Chances are, you’ve had a day job. And while you know the benefits of having a day job (roof over your head, clothes on your back, shoes on your feet, food in your mouth), you might have also caught yourself (more than once?) muttering under your breath (or aloud?):
“How is this my life?”
This probably happened after you had a date with a photocopier for an hour, or after the table of ten left without tipping, or after you gave an interview on Good Day NY as a life-size 1-800-FLOWERS gift box (yes, I have done all of these things in my lifetime, and no, there are no existing photos of Michelle-as-Flower-Box) . Even though I knew why I was there - to have a flexible schedule, to go on auditions, to make $50/hr—I found myself getting caught up in the sadness and frustration of not doing what I want to be doing with my life. Sometimes, knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing isn’t the band-aid you’re looking for. What helped me, though, is when I would apply a mantra to that situation. Something I could use to distance myself from the suckiness, so I could keep on keeping on. So, what would I repeat to myself?
“I don’t care.”
While this mantra enabled me to bring my blood pressure back down, take deep breaths, and let go of the Superstar persona I’m so attached to, I was still waking up with a pit in my stomach and walking around all anxious and tense throughout the day. I realized the error of my ways recently when I spoke to my life coach (yes, life coaches have life coaches!) about it, and she suggested that, while “I don’t care” was partially getting me where I want to be (more personally removed from a bad work situation), it’s not empowering or positive in the least bit. So, how did I turn this mantra around?
“I’m a coach.”
Now, when I’m at my day job (American banks aren’t very quick to give mortgages to life coaches these days - so I can’t leave yet!) and things go haywire and I feel that tension rising, I repeat to myself, “I’m a coach. I’m a coach. I’m a coach.” This subconsciously reminds me why I’m sitting at this desk from nine in the morning to six at night. This keeps my values and goals in the forefront of my mind, and allows me to get through my day with a minimal amount of upsetness (I know that’s not a word, just stay with me) and stress and frustration. Yes, things still get to me, but I know that this is part of my own path.
So you, as an actor / quilter / dancer / filmmaker / guitarist / knitter, can replace the word “coach” with the passion that you’re pursuing. Does it make you want to kick some ass and take some names? Does it remind you as to why you’re on this path and where you’re going to end up? Is it positive? Is it empowering? If it does, have at it. If it doesn’t, maybe you’re slowly realizing that you’re just biding your time until you find a new path. With me, I hating waitressing enough to say, “It’s not worth being an actress if I have to wait tables,” and I discovered a less hated way to pay my rent. But when I found myself at my full-time customer service position a few years later, my last audition six months behind me, I knew I was kidding myself when I said, “I’m an actor.” It was time to find a new path.
So find your mantra, and listen to your answer. It might be, “I’m a sculptor.” It might be, “I’m finding my way.” But when you find it, use it. Live it. Be it. Tattooing it backwards onto your forehead is optional.