"- don't be so quick to knock it. People don't usually part with the weird shit they personally know because they know how easy it will be to punch holes in. Now I'm tellin you somethin. It's for you to poke through the soup and find the meat." John Patrick Shanley's 'the dreamer examines his pillow'

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

long post. making up for lost time?

I went to Melissa Nutting today to talk to her about… the past couple days have been amazing, acting-wise. Not necessarily good, but good. I mean not necessarily fun, but revealing. So much is coming up about me as an actress and person – that’s what’s been happening all year long, to be sure. But now I’m in a production and it’s expected of me to perform, not just explore, so I’ve gone deep into some emotions and acting techniques that have really, really hit me hard and made it hard for me to keep going. I would sit in rehearsal while we talked about the show and think “Lord, I hate this. I am miserable. I don’t want to get out there and give my all again.” I was beginning to hate acting. Hate it. But when I think about it, there is nothing else in the world I really want to be doing. That’s not true – many other things could make me happy – but when it gets down to it I don’t know that any of them could ever be what acting is to me. Get ready for a contradiction. I was talking to a friend about all this, and I realized that I actually love acting. That it’s a deep, passionate Love-Hate relationship. And I found that the reason I feel this detest for the whole process is because…
I WANT IT SO BAD. The only thing I have ever wanted more is my God. I want this, I want acting, I want to experience and share that experience with others, I want to be good, for whatever reason, but the desire sits in my arms, in my gut, in my brain, in my toes – it consumes me. And if I can’t get there, if I can’t attain the unattainable excellence,
What the crap do I do?
Have you ever wanted something so bad that you want to puke all over it and throw it away just so there’s no chance of ever not getting it – because that way it won’t hurt so bad? It will hurt when I try and don’t succeed. It does hurt. This acting world is so unstable. It’s not just “be good and get a role and work a waitress job for a while until you get what you’ve been looking for.” EVERY ROLE is a pouring out, a discovering, a ripping apart of yourself (if you allow it to be) and when all is said and done and your guts are lying on the stage for all to see, there’s absolutely NO guarantee that people will understand, or that you’ve dug deep enough, or that you have done a good thing or shown anyone anything. There’s nothing to hold in your hand that says “you’ve accomplished something.” There’s no point system to tell you how well you’ve done. You simply offer you heart to the endless sky, and it's swallowed in the eternal nothing.
I want to tell you that I am not writing out of a melodramatic situation. It’s 5:45 in the afternoon, I’m feeling emotionally stable. I even just ate a cookie, so I’m in a relatively OK mood. This is just reality, and it sucks, and it’s HUGE…
So I went to talk to Melissa, who’s a wonderful acting/speech professor here who’s always willing to talk… and I went through all the real doubts that are in my mind about this stuff. In the end I said “I just don’t know if I want to throw my life away desperately seeking what’s unattainable” – much like I tried to say before. I should have added – “And failing. So often.” That’s the other part. You give of yourself, and fail. Failing sucks.
She told me yes, she’s heard that a million hundred times, and felt that a million hundred times. She said this week alone many of the other students here, even others in my class, had come to her about the exact same thing. Especially seniors, but really some of everyone. And the great thing is, she didn’t tell me any crap. That’s what I love about Melissa. Not once did she say “Just do it.” She said that even f I finish school and never act again, life is full of acting, and the stuff we learn here is entirely applicable to all sorts of things in “real life,” which is so true – so I’m not wasting my time here no matter what. She said give your all while you’re here, get everything you can out of it. And enjoy it. This is the only time in my life that I know I’ll get to act. And if I wake up tomorrow, she said, and decide that being a doctor is the only thing that will make me happy, go after it. Leave.
But never, never leave because I’m afraid that it won’t work out. If I don’t try, she said, I will regret it the rest of my life. She said “you seem to be someone who’s very smart and responsible. And you have been your whole life. In that aspect, we are two peas in a pod. Too much, I do the responsible thing – what’s expected of me, and that way I won’t be devastated.” God knows I’ve been too much in my head and not enough in my heart most of my life – it’s how I control – or pretend to think I’m controlling – everything. It’s what destroyed my relationship with Luke. At first I thought I shouldn’t be feeling what I was so I hid it and ran away and tension built and eventually exploded and we dated and then in my head I thought “now I’m supposed to feel this” and I didn’t and I thought “this must be wrong because by all accounts this should happen” – my f*!%ing heart belied my brain, and I fought it for all it was worth and then dropped my best friend into a big stinking pit and I can’t reach him anymore,
but I digress.
What was I saying? Oh right. So basically she said don’t do the responsible thing. You’ll be happy you exhausted yourself finding out whether or not this would work, if you stick with it. But you don’t have to, either. Also remember that most adults now change jobs twelve times. Maybe you’ll act for five years and become a professor – I could see you being really great at that. Or start a theater company. Or become a housewife. But never run away because of fear. Let acting run its course in you, whether that’s for life or just a few years.
Good advice. I still panic a bit when I think about going to rehearsal tonight and giving my all and failing – but I’ve got a good reason to do it now. Life is about mistakes and finding out how far you can go. Not all lives – but mine. That’s what I want. I’ll fail at that too… that’s what it’s about.


Blogger Jennifer said...

oh honey. it's so cool watching you grow through your writing. gosh, it makes me sad though, knowing that i can't be there with you to hug you and then smile at you. i love you.

11:32 PM

Blogger Melinda said...

Elizabeth, thanks so much for writing that. I really, really needed to hear all of those things you said--it was inspiring, really. Take care, girl!

4:57 PM


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