I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Well, I decided officially when I was 12 that I was going to be an actor – in musical theatre, specifically. I figured out my plan. I knew what extra-curricular activities I’d have to take (I’d already been taking vocal lessons since I was 9, and had been performing in school and community theatre since my first production at age 2), decided where I was going to go to school, and knew exactly what balance of theatre/musical theatre/film/tv/commercials I intended to do. (It’s really hard to make money in theatre, so even the purists have to sell out and do film/tv/commercials if they don’t want to teach/wait tables/be a barista).
My eating disorder already had a small hold in my mind at this point, and dancing and acting and anorexia seemed to go hand in hand for me. As much as I was GOING to be an actress, I never had any confidence in my ability. Anorexia gave me an edge – the incredible thinness that goes along with success so often in “the business”. It also gave me an excuse to fail, in my mind: “Oh, yeah, I totally blew that audition, but I was barely conscious so . . . ” You can never fail if you never try, right?
In spite of myself, I started getting successful. Out of all the auditions I went on from about May to December of 2010, I only didn’t book one of them. I had to turn down roles because they conflicted with one another. I was NOWHERE near the “big times”, but it was overwhelming, nonetheless. The anxiety that surrounded that success absolutely wrecked my appetite. I started losing weight again (again). With any weight loss comes the terror of gaining it back, especially when you’re on a contract. (You often have to sign an “appearance waiver” that says you won’t change anything about your appearance. This means you can’t gain weight, because then they’d have to find you a new costume. They never seem to mind taking them in, though . . . )
In the end, though, it wasn’t (entirely) the body image pressures that made me leave the business. A lot of things about it bothered me. I hated that the only constant was instability. Contracts lasted a few months, then you were unemployed again. You could get a call for an audition the night before and be expected to find a way to get out of your “joe job” shift the next day. I met one of the most successful Canadian musical theatre actors at my local Starbucks one day this summer. I asked him if he’d moved into the area. He was subletting . . . in the nearly 20 years he’d been a working actor, he’d never had a place of his own. He had couch-surfed and sub-letted for his entire working life. Who wants to live like that?
(I also hated the constant ass-kissing, that “friends” would only call me if they thought I could get them into an audition, and that you could be talking to a person, then someone important would walk into the room, and suddenly you’d be talking to a different person. I mean, it was the same physical person, but suddenly they were “on”. Kill me now.)
So I left “the business”. I had no clue what I was going to do, but hey, being sick was a full time job. There were times when I honestly doubted I’d live to work another job. Not having a purpose meant I didn’t really have a reason to get better. “I’m just a waste of space, leeching off of my family and the government”. Deep down, though, I had to wonder if the universe wasn’t keeping me alive for a reason. I mean, with all the crazy shit I’ve done to myself, it’s amazing I’m as whole and healthy as I am.
I started getting better, but really had no clue what I was going to do with myself. I knew I wanted to do something that made a difference, preferably in the field of eating disorders, but anything in that vein seemed to require a lot of college . . . which I didn’t have the time or money for. It was really hard to keep trying when it seemed all that lay ahead for me was working a minimum wage job and blogging occasionally (not that I’m not grateful for all my loyal readers).
This weekend, though, I found it. You’ve heard (read) me blather on about all the new stuff I’m learning about food and why it’s good for you. It kinda fascinates me. My “joe job” is also has a lot to do with natural food, etc. On Sunday, I was talking with a girl who is studying to be a holistic nutritionist. It turns out, there is a school here . . . not far from my house . . . with a one year program . . . that isn’t too expensive. That’s pretty much all my criteria. And it just clicked in my brain and in my heart.
Holistic nutrition teaches you how to heal yourself with food. Not with calories, not with numbers . . . with REAL food. I can’t imagine anything I’d rather learn for myself at this point, and to help others. I can go into practice to help those with eating disorders, and be the nutritionist who REALLY understands the terror surrounding food, which seems to be a hard thing for the “normies”. I can help actors and dancers, most have whom haven’t got a clue in hell how to eat properly. And, I can help the “normies”, because everyone needs a little help now and then.
Having a purpose is great. Everything that has happened up to this point in my life seems to, well, point to this. It makes it so much easier to keep trying. But this wasn’t always the case. The times when it got dark, it got REALLY dark. When mediocrity seems like the only road stretching out in front of you, it’s hard to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You don’t believe anyone when they tell you that it’ll get better, that you’ll find your purpose, that things will be ok. I wouldn’t have believed anyone who told me I’d be going back to school, doing what I dreamed of (in a roundabout sort of way), and not ending up in the poor house to do so.
My friend Tori always says, “This is not the end of my story”. And I promise you, if you keep trying, it won’t be the end of yours either. But you have to try. Nothing will ever change if you keep doing the same things over and over. And if you’re not quoted out at this point, here’s a little more wisdom, from a girl named George: