Over a year ago, July 2011, I wrote a blog post about one of my favorite things about acting- doing more in one lifetime than is actually physically possible. Holding different jobs, living in different time periods, being a different ethnicity, etc.
It’s true. I’ve been a Russian maid and a mermaid. Audrey Hepburn and Cher. A professor and a prostitute. A fairy tale princess and one of Shakespeare’s most famous maidens. It’s been great. And, hopefully, I’m not done yet. I’ve learned about myself, about history, literature, and had a few weeks of “doing a different job”. I’ve realized I really don’t want to be a maid, professor, prostitute or movie star. I mean, great for a few weeks. But not really “me”. I’m an artist, perpetually looking for the next thing, the next viewpoint, the next idea.
I was reminded of this post because of David McLean’s essay for Ploughshares last week, regarding the life of a writer. He talks about the perspective all of his real-life different jobs gave him. The distance for observation, the ability to see beyond the surface, the interactions with a variety of people.
And as far as real life goes, I’ve had quite a variety of jobs as well. As McLean says, "In terms of employment, I’m a bit slutty. And I think that’s why I am a writer—because in the end, I’ll do anything." I think that's part of what makes an artist. i've done most everything, and see the value in those "dues paying" jobs. Piano teacher, retail salesperson, activities therapist for the mentally ill, insurance administrator, Executive Director of a nonprofit, Development Coordinator of a different nonprofit, private school teacher. And all of those have helped to create the ones I currently have- choreographer, director, dance teacher, theatre teacher, Pilates instructor. I wouldn’t be here, making dances, without 5 years of selling stationery and electronics at WalMart or 5 years of explaining medical benefits to employees. (Honestly, every artist should spend some time in sales. Learn how to sell, how to talk to people. You’ll need it.)
Artists have a knack for being put into different situations and learning from them. Maybe even more importantly, they like. Thrive on it. I love people watching. It’s part of the reason I don’t mind doing things by myself. I’ll go to a coffee shop or bar alone, or even travel solo, and enjoying sitting, observing, making up stories for the people around me, seeing their mannerisms, hearing their dialects. Each situation has something to offer. A new voice, a new idea, a new perspective. This outside view feeds my creativity.
I hope I continue to find this in every interaction in my life and not take it for granted. I like to learn. And each person, job, play and party offer an opportunity to explore. To gain insight. To listen