I got my dream job the summer after I graduated from college.

I would spend the summer working at an outdoor theatre company on two productions: as an ensemble member in a hokey but heartfelt original musical, and as the ingenue in a well-established straight play.

Not bad for a history major who changed streams at the last possible minute. I would be paid! to act! and my housing would be provided.

1 simple mindset shift when you question your career path

Remember being on the cusp of leaving college? All the fear and uncertainty and the can-I-get-job? I got the job. I was going to live the dream.

And truly, it stands as my most favorite summer ever.

I was on an actor high for most of my time there, incredulous that I woke up and went to work at a theatre every day.

I was the greenest one there. Professional actors from Washington D.C. made up most of the rest of the cast. But this was good–I could pick their brains. I asked them upside of Tuesday all about the business and auditions and postcards and craft. My own personal actors studio.

I did the best work I could do. History major, remember? I had grown up acting and had lots of experience, but very little formal training. I had good instincts, but I started to feel out of my league. Unprepared. Inadequate.

Could everyone see what I could feel? Did I look like I didn’t belong? Would it look that way to the audience?

This was not some performance review I would receive in the privacy of a dingy office. This was public.

Some days were a breeze and my pup-like energy carried me a long way.

But some days just felt like suck. Especially as we rehearsed the play that required more nuance. I was sharing scenes with a veteran of the stage. A D.C. powerhouse. I was dwarfed by his presence on stage.

This was going to be hard. Shit.

I put in extra work on my own, working on my voice, scene analysis, how to play the beats. I was lost, groping, and felt like a fool. Embarrassed.

Instead of waking up and looking forward to my day at the theatre, I began to dread the notes I would get from the director, the way I couldn’t vocally compete with my scene partner.

I was losing it.

And then there came a shift.

I remembered how goddamn lucky I was to be at that theatre. How else could I have spent my summer? Back clerking at the courthouse? It was struggling, but look at the struggle I got to have. Better to sweat it out on stage than be stuck in the filing vault where I wouldn’t learn a single thing about being a professional actor.

I stuck a little post-it note by bedroom door, so that as soon as my feet hit the floor each morning I would see its simple message:

Enjoy the luxury.

The luxury of the struggle, of the opportunity, growth, the potential, the chance to get better at what I loved.

I would have liked it better if I was a natural genius who didn’t need improvement, but I could enjoy the luxury of doing the work instead.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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