categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour
Speaking to Bill after his recent reading at Andover Books in Andover, Massachusetts, I asked for his take on some trouble I was having. We talked for a bit, he gave me some advice (not bad, because it was a Thursday), shared a bit of his own experience, then encouraged me to write in to Bill and Dave’s. I said, “But I haven’t come to any sort of conclusion about anything!” And he said, “Well, then write about how you haven’t come to a conclusion!”
I’d written a page about the particulars of my situation to send Bill. But when I read it over to edit it, I grew disgusted with myself and immediately deleted it. “For the love of God, man, stop whining,” an inner, much more put-together version of myself surfaced to say (in the voice of Ian McShane, strangely enough). But I mean, I’ve already got this word document open named “for Bill,” so I’ll at least send something.
I’m an actor and a writer, but I also work 25 hours a week at my “day job” with a schedule that varies greatly from week to week. It doesn’t pay great, but offers great benefits and a safety net for when the acting gigs are few and far between. My boss is incredibly obliging about giving me days off, as long as I ask for them before he completes the schedule (at least five days in advance). Unfortunately, the entertainment industry gives you at most two days’ notice before an audition or a gig. My day job also often turns my brain to mush, making it difficult for me to get motivated to write or prepare for auditions when I get home. So the thing that provides me with the money I need to get by actually saps me of artistic opportunities and desire.
What I wish to do: walk away from that job and not look back. Spend every waking moment either writing, reading, preparing for an audition, auditioning, shooting, or taking a class. Best case scenario if I do that: the flexibility of my schedule and increased desire combine to make my artistic product better, making my artistic business better, making more money for me, allowing me to then invest more in my artistic growth, and a happy cycle begins. Worst case scenario: I don’t get enough work, my savings dry up very quickly, and I’m forced to go crawling back to that job (if they’ll take me) in order to be able to pay my bills.
Most of the people I’ve talked to tell me not to quit my job. My agent, for example, says to continue to try and balance everything; in this market there are very few who make it on acting or writing alone. My family says that I can’t discount steady income. They basically tell me to accomplish everything I can artistically while holding down this job. If I get lucky and hit it big, great. If I don’t after a few years, it’s time to change course and get serious about starting my adult life (“find a real career”). Honestly, I can’t blame them for thinking that way. The immigrant farmers turned factory workers in my family come from a paradigm of doing what is necessary, not what is beautiful. There’s a strong simplicity to that kind of practicality. But I’m not wired that way. The services I must provide aren’t pharmaceutical or legal or material. I just want to tell stories. Try explaining that to my Greek father. “My poor future grandchildren,” he must be thinking.
An actor friend of mine who did “take the plunge” told me he’s glad he did it. He walked away from a well-paying career and is now living at home, not financially successful per se, but happier overall. He says the pressure to book gigs made him work harder at his craft than he ever had before. And he said that when he did hit rock bottom, it wasn’t the end of the world. That he did go broke, but he didn’t die or anything. And that’s not that bad, right? Right?
I’ve also heard from many that the journey is more important than the destination. My question to them is, “Does the easiness with which you say that come from the financial success you achieved when you reached that destination?”
At this point, I don’t feel happy or fulfilled. I’m just either less stressed or more stressed. If anyone has any thoughts on quitting the thing that pays your bills because it’s holding you back from what you really want to do, hook me up. Please?
Vasilios Asimakos lives in Lowell, Massachusetts.