• victoriajvalliere

Confronting those impossible questions: What do want to do with your life? And how do you get there?

photo credit: Paul del Motte

I was talking with my business partner and best friend the other day, curled up on the coach trying desperately to figure out what I want to do with my life. See, I'm currently doing what I love every single day. I wake up and I get to create something new and beautiful and powerful. And even when it's scary and hard and I'm tired and stressed it's still everything for me, to make art I believe in, to make art that hopefully changes one person's world, even a little. Because to change one world is to change the whole world for one person. And I've come to realize the only real way to create lasting change in this world is one person at a time.

We were talking that night because I was feeling lost - am still feeling lost. Because no matter that I'm doing something I love, I don't know how to get where I want to go. The life of a professional actress never felt quite right to me, but I can't figure out my place anywhere else either. I was talking about applying for human rights law masters, or going forward with my psychology degree and becoming a clinical psychologist. But the truth is there is a reason I'm here in Glasgow, Scotland studying acting right now and not doing any of that. That's not what I'm here to do.

"When you got skin in the game you stay in the game. But you don't get to win unless you play in the game." - "The Room Where It Happened", Hamilton

There have been two other times in my life that I've given up on theatre and art. The first I was 13. I had never been cast as an actual part in any school plays. I was the tree - quite literally - in the Wizard of Oz. I was cast as the Ambassador of England in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which is literally a one line part at the end of the play. I loved every single second and I worked so hard on my one line. But the whole time I knew in the pit in my stomach that this was the end, that I was never going to get to do this thing I love. The next year I became the Stage Manager of the entire high school, and I worked on every show for the next four years.

The second time I gave up I was 17. I had just returned from the Theatre Performance Intensive program at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. It was designed to push us young dreamers as far as we could go and make us face the reality that most of us wouldn't make it. I cherished those three weeks, but left with a firm decision that I would become a psychologist instead. The next year when I arrived at Mount Allison University I was in the auditioning room within a month. Cast in two plays before Christmas.

Now I'm here. I left Canada to backpack across Europe before starting my Masters program in a sensible, reasonable subject. Law. Psychology. Journalism. I wasn't sure. I ended up in a year long conservatory acting program.

You'd think I'd learn.

"Two Virginians and an immigrant walk into a room - diametrically opposed, foes. They emerge with the compromise, having opened doors that were previously closed - bros...And here's the pièce to résistance. No one else was in the room where it happened, the room where it happened, the room where it happened" - "The Room Where It Happened", Hamilton

My friend looked across the room at me this night, and asked "what do you really want to do?" It's the same question as always, but this time I heard it, and tried to answer honestly. My answer, predictability, came from Hamilton. I want to be in the room where it happens. I want to be somebody who can get in the room where things are decided so I can make things better. I want to be the person who can help in a situation of tragedy or emergency. I want to be someone who can see the pain and despair and inequality in the world and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

I have skin in the game. I want to play in the game. And I want to win the game.

But my friend is wise. And she made me realize that you don't go to school to become this person. No degree can get you in the room at the end of the day. You do what you love, and you do it the best you can. You can change the world from anywhere, so why not do it by doing what you love?

So now I've got a new goal. I have no idea what masters program I want to do. I still might end up in one of those "reasonable" ones, but this time hopefully it'll be for the right reason. Most of all, I'm going to keep creating art, and doing what I love. Even when it doesn't make sense. even when the sensible thing to do would be to quit. That lesson I've learned.

So if you have a passion. Especially if it doesn't make sense. Especially if no one else believes in you. Especially if you can't seem to quit. That's your key. Your key to the room where it happens. I'll see you there.

  • victoriajvalliere

The story of this last year. How you end up exactly where you belong, but never where you expected.

photo credit: Scott Cadenhead

This post was first written in May of 2018. Stay tuned for part two, updated for December.

One year ago almost to the week I was sitting in a cabin in the wilds of the Canadian forests, looking out over the French River at my all-time favourite writing retreat, dreaming about what the next year of my life would bring. And while I was there, I sat down and created a blog. I wrote out the category titles, I made the menus and fiddled with the format and designs. And then I left the retreat and went back to normal life and left the blog behind too.

Today I came back, drawn by scam issues, and I realized something amazing. Last year I wrote out one of the cateogry titles for the blog as "Adventures of a Young Aspiring Creative in Edinburgh". I know, super cheesy and pretentious, but then, so am I some of the time. That wasn't what struck me today. Today, I looked at that title and thought to myself, "Huh, I should change that, make it more accurate." Because, you see, I'm not living in Edinburgh, I'm living in Glasgow now. I am an aspiring creative though, that hasn't changed. And yet, it has. Everything has. You see, last spring when I created this blog I didn't believe a word of it. I had been told by my mentors and family and friends and everyone in between that once I graduated university, which I had just done, I needed to take some time, to go and travel and have a gap year and figure out where I wanted to go next.

It was good advice. I was burnt out, lost, and direction-less - mostly because I was so incredibly disconnected from myself - and I needed to follow it. Which I did. But when I wrote about being a young creative living in Edinburgh, it was a pipe dream. Literally. I never thought I'd be I had an image in my mind of living in Scotland, the country of dreams and romance and amazing accents, and creating something: theatre, writing, poetry, whatever art came my way. I had this dream of having an amazing apartment filled with laughter and friends visiting all the time (think F.R.I.E.N.D.S.), of walking along streets that have been there longer than my country (Canada) has been a nation. I had this image of an apartment that felt like home, of walking through parks to get to the grocery store. Of having a life. It was something I thought would never ever happen. I had spent the last four years of my life isolated and lonely, surrounded by people but never seen, busying myself until I moved as if I was a blur, trying to outrun my confusion, outrun my loneliness, outrun my self-hatred, outrun my fear. I thought the picture in my head was a fantasy, and when I wrote that category title last year, it was only that. A fantasy. A pipe dream.

Just like happiness is closer than you thought when you look in the rear-view mirror, so too is it right around the corner.

Except now I'm here. I'm living in Glasgow (not Edinburgh, but turns out this is where I belong). I'm studying acting and making art every single day. I live in the cutest apartment I've ever seen, with an amazing flatmate. I walk through multiple parks every day since I'm in the city with the most parks per capita in the world. I grocery shop and cook in my own kitchen. I have candles in every room of my apartment. And Friday night, do you know what happened Friday night? On Friday night I got home only to hear from one of my friends (yes, I said friend) who said "We're coming over to you're house!" By 8:00 I had three friends over, red wine, chocolate, and cake on the table, candles burning low as we started a conversation that went until the wee hours of the morning. They invited themselves over. They walked right in. They made themselves at home. And suddenly, it may not have been in a square screen, it may not have been in front of a live audience, and we may not have been as sparkly or stylish as them, but I was living F.R.I.E.N.D.S.: the real life version. It's not a dream come true, because I never had the audacity to believe in this fairy tale. But it came true nonetheless.

So what does this have to do with acting? Nothing...and everything. Because this dream was as impossible and distant to me as being a professional artist is to all of us. And all I had was a detailed picture in my head - a picture I didn't even believe in, but a picture I saw nonetheless. And that meant I recognized it when it began to come true.

What's your picture? Paint it carefully, be brave, and watch it come true.

  • victoriajvalliere

Beginning a new adventure

photo credit: Paul del Motte

It's happened. We've signed the contracts. We've booked our venue. We've created our company statement and ideals. We've shaken hands.

Rove St. Productions is open and running. Look for news of our first show, coming summer 2019.

p.s. Dreams are important. Without them I don't know how we'd ever move forward.

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