From Oprah’s farewell show:
Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it. Every time we have seen a person on this stage who is a success in their life, they spoke of the job, and they spoke of the juice that they receive from doing what they knew they were meant to be doing….Because that is what a calling is. It lights you up and it lets you know that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. And that is what I want for all of you and hope that you will take from this show. To live from the heart of yourself. You have to make a living; I understand that. But you also have to know what sparks the light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world….My great wish for all of you who have allowed me to honor my calling through this show is that you carry whatever you’re supposed to be doing, carry that forward and don’t waste any more time. Start embracing the life that is calling you and use your life to serve the world.
Sometimes you don’t see the things that are right in front of you. It might be because of your focus, your frame of reference, or your expectations. The majority of people do not see the gorilla (and if you haven’t watched the video yet, this might be a good time to do it!).
I’ve often felt that maybe I haven’t found my dream job because I don’t know it exists, or that I don’t know what to look for. There are a myriad of options out there, but because I only have a limited number of experiences and knowledge about the world, there are a ton of possibilities that I just don’t see. If you read part 1 (and I hope you did!), you know that I’ve tried a number of options, done research, and even took a leap of faith with teaching yoga. But with all of this I still feel like there is so much out there I can’t see.
Last Fall Dave suggested I go to a career counselor. A friend of his had had success with one, and he thought I would too. At first I was resistant. My ego was getting in the way: “I can figure this out on my own! I don’t need someone telling me what I should do based on some multiple choice questions!”
In the end, though, I realized that it just might be the gorilla in the room that I would finally see. I Googled “career counselors” and decided on a redhead with a cool name, initials C.Z.C. These are obviously important characteristics to consider in any career counselor. I met C.Z.C. one afternoon in a cute cafe in the West Village. She opened her laptop and asked me to take the 400 question multiple choice test. I felt giddy with hope. That was until I saw the first question:
- Could you see yourself as an actor/actress?
Trick question! I had to decide right there: am I taking this test to discover another career besides acting?
I answered “No” to that question, deciding that I was looking for a satisfying career that would also generate a paycheck. By the end of the test, I was almost positive that I would be told that I should be a florist.
- “Do you like flowers?” YES
- “Can you see yourself working with flowers?” YES
C.Z.C. called me once the “results were in” and sounded so excited–“you are going to be amazed!” she said. When we finally met, I was filled with anticipation. What will I be when I grow up?
I took the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey (CISS) test and there were seven “orientations” that you could fit into based on your skills and interest:
I was told to AVOID every orientation except for Creating. C.Z.C. was so excited for me–“there is no question what you’re meant to do…you must create.” She told me to pursue design and culinary arts, as well as explore performing arts and writing. And, yes, she even mentioned that I should look into floral arranging (but should probably avoid landscape architecture!). She told me that being creative is what would nourish my soul. And she told me that one thing was certain: this was confirmation to look for something outside of my current industry, which is finance. She told me that my first transition could be at a more creative company (which would mean more creative people and a more creative environment) doing work similar to what I’m doing now, or at least utilizing skills that I’ve developed. She said that alone would make me infinitely happier.
I felt devastated, overwhelmed, and confused. Even though I walked away with the knowledge that I was only going to be truly happy if I was being creative for most of my day (and that is actually a big takeaway), it seemed like a steep mountain to climb, especially for a second career. I also wondered how (or if) I was going to fit acting and auditioning into all of this. I had so many mixed emotions. I had to put the test results away for a while (it’s been 8 months now) and just let them be. I’m still at the same finance day job. I think I’ve been so focused on the paycheck aspect that it’s hard for me to see the things that are literally right in front of me. Change is scary, but it’s important to believe in the power of each step, no matter how small it may be.
When I first moved to NYC, I temped at fashion magazines as my day job. Imagine a small-town girl in a one-piece pansuit walking down the halls of Vogue. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Then I moved my way to the much less fashionable New York Public Library, aka the NYPL. I liked to pronouce it “nipple.” That’s probably a good indication of how I felt about that job. And then, because I was an actress, I decided that I should be a waitress. Considering I lied to get the job and I had never opened a bottle of wine in my life at that point, I’m surprised I lasted a whole two weeks. Maybe temping wasn’t so bad after all…
Even though I moved to NYC for acting, I was spending a lot of time and energy on my day job. Based on the statistics that most actors didn’t make enough money to survive on, I was being realistic. One actor I had met doing a play the summer before I moved here, said he loved getting paid $10/hr to sit at a desk and do nothing all day. This was not for me. What was also not for me: answering phones, opening mail, watering plants, making calendar entries. I just could not be satisfied.
