Been tripping down nostalgia lane in my mind and heart the last 40 or so hours, as I’ve reconnected with some people I used to live with in that hallowed microcosm of early adulthood – the dormitory. It seems almost creepy that today’s WordPress Daily Post writing prompt is “futures past.” I decided to go with the Moody’s spelling instead, as those days really have passed me by. You can’t go back. Would I even want to?
Am I who I intended to be? Who I was training to be back then? What did I want, and how has that changed? All of this is tinged with the fact that when I was that young woman, I was myself so very different, so very uneducated about the ways of the world. I didn’t even want to go to college – my sister made me. I was not taken on tours, I did not flip through catalogs to pick the best school for my chosen field of study – theater – I simply went where I could get in, with middling-to-good ACT scores, low, in-state tuition, and a place that had at least a decent reputation for their school of theater. They were also one of the only ones still accepting applications by the time I decided to apply somewhere.
In my Fundamentals of Theater class, the first class I ever took, the haughty instructor was disdainful of our group of 45 or so assembled for the early morning, MWF class. “Most of you won’t make it,” he said. “80% of Equity actors are living below the poverty line from wages purely from acting,” he spat. “This isn’t NYU, but our program is tough. Of those of you gathered here, you’ll be lucky if 10 of you make it all the way through all four years in this program, without dropping out of school, changing majors, or transferring elsewhere. You have to really want it.” We all smirked. Of COURSE we would all make it through! We were young! Determined! And thought ourselves uniquely talented!
Four made it through. I was one of them.
I felt my whole life had been designed for me to be a film star. Film acting suited me so much better than the stage. I didn’t grow up watching or participating in live theater, there really wasn’t any in my small town, save the lone local community theater, which was cliquish. I pored over “making of” books when I was young, fascinated with the filmmaking process and knowing in my heart I was destined to be in front of the camera. Ah, youth.
I guess what I came to learn was what really matters to me is performing, or sharing creatively otherwise, by writing and having others perform my work. I learned this the hard way, through two periods in my life when I was completely unable to pursue any acting at all. First because of illness, which killed my dance minor and sidelined me from the stage for a number of years, and then, years later, because of an oppressive relationship, where the man absolutely forbid me from participating in the process, saying he wanted someone to take care of him, the house, our life. I could get a job, but not that kind of job. He wanted me on his arm at work functions and suggested maybe I should work at a doggy day care or something appropriate for a Beverly Hills housewife, but not acting – everyone knew actors were flakes. And he was partially right. Until I dropped the word “Theater” on the thousands of resumes I sent out in LA, I never got so much as an interview. After I cut it, I had so many I ended up having my pick of jobs.
When I fled that relationship, and Los Angeles, to return to Cleveland, I realized all I really wanted was to participate in the process in some fashion. And, haltingly, I’ve been able to do that since the moment I’ve returned.
I can’t pay my rent, hell, I can’t even pay the electric bill with what I’ve made from my participation in the creative arts, but feel fortunate that I’ve been allowed to continue to be part of the process, and that I’m able to hold down a “day job” that allows me just enough freedom in my off hours to be able to play my small part.
So am I who I intended to be? In a way, yes. I’ll never get an Oscar, but maturity and life taught me it was never about that anyway.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Futures Past.”