Remember being thirteen? I do, but only vaguely. Thirteen is not a place you want to be. The word “awkward” doesn’t even begin to describe it, and it would be an understatement to use it to describe me at thirteen. I looked like Gollum except with Janis Joplin hair and braces over buckteeth. Knobby, bony, undersized, huge eyes, and a litany of sass-factory retorts crammed into a skull with no room for social grace and no awareness of the deficit.
But thirteen was also when I knew, with the certainty of an explorer planting a flag in the bank of a place he has long suspected was there, that I wanted to be an actor. I knew what was what on a stage. I had permission to be weird, to be funny, to be even–god forbid–glamorous. Not a thing I was naturally. Not a thing any thirteen year old is. And I told my parents, and they rolled their eyes and hoped this, too, would pass. Which, of course, it did not.
I was thirteen ten years ago, and when I had that thought today I almost choked on my Starbucks. I mean, of course I knew how old I am. But there are a lot of ways to think about 23, and I hadn’t reached this one til today.
I had a lot of grand ideas about what being an actor would be. Oh, I wasn’t totally delusional. I really wasn’t. I just thought that going on a dozen auditions a week and subsisting on takeout and tea would be an absolute goddamn riot. I would have all these actor friends, and we would be in plays and commercials and, after we had suffered the requisite amount of time–actor’s purgatory?–we would be in movies. Small ones at first, and maybe only small roles, but then, who knows?
My life at 23 looks a little different. A dozen auditions a week? I’d be lucky to get that many in as many weeks because I don’t have an agent yet. Of course I went to theatre school and got cast in a lot of shows and had a great time and met these amazing artists and made life-changing friends. Then reality hit and I had to drop out because of money. The great people are still here, and it’s hard, but it’s not a movie montage of dishes in a sink and headshots on the counters and bright-eyed screen tests that turn in to one thing and then another.
There was an expectation that all of this–difficulty–would be awesome. And it a way, it is. I don’t have a routine. I never know what I’ll be doing week-to-week. And when I get very depressed about my mountain of debt and the fact that I’m not in a show right now, I remind myself that at least my debt is much less than the national average, that I am an adult with a job and a boyfriend (I’m starting a new better job, and that boyfriend is so wonderful I can’t stand it) and actually, things are kind of great. I chose this. I choose it every day.
I think thirteen year-old-me would be all right with this.