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Career Dispatches

What Today’s Children Can Teach You About Acting

What Today’s Children Can Teach You About Acting
Photo Source: Eric Hobbs

Do you remember the first time you decided you wanted to be an actor? Right, I don’t either—but I know I was very young. There’s something about youth, something innocent, unburdening, pure, almost as if children come into this world with valuable insight on what it means to be a truly free being. Almost as if they came here to teach us something. Now, do you remember the first time someone told you that choosing to be an actor wasn’t smart because it wasn’t financially secure or “safe”? Yup, I do, too.

That’s when the fear sets in. Fear is the antitheses of innocence, the killer of youth and your free being. From that moment on, you begin to lose sight of why you chose to be an actor in the first place; you become obsessed with the idea of becoming an actor even more because now you have something to prove. A fear storm of multiple negative voices has found its way inside of you, taunting your inner child, knocking you around with the fact that you might not be able to become the very thing you want to be.

And so you train—hard. You go to grad school, even though your family looks at you like you were crazy, asking, “Who goes to grad school for three years to study acting?” After sacrificing your week nights and weekends for rehearsals and more, you’re finally out in the “real world,” ready to be not just any actor, but a successful, no survival job–having actor. Because after all, you do still have something to prove, right?

Can you feel the pressure? The pressure that has been rising within you since the moment someone said that your choice to be an actor wasn’t the right one? Can you feel the fear that’s haunting you? The fear that you might not “make it” as an actor, that your side job might become your permanent job? The fear that your Plan B might become your Plan A?

It taunts you, that fear. In every meeting with a casting director, in every audition you have and with every “no” you hear. It morphs and adapts, too. Where it once said, “It’s going to be hard, I don’t know about this,” it’s now saying, “What made you think you could ever do this? Give up now.” It silences you. Where there was once a little child who chose to fulfill their acting dreams because it’s what made them happy is now replaced with an adult on the verge of settling, because they have been conditioned to believe that their dreams are too expensive to afford.

I’m here to tell you to stop.

For the love of your innocence, stop! I am here to tell you as I tell myself every day that there is nothing wrong with having chosen to be an actor. We are all creative beings in our own right, and while some may have forgotten that fact, you haven’t. You chose from a young age—so courageously, and so full of love—to dedicate yourself to something that brought you joy. And despite the many fireballs of fear being thrown at you, you have in some way still maintained your dedication to that joy. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.

Look at a child the next time you’re around one. Observe them from moment to moment. Everything that child does is not only fully embodied and present, but it’s meticulously calculated to serve one pure intention: to make them happy in the moment! That is their No. 1 concern, and all a child ever wants to experience. Children are wonderful beings who can teach adults what they have chosen to forget due to inherited societal fear. They can teach us the purpose of life.

So be free. Free yourself from fear, fear of rejection, fear of not making ends meet, fear of being wrong in choosing to follow what makes you happy. Rid yourself of it. It’s cancerous to an artist and imprints itself onto your work. Find the reason why you chose to become an actor; find your joy again, and hold onto it just as a child does! Choose to “make a living” out of experiencing happiness every chance you get.

With every day I receive on this planet and choose to call myself an actor, my inner child is always there to remind me that it is ultimately not about the money, or about proving someone wrong. It is about the physical experience of joy it brings me.

Jasmine Mathews can currently be seeing starring on “Sweetbitter” on Starz.

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