.

To bring you up to date: Yesterday, I was let go from a mundane desk job due to budget cuts. This was survival job number 8. I felt nothing but relief.

Today I went running, and let my mind wander. Where did the old Claire go? I remember running full speed into life, taking advantage of every opportunity with unfiltered creativity. I took on every challenge with an unflinching optimism. I didn’t question my goals. I knew what I wanted. Things just came to me. Did it all disappear when I moved here?

I recently stumbled upon a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson I had never heard before, and it lit a fire under me:

“When you have chosen your part, abide by it, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world.”

I realized with a jolt that the second half of the quote summarized my current situation perfectly. What excuse have I given myself to think i wasn’t talented? Am I weak? Then it hit me – I have never focused my energy on any one thing for an extended period of time. My focus has always been diffused across too many interests and possibilities – which I don’t consider a bad thing, but it was like sitting in a canoe and paddling in lots of different directions at once. It wasn’t getting me anywhere.

I live in a city where people are so focused, they shoot lasers out of their eyes – In my ‘career meandering’, I’ve met some of the most driven people in the world. I’d had enough of this ‘deflated balloon’ feeling.

I decided right then and there that 2011 was the year in which I would learn how to focus my energy.

Since one year goes by incredibly fast up here in New York, and since it’s a blink of an eye in the overall scheme of things, I decided a year-long stretch would be an acceptable unit of time for my little experiment.

Over the next year, I plan to use what I know, and what works for others to discover what it takes to become a working actor in New York – all the while, documenting what works for me, and what doesn’t.

Whether it’s a dance class, a voice lesson, advice from a friend, or a great head shot photographer, I’m going to keep track of it all right here.

If, at the end of my journey, I realize that a career in performing is not the right path for me, I will have the benefit of knowing. If this time does get me closer to my old self, then I will feel better and I’ll gain my sense of direction and purpose. In the mean time, who knows? Maybe I’ll get a show.

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