One sparkle of a day job was working at a private investigation agency. It was exciting. Not quite as exciting as you’d probably hope for, but still, I have some good stories. And, for the first time in my short day job existence, it was also pretty engaging work. It soon became clear, though, that I wasn’t interested in a long-term position with a boys club. I also found that by the time I had finished a 40-hour work week, the last thing I had energy for was auditioning and pursuing my art.
Shortly after the PI job, I found a cushy freelance gig and ended up pursuing my yoga teacher certification. The idea of being a yoga teacher had popped up time and time again for me, and I knew it was finally the right time to go for it. I thought that teaching yoga would be my answer to the satisfying and flexible day job–and that I could truly say that I was fulfilled doing something that also paid the rent. It turned out that I still needed a day job to support my yoga day job…which pretty much defeated the purpose.
Back to the drawing board!
In the midst of my five years teaching yoga, I came across a seminar at The Actor’s Fund on “day jobs for actors” and I thought this was a perfect opportunity for me to see what else was out there that I hadn’t thought of. I remember sitting around a large conference table with a lot of other actors, but what struck me was that nearly all of them were working actors. They had been working in the business for 10 or 20 years without having to have a day job. I couldn’t see how this was possible. And now, here they all were, unable to get acting work for whatever reason, and without any real marketable skills for a day job. I suddenly felt grateful that I had amassed quite a number of divergent skills that could afford me any number of jobs.
The biggest takeaway from the seminar was that the woman leading it said that the happiest and most successful actors she knew had two careers. One career being an actor, and another career being something else. And by career, she didn’t mean just a day job. She meant something that was equally fulfilling as acting. And, so, I was off to find that second career…
Stay tuned for part 2!
I have a tendency to do too much. Not only is “yes” forefront in my vocabulary, but I am also constantly creating new goals and projects for myself. I have various to-do lists scattered in different notebooks, scraps of paper, on my computer, and on my iPhone. And some of the books I return to time and time again are: Time Management from the Inside Out, Getting Things Done, Eat that Frog. If I can just master my time management and organizing skills (I think to myself), then I can fit as much as possible into my day and my life. In fact, I have all of these as audiobooks so that I can multitask…read a book and “get things done” at the same time!
Are you exhausted just reading this?
If the past month is any indication, this way of living is just not working for me. For quite some time, I just couldn’t shake a cold that had decided to latch onto me. I generally don’t like to use medicine, but when this sickness wouldn’t go away, I stocked up on anything and everything I thought might help. Nyquil night after night, and then various experiments with over-the-counter medications during the day. Nothing helped. And, yet, I kept pushing through. Going through a box of Kleenex a day at work, going out with friends at night, doing graduate school homework when I could fit it in, exercising at the gym, and trying to cross as much as I could off my lists.
Even though I knew deep down I needed to take it easy, I just couldn’t bring myself to slow down. Until one day, a few weeks ago, when my body said, “Enough.” It just couldn’t push anymore. My entire body ached, and it was even difficult to walk around for an extended period of time. It took a lot for me to take off not one, but two days of work.
And now that I’m on the other side of this long bout of sickness and fatigue, I realize it’s time to take a long hard look at, what Dave calls, my “restless spirit.”
Once I was able to put a name to it, clues began to appear for me on why I take on too much, and just maybe how I can change my tendency to overextend. Recently I pulled Julia Cameron’s Walking in this World off my bookshelf and started re-reading it. Things seem to always make a lot more sense the second time around:
Restlessness means you are on the march creatively. The problem is, you may not know where.
So often we feel there is so much we yearn to do and so little time to do it in. We could take a cue from music here: “Rest” is a musical term for a pause between flurries of notes….Without a rest in our lives, the torrent of our lives can be (overwhelming)….As artists, we must serve our souls, not our egos. Our souls need rest.
When I think about what I really want to do over the next few months, this is what comes to mind:
- Get lost in good books
- See lots of movies
- Cook creative meals inspired by the Farmer’s Market
These activities have no place in the accomplishment-oriented ego. This is what my soul yearns to do.
At this moment, this is what a restful spirit looks like to me.