Since the age of 11 there was nothing else I really cared to do but become a professional actor. Admittedly, my love affair with storytelling and motion pictures didn't begin with "high-brow" cinema. Instead, the likes of Rocky, Superman, The Karate Kid, and the 1973 animated version of Robin Hood directed by Wolfgang Reitherman sparked the desire to be on a stage or in front of the camera. My path in life felt confirmed.
Then around 2011 I began to feel the inklings of doubt set in. At first it was like a Scottish drizzle, eventually giving way to an outpouring of questions streaming towards a river of uncertainty. Never once did I question my talent or passion, but soon discovered each were characteristics that really matter...and don't.
I wanted people to listen to a monologue, soliloquy, or scene I‘d delivered and not only be transfixed, but jolted for the better by the time the house lights were again lit up and they sauntered back to their waiting chariots.
I carefully cross-examined my choice of career for answers, searching for its meaning. I was sometimes merciless in my interrogation feeling the pangs of guilt tugging at my conscience, betraying something I once loved unconditionally so very much. It was as if I was abandoning a loved one, or revealing some entrusted secret. Acting now seemed frivolous as I searched for the feelings and emotions it once evoked like the lyrics of a song I could not longer recall.
Now, I thumbed through the biographies of men named Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, unapologetically skating by the aisles that held the words of Brando and Dean. I spent my $2.50 on the New York Times instead of Backstage Magazine and often opted for documentaries rather than dramas at my favorite movie houses. I wanted to make an impact and believed less and less the arts was my means.
But acting would not go quietly. It was stubborn in its resolve, exiting the way a tipsy bar fly might when asked to leave after a spirit or two too many. “You and me aren’t through yet,” it seemed to howl. It knew all too well there was still love between us. Perhaps the lust and romance had dimmed, but there was still a very real friendship intact, love undoubtedly at its core. When she asked if we could still be friends I demurred before caving in at the end, knowing there simply was no other way.
Now, as I walk the streets of Amman, Aqaba, Tel Aviv, Bucharest, and Brasov, the recurring question that looms is, “Can you find something else to be equally passionate about? Is there something, anything, that will rouse you up at 5:30 each morning to work tirelessly on perfecting despite a little sleet on your windowsill, or humidity in the air? Can there be another calling awaiting you or is that asking too much?”
It felt presumptuous, even unfair to ask for another passion in this lifetime. It felt as though I was begging the gods of fervor for another shot at love despite having more than most. Why should I get to be so lucky? I thought.
This lack of clarity is frustrating, but also opportune. It has given life to a creativity that lay dormant with the stroke of a pen, the “on” switch of a movie camera. The same uncertainty has inspired a colorfully stamped passport and unique opportunities to express myself honestly and unapologetically.
What I have learned thus far is you can’t simply “find” meaning in one fell swoop. It requires a relentless pursuit accompanied by determination and a stubborn desire to know more. It does not strike you unless you’ve provided a nice big target. And this target is a byproduct of trying new ideas, failing, rinsing, and repeating without loss of stride or the tune you’re humming. It also requires the patience of a lioness stalking her prey, waiting quietly, but proactively as it slowly inches closer to sustenance.
As I prepare to push-off for Sofia, Bulgaria my new hope is not to find answers among the cobblestone streets and timeless verdant landscapes, but rather encouragement to continue trying, reflecting, and living. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, an idea will give birth to another, which will lend itself to sharing with others and building community. A desire to make a dent in this world, to bring forth a thought that matters need not, nor should not live in a secluded country. At least this much I know.
My friend Brandi, a 31-year old actress originally from Texas, shared this bit of advice with me:
"I go back to advice my sister once gave me when I was really stressed out about a stand-up comedy joke I wanted to make. I'd written the joke and thought it was really funny, but I was second-guessing myself and thinking of swapping it out for a safer joke. I emailed my sister who was all the way in China to ask what she thought. She asked what I was worried about, and I told her that I was worried people wouldn't think it was funny and wouldn't laugh. She asked me if I thought the joke was funny, and I said I did. She asked me if I'd regret not doing the joke I wanted to do, and I said I would. And then she said, "Then if they don't laugh fuck 'em."
It was so simple and funny. And I play it back in my head every time I'm losing my confidence, or second-guessing a decision, or going into an audition or a cd seminar/ class.