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  • Writer's pictureBethany Lynne

Just Doing It... For the Aspiring Artist

A year ago, I graduated college.

I walked out of a big auditorium with a blank diploma case, wearing a silly hat. My plan? To pursue acting.

People's reactions to my plan? Puzzled expressions and sentiments like, “Oh. That’s… nice,” or, “Are you going to try and make it in Hollywood?” or the exhaustive, “Remember me when you’re famous.”

I felt silly telling people my "plan," and not just due to hat I was wearing.

A year ago, I didn’t know what pursuing acting meant, and I wasn’t even sure it was my “dream.” It was the hobby I enjoyed, but was always too practical to go “all in” for.

A year ago, I didn’t know where I was going to live, where my paychecks would come from or where to start. I did things like, move into a spare bedroom in the suburbs, work at Chipotle, and spend hours scanning the internet for opportunities. I made myself a list of boundaries so I wouldn’t sell my soul out of desperation for roles… and had to consult it more than once. I took myself to a lot of auditions. I most certainly was turned down, and often. But, I also turned down roles that called for a violation of my human dignity or exploitation of sexuality.

My parents voices spoke on eggshells over the phone, “Let us know if you need… money, or anything.” They asked the hard questions I was already faced with, “How do you know these gigs are the real deal?” and, “Would you turn down a compromising role if there was considerable compensation?” Ethical dilemmas that were never a concern at my conservative Christian college, swiftly became the norm.

A year ago, I didn’t have anything to lose. I was already post-undergrad poor and didn’t have anything tying me down. I figured if I fell on my face and went absolutely broke, I’d just move back home… like many of my graduated friends. Back home there was my dog, home cooked meals, and free rent… and despite the self-inflicted feeling of failure I knew I would experience, it wasn’t a bad plan b at all.

A year ago, I took a leap of faith, and where did I land?

A year later, I’m taking a final bow from a Chicago stage, walking away with an envelope of cash in one hand and a copy of my acting contract in the other.

I’m signing on for paid short film roles, and being told, “Wardrobe and makeup will take care of you.”

I’m casually turning on the TV and seeing myself not once, but multiple times in the background of Chicago’s latest airing show, The Red Line.

I can say I wrote, directed, produced, and starred in my original one act, The Complaint, put on in a local Chicago theater.

I’m booking two lead short film roles in a day after what I considered to be, “bad auditions.”

I feel confident to call myself an improviser, and a proud member of my team, Big League Chew.

I'm accepted to Regent University for the fall to pursue an MFA in Acting.

I'm running into artists from my college who say my journey is, "inspiring."

They say, “you’re doing it.”

I am happier than I’ve ever been, because I am, “doing it,” if, "doing it," means sustaining myself while pursuing what I love... and laughing a lot in the process, because in this line of work, hilarity frequently ensues.

A year later, I can afford groceries, rent, transportation and an occasional splurge on boba tea. (The jury is still out on little things like health insurance, steak dinners and a decent brand of nail polish).

A year later, I’ve learned to accept generosity, know my worth and when to say no, to be confident in the face of inner embarrassment or disappointment, and most importantly, to not apologize for the way I was designed.

There is a way for artists, yes, even artists, to pursue what they love and remain healthy, sustained and cared for. It can be a real struggle, but we’re happier for it, because at the end of the day we feel richer than any 401K or four bedroom home.

So, my dear artist, give yourself a year (at the very least), to pursue what you are terrified to do, the thing that lights a fire in your eyes, and keeps you up at night dreaming about the possibilities. And if you fall on your face, if you utterly fail, there’s a nice big house in Albuquerque, New Mexico with two sweet empty-nesters who would love to take you in. Just tell them their daughter, the working actress, sent you.

- B

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