The following Career Dispatches essay was written by Caitlin Stasey, who stars on the EPIX series “Bridge & Tunnel.”
There are some big gaps in my résumé. The biggest of the big gaps is around two years—and it appears more than once.On paper they’re just numbers, dates between one job ending and another starting, but those numbers have come to reflect a lot of things to me: my self-worth, my talent, my future, my finances.
I know some people are destroyed by the waiting. I have felt at times like I might be, too. I’ve been an actor since I was 13 and, with the exception of one stamp collecting video, I really have made each project I’m a part of better. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter as much as it should, and coming to realize that will either bring you a sense of peace or give you a hernia.
Acting and failing is an incredibly spiritual and painful journey. Simply put, having a job gives you the chance to do the thing you love for money. It also gives you a plethora of decisions other people will make on your behalf. Your whole body and brain can be contracted to someone else’s idea for six months (or six years, depending on how good your lawyer is).
When you don’t have a job, all your decisions are your own and no one is hanging on to see what the outcomes are.
Do I start working at this clothing store? Do I leave L.A.? Do I get private health insurance or just hold onto my ex husband’s until he realizes? (For the record, I’m doing the latter.)
My advice is less about ACTING and more about LIVING, man! (Insert “hang loose” emoji here.) Specifically, living with yourself when things aren’t going your way.
Feed your self-esteem and starve your ego. Now, if you’re like me, the word “ego” might make you think of wide brim hats sitting around a crystal orgy. But unlike shoving onyx up your ass to heal your chakra, your ego is real and it’s been fucking you up this whole time. You feed it with compliments, attention, praise, and rewards both material and immaterial. Self-esteem, you feed with commitment, patience, focus, and kindness.
You are your only competition. I wish I could tattoo this on my brain. What people respond to in someone else has nothing to do with you. You are your own entity and the way you will emote sadness, anger, or joy will depend greatly on your literal DNA. You can work hard, you can improve, you can become another person entirely, but your essence is exclusively yours—and sometimes people think it stinks!
Hard work will reward you more than talent does, unless you’re talented in an explosive, undeniable, universally agreed upon way. These people do exist and they make terrible friends and partners and I’m NOT JEALOUS OF THEM, OK!?
Practice makes perfect. Sometimes they just want someone who is attractive, good enough, and knows their lines. Beat your lines like they owe you money, turn them inside out like an ice cream wrapper and lick them clean!
Easy does it. All choices in acting have to come from a place of stillness and ease. You might be screaming your lungs out while fighting off an evil wizard, or crying your heart out while you hold your dead lover’s hand but the space to rise to those occasions comes from a calm interior. You are a church. Exorcisms and worship will and should explode out of you but you must be a refuge to yourself first.
Acting will not save you from anything you’re running from. It will not make you happy if it is a means to an end. An end to worthlessness, an end to debt, and end to being overlooked, an end to emails from your dad about taking the LSAT.
It’s just a job. Even when it’s not yours.
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