I did agent showcases. I mailed pictures of my face. I acted every chance I got--in student films (high school and college), in plays, in scenes, in rooms, in front of my own camera and friends cameras. I drove all over the place and smiled kindly at the most ridiculous requests. I mimed navigating a space ship. I auditioned for a puppet who cruelly condescended me. I hawked magic cloths and mister sticky's in live in-store infomercial performances at every store in a 60 mile radius of Los Angeles. I studied my craft. I shelled out money by the fistfuls. I played the game.
But I guess, even then, at my most earnest attempts, even then, there was a rebel in me who rebuffed the rules and held a middle finger to the expectations of me as a player. I shaved my head. That couldn't have helped. Tall, thin, white, lady buzz-head isn't exactly a marketable "type." I'm still glad I did it though--it was a great lesson in self-discovery...letting go of hair, letting go of how much others care about your hair. My hair grew back. I kept at it. Auditions, showcases, mailings. Money out, money out, money out--LOOK AT ME! LET ME IN THE BIG ROOMS! Classes, workshops, internships. Money out, money out, look at me... Nevertheless, I "lost" the game. Had to bow out. Deeply in debt, unable to pay my rent or put gas in my car. A couple years of big tax bills I couldn't pay. I listed everything I owned for sale, measuring their dimensions using my 8x10 headshots.
You always hear these stories about big stars who moved to the city with $20 in their pocket, lived in their car, sold and bought back their furniture, but then hit their "big break." You start to think that's all it takes. Hanging in, come hell or high water, until that inevitable "big break," but you never stop to think about all the millions of stories you don't hear about all the millions of people throughout the years who moved to LA whose "big break" never came, who wound up genuinely homeless, who had to go back to the mid-west, who got "real jobs" or simply, literally died trying without ever getting there. Those people don't get book deals, don't go on late night talk shows and tell their stories. But they're out there, by the truck loads, those stories. More common than not. Not that it would have mattered if I'd considered it beforehand, considered I might not "make it," I would have had to do it all anyway...because you never know what luck might shine on you if you only try, if you just show up. So, I showed up, I tried, and I failed. I couldn't make them notice me. I could never get in the rooms where it happens.
I drove out of the smog-filled traffic of the city of angels, over the mountains, into the desert and half-way across the country with my tail between my legs and scuttled into my Mother's house in Springfield, MO. The dawn of the social media age was upon us. Twitter, instagram, facebook, snapchat, youtube, blogs, vlogs...a whole new world where your follower count alone could get you in the rooms where it happens. A world where you could photoshop and filter your appearance into oblivion and get free cloths and earn lots of money from a digitally edited version of your appearance. The word "influencer" would rise to stand side by side with "celebrity." There was a way now to play the game no matter where you lived.
But now... it was like when I came back from Italy--where I'd gone on my Joan of Arc mission, assigned by God, or so I thought, to witness to people, only to come home utterly broken of my Bible-belt shell and trying to figure out what I really believed about the world with the new information and life experiences I had gained....and I came home and went back to Church and suddenly felt sick to my stomach, struck by the hypocrisy, the arrogance and ignorance of it all. It was like that now with the game. I couldn't play it sincerely anymore. Chasing money and success and validation and opportunity... I couldn't believe in the higher power of it all anymore. I couldn't have hope in there being "more"--it just wasn't out there. All there is is now, is this, is what you've got and what you choose to do with it. So I could spend the rest of my life chasing yes's...or I could just give myself one big YES to do and make whatever I want whenever I want and be okay with the possibility that the audience never shows up for me and my art, that I create in oblivion and never receive recognition...but at least this way, I create. And that is the necessary thing for me, to live, I must create. So I create.
And when people talk of how I'll "make it"...how I'll win awards one day...I put on that old familiar smile that is for their benefit, and inside I shave that expectation down to a buzz cut. It doesn't matter if I ever do..."make it," win awards... am I still creating? That's the only question there is. Am I being challenged and stimulated? Am I loved for me, aside from my creations? Am I creating in new exciting ways? Am I learning? Am I growing as an artist? Am I having honest conversations about the human experience? Am I articulating feelings? Am I contributing something of some kind of value? Am I full? Am I energized by it all still? That's all.
I can't care about followers. I'm not Jesus. I don't need disciples. I don't need or want fame. I don't invite that level of scrutiny into my life. I don't need to climb some ladder of perceived success. I don't need trinkets that say I'm the best--I don't believe there is such a think in art as "the best." I DO want money to create, but I feel no motivation beyond waking up and doing day jobs to get the minimum amount of it I need to scrape by. I'm too high on creative ideas to be grounded in the reality of finances. I'm easily distracted by my ideas and fulfilling them. If I could really get it together...I would learn how grants work, I would go that route perhaps. Really...I just don't want to beg anyone to let me do what I've figured out I'm going to do anyway. I'll create, no matter what. And that's enough. That's enough because it's all there really, really is. Big house, no house, big crowd, no crowd, big money, no money...it's all the same at the root, and the big stuff, the success stuff is just a different noise, a different distraction than the noises and distractions of no stuff.
How I go forward from here: Fuck the noise...just create. Head down. Create. Come, don't come. I'm doing this thing. It's how I choose to live my life. I am owner and audience. And you don't have to get it. We all just have to live to the fullest truths of our heart.