Deciding to pursue an acting career came to me at the ripe young age of eleven. I thought (and still do believe) that everything was perfectly decided for me, as though the fates had reached out to me specifically to grant me with a golden ticket to knowing what I wanted to do with my life. Previous to this, I had wanted to be a singing soccer player who also happened to be a veterinarian because it sounded easy enough. Isn’t it funny how when we are kids we have absolutely no inhibitions? We questioned everything without much fear. Now it’s hard to smile to a person on a busy NYC street without fearing that they won’t smile back. I digress.
I felt a certain amount of confidence, passion, and pressure all at once as soon as I knew what I wanted to do. Now with every coming school show or family party I was expected to get the leading character and do a song and dance for friends and loved ones. If i didn’t get nominated for an award related to acting or music, it would be a shock for everyone. If my voice cracked it would be a question of if I had vocal nodules or if I had been rehearsing enough. If I had an off day on stage, it would be a serious talk from a professor saying that if I want to succeed then off days weren’t much of an option. And thus began the beginning of my seemingly endless anxiety.
Having anxiety, for me, is both amazing and horrendous. It’s like you have a little friend who is like “ALLLLLLRIGHT! TIME TO GET UP! TIME TO MAKE SOME MAGIC! LETS! BE! PRODUCTIVE!!!!” but there’s the rub: I literally cannot sit still half the time and I constantly feel like I have to be putting myself out there yet won’t know how which will only increase my anxiety. Let me be clear, anxiety does not run my life. However, it is something that I have to face more times than I would like to admit and plays a role in how I get things done.
This can especially come into play when I am auditioning and particularly with singing. I am working on it and getting better, but it just seems like when I have this pressure on me the audition room makes my brain think I need to overcompensate when I sing and I am not sure why. Want me to read sides? Amazing. Want me to do a monologue? EVEN better. I am so excited to do only acting related things but ask me to sing another song and my heart feels like it has been put through a spike. This was especially evident when I was called in to audition for the hit musical Hamilton. Yes. Hamil-mother-f’ing-ton. I sat staring at the email asking me to come to an audition in awe and in a strange fog for about 45 minutes straight before realizing I had to cancel all plans for the next 42 hours and focus on learning the material, which was all music. No sides. No monologues. Just music. I did it and it went very well and I am here to tell the tale but let me tell you, I don’t really know if there is any other way to scare the shit out of me after that. That is all.
Anxiety is interesting when you are an actor because…well…all you do is deal with instability. But I love that because it’s a challenge, and I am always up for a good challenge. I am constantly flying by the seat of my pants and working random jobs to get by in this life of sin. (I will go more into detail about said jobs in another post because you…you just aren’t prepared. From working on a farm with a strange overly sexual old man to tending to the richest people as a baby sitter to painting myself blue for a bar, I have seen some weird things.) I am still learning to deal with the instability financially, but have recently landed a stable and flexible gig that I really am thankful for every day. Now I am just in the midst of getting things in balance, which always is a bit of a fun struggle. And of course there is the universal understanding that everything cannot really actually be in balance all at once and that really is okay.
It took me a really long time to accept that one day I might come across someone who really doesn’t like me. That was an idea that made me very anxious. I had never really actually had a problem with anyone. My two best friends always called me Switzerland because I chose to remain neutral, unless something was clearly unfair. I have only met about one or two people that outwardly do not like me and it took me a really long time to be okay with it. It would consume my thoughts, leading me to believe false truths and question myself and wonder if what they believed of me was actually true. I would walk around thinking about it, sit on the subway obsessing and calculating how I could make things better. But then one day I realized; these are the only people who have an issue with me and the truth is…it’s okay. Who cares? There is so much happening in the world…how could I be focusing on this when people were starving or going through so much worse all around me? I looked at the tired faces on the subway and knew so many people had so many different stories and lives going on and almost felt ashamed that I was sitting here obsessing over some people who were never even close to me. Not to mention, I have so much love in my life. SO much. And so much support and kindness and I am extremely fortunate.
It is easy to let anxiety run your life like a bully who pushes you around and constantly wipes their boogers on you. But the truth is, you can become friends with your anxiety if you can be patient with yourself and slow down for a second. Appreciate where you are, who you have, where you want to be, and what you have done. You are very loved whether you believe that or not and are important to at least one other human being on this planet, but usually to a lot more than just one. Try not to be crippled by thinking of the future so much that it consumes your present and distorts your past. It’s hard to face it head on, but at the end of the day you will appreciate the motivation anxiety offers without allowing it to put you down. You are in control. You run the operation. When your heart speeds out of control, remember to breathe and know that no matter what you will get through the hard times. Whether that means making a major change in your life or just simply allowing some time to pass while you go through what you go through, allow it to happen and keep your head held high. I am not an expert. I still have anxiety attacks sometimes and worry about my future but it is never too late to take a second, observe what is making you feel pain or confusion or panic and say to yourself that it may be time for change or maybe some time to yourself to relax. It’s okay. It will always be okay.