Do you enjoy playing games? Then I have a game for you! But be warned - it's not a whole lot of fun, and you always lose. It's called...
The Comparison Game
I was having tea recently with a dear friend of mine, and we were both lamenting on how much we both hate the Comparison Game. The ironic thing is, we're both doing pretty darn well! She's got a full-time job ahead of her and lots of shows booked, and I have a full-time acting/teaching job beginning soon that'll keep me busy for the next 12 months. But we both admitted to playing The Comparison Game from time to time.
You can play The Comparison Game with anyone! I play it with my fellow recent USC grads, current students who seem to be taking way more interesting classes than I ever did, peers who've moved back to the Bay Area with me and are attacking the local theater scene with gusto... Anyone is eligible. All they need is to be doing something and talking about it. Or doing something and having other people talk about it. You know what they say... the theater is a small place. People talk.
I think Facebook is partially to blame. Because although it's made it much easier for me to keep in touch with friends (half my social life is planned, thanks to the book of faces), it also makes it easy to "keep track" of other peers. I probably wasted at least an hour yesterday playing The Comparison Game. And I truly do mean wasted. Because I gained nothing out of it, except jealousy and slightly lower self-esteem. And Facebook is killer, because the people I play The Comparison Game to only post the good stuff - show photos, social outings, upcoming events... I'm guilty, I do it too! And it's great when you post the good stuff to celebrate it. When you post the good stuff to brag and show how much you're winning The Comparison Game, it's just annoying.
That's why I have to remind myself how lucky I am, to have the opportunities I've got and to have such a wonderful support system of family and friends who want the best for me. In fact, I was at Hairspray* the other day and talking to one of the cast members. I was telling him how fantastic he is (and he is, the whole show is great!!), and he insisted that it wasn't him... He was just blessed. And while I like to use different terminology, I definitely had to agree. All us actor-folk are lucky, with every opportunity we get. We have the chance to do something that brings so much joy and fulfillment... So few people get to do that, or even know how to do that.
So today, while lamenting our shared playing of The Comparison Game, I had to remind myself how lucky I am... and that all people take different paths. In the theater world, it's not just about talent or work ethic. Some factors, like how your voice sounds or how long you've been auditioning or simply the fact that you look like you're twelve, are important. But so is dumb luck.
Well, maybe not dumb luck... I think you have to make your own luck. That's been my goal as of late - making sure I do the right things that will open up doors later. But ultimately, our abilities to create luck (and work hard and be talented and look appropriate, etc) are what'll get us where we want to be. We all have our own paths - you hear that phrase so much when you graduate college that it gets seriously cliched, but it's true! This year alone I've met so many people doing so many things, and every person's gotten there in a different way. At Cal Shakes, people came from so many different backgrounds. My fellow actors in All Shook Up all had very different journeys, but were acting from a deep love of the theater. My friend from lunch today had gotten some auditions, didn't get others, but ultimately is extremely excited about where she's headed.
And me? I'm stunned at how well things seem to be going. Not even a year ago, I was absolutely petrified about life post-graduation. I didn't know where I wanted to live, what I wanted to do, or how I was going to do it. But I forcefully dumb-lucked myself into a fantastic internship at Cal Shakes, where I learned a ton. From there I dumb-lucked myself into another (paid!) learning opportunity at another major theater company. And in the meantime I kept myself in the loop of local theater/educationy things, so that I eventually dumb-lucked myself into the job I'm beginning next month. And lots of auditions, which lead to a number of shows/readings/gigs.
If I were trying to be schmaltzy and give a moral to this blog post, it would be this: you just gotta go with the flow and see where life takes you... But make sure to keep active, meeting people and working hard, so maybe you'll dumb-luck yourself into your next adventure.
But I'm not. So instead, I say this: don't play The Comparison Game. Even when you're winning (I feel like a winner in my own book!!), you'll still lose. Just focus on yourself and making things happen for you. And have fun! And be nice. And work hard. And maybe you'll dumb-luck yourself into something amazing, so that you'll be the winner in someone else's Comparison Game.**
*This is not me being braggy... But if you don't know, I'm working as a pit singer for Broadway By the Bay's Hairspray. Another fun opportunity that I dumb-lucked into!
**.... darn.... I ended up being schmaltzy after all.