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