This morning I was sitting on my couch, post-coffee, taking a moment to breathe before plunging into the next thing on my to-do list, listening to the rain.
My mind flashed to my 30 year-old self. That was only seven years ago, but so much has changed, and there is so much I wish I could go back and tell her.
At 30, I had been out of grad school for 2 years. Married for 2 years. Doing the LA actor hustle for 2 years. I was still very into and proactive about my acting career. It was an exciting time. I had no idea that my passion for my career would bottom out in a year or two and I’d have the daunting task of finding work I could love as much as I loved acting.
Here’s what I would tell her:
Career Advice for My 30 Year-Old Self
Cultivate your interests outside of your work.
As a person, you need to be more than an actor. Read about other stuff. Volunteer with animals. Paint. Watch documentaries. Go on more hikes. You do ok with this, but don’t be afraid to play more.
Visit your friends and family more often.
I know you worry about leaving town because you’ll miss opportunities and it’s expensive, but find a way to make it work. Get a travel miles credit card. These people were around before you had this career, and they’ll be around if you ever decide to leave this career. I know your work matters a lot to you, but you need your people.
Become a producer.
Don’t wait around for someone to hire you. Produce your own work. Be a creator. Build a platform. Create the work you care about. Not only will you be more creatively fulfilled, but it’s damn attractive to others when you’re a making your own way. They will want a piece, which will make it easier to get hired.
Don’t be afraid to do it your way.
You’ve never cared what other people think, so don’t start now. There are lots of formulas and plans that other people will try to sell you. It’s great to learn from people who have been successful, but they didn’t get successful by coloring in the lines. You have good instincts. Use them.
You are valuable without this job.
Your work is a big part of who you are, but if you didn’t have this career? You’d still be a valuable person. You bring a lot to the lives of the people who love you that have nothing to do with your job. Don’t kid yourself that this job makes you somebody; you, alone, are somebody.
Do things that make you feel strong.
This industry can make you feel small. Some people will try to make you feel dis-empowered and stupid on purpose. Eff that. Whatever makes you feel strong, do more of it. It doesn’t even have to be related to your career. When you find something that reminds you of your own power, do it. Running on a trail, howling at the moon, lifting the big dude weights at the gym, standing with arms out-stretched among the trees, walking with purpose at the promenade, tipping a musician, making theatre with your friends. Do it.
Remember who you are.
When something rocks your confidence or sense of self, remember who you are. Remember your lineage and where you came from. Remember all the things you’ve done before this, all the challenges you have overcome. Remember that soft-centered heart you have. Remember your ability and power. Remember what makes you laugh and brings you to your knees in tears. That is you. All of you. Not anything else. Remember that.
It’s ok to change your mind.
Heads up: you might want to do different work in the future. That’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’ve messed up, wasted time and money on this career, or are a quitter. It means you’ve changed. You’re allowed to do that. You’re supposed to do that.
It will all work out.
Not like you thought it would. Keep an open mind. Trust your gut. It’s going to be fine. It’s going to be better than you can imagine.