When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was obsessed with not making "classic actor mistakes." I did not want to end up like the thousands of men and women who flock to Hollywood every year with misplaced expectations only to blow all their money, lose focus, waste their time, get into trouble... basically do everything but create a successful career. Then, defeated after a year or two that yielded minimal credits, crawl back to the cornfields of Nebraska to begin filling out bank teller employment applications.
No, that wasn't for me. I vehemently told myself I wasn't here to party; I wasn't here to socialize; I wasn't here to spend days on the beach; I wasn't here to shop till I drop. I was here because I was going to work hard and be successful at this odds-against-me profession. So I did very little of the above. I felt that every penny I spent on something other than classes or headshots or books on acting was a wasted penny. And I certainly didn't have spare pennies to be throwing around town. I didn't drink, I didn't go out to dinner, I didn't buy anything to make a home out of my little apartment in the valley, hell, I didn't even sleep on my face because I was convinced that over time it would make my face wrinkle... soooo not good for a leading lady.
Then I woke up 14 months later absolutely depressed. I had the same amount of close friends as when I first moved here... a big fat zero. Everyone I knew was just an acquaintance because I'd never accepted their offers to socialize. Acting had a fine start, but I wasn't exactly testing for series regulars. I was frustrated at the progress that seemed so minimal compared to the energy I had expended to get there. So I ended up making another classic actor mistake... I started to doubt myself and I totally burnt out. I lost motivation to push forward and so I stepped away completely because I just couldn't think about it anymore.
You've heard it before, it's about balance. To succeed in this career we have eat, drink, and sleep acting. You have to want it so intensely that it should feel like a constant fire in your soul, a fire strong enough to carry you through the tough times ahead. But remember that it's just a career... not your life. It is important to maintain the life outside of the career, because that's really what it's all for anyway. I gave myself permission to take 2010 off from almost everything acting and to just focus on finding me again. I revisited those hobbies I had abandoned because I wouldn't allow myself to spend money (or time) on them. I went to parks, museums, theater and live music. I finally joined the wonderful people around me for drinks after work, beach days, Dodger games, nights out dancing in Hollywood, and trips to Mexico.
Then I woke up 12 months later, and realized I had built a life in Los Angeles. And for the first time since I moved out of my parents' house, I felt like I had a home I was proud of. I had amazing friends and pictures of our adventures all over my well-furnished apartment. After my first class back with my long-time acting coach, he said, "You've been working on your own this whole time, haven't you? I can see it." I smiled and said, "Yes," because it was the truth. I wasn't sitting there with scripts, but I was working on myself while I was away. Finding the balance in my personal life made me a better actor.
This weekend is one in which I've scheduled a little more life than acting. Perfect timing because I've been a tad on edge this week, still waiting to hear back on a couple auditions I nailed last week. I fly to Vegas this evening for a little me time. Me the person, not me the actor. I'll be back Monday rejuvenated and ready to focus on the last push before the holiday season sends this town into a two week hiatus.
Hope your weekend will be filled with lots of life also. See you on the flip side...