Blue Collar Actor: Moving forward with Grace


April AudiaYears ago, I had a conversation with an actor-friend of mine because I began to notice that no matter what mountains we climbed or what doors we opened, none of it really mattered.  I began to really listen to our conversations and they would go something like this… one of us would say, “Hey, I got an audition for a show on a major network”.  The other one would reply, “That’s fantastic!” The reply back would always be something along the lines of, “It’s no big deal, it’s just a lucky fluke”, etc. I said to her one day, “Ya know, we are gonna ‘no big deal’ our lives into ‘no big deal’.”  I thought, why are we doing all this work if it doesn’t mean anything? But here’s the thing… it was a “big deal” when we couldn’t obtain it, but became “no big deal” once we did. Were we being humble?  It didn’t feel like it.  We had fallen into a pattern.

You start your career at a young age (which we both did) and every crossed finish line is amazing! “OMG I got an apartment!” “OMG I got an agent!” “OMG I’ve landed a part!” and on and on.  But as you continue down your path, that excitement dwindles with each accomplishment.  So the pendulum beings to swing the other way.  You start to think, “anyone can get this gig, who hasn’t done a web series?”, etc.  And once you lose that enthusiasm, you’re sunk.  Here’s the other irony… If somebody else achieved these things, we would view it as an amazing feat.  Why had we given up on ourselves?

So I said to her, “listen, we are going to express our achievements and follow it up with something that signifies we are proud of ourselves”.  This particular friend has won an Emmy and been on Oprah. If this isn’t in the somewhat “big deal” category, we might as well pack it in. We began to do it with everything and soon enough; we didn’t fall into a vat of self-centered conceit, but rather began to feel the power of gratitude.  Although it didn’t feel like we were being ungracious before, we actually were.  By downplaying everything, we were losing our sense of grace.  That beautiful little word that should apply to every breath we take.

Recently, I landed a job on a TV show with an actor I grew up watching.  Years ago, I had worked as an extra on a TV show that he was starring in and now I was acting on a TV show and taking a curtain call with a row of actors that included him.  This is an easy thing for me to overlook.  Just do the job, take the bow and go home… “No big deal”.  But I stopped myself and before I walked out for the curtain call, I called upon my good friend, “Grace”. She said, “Remember when you worked on a show with this actor as an extra?” “Yes”, I replied.  “Well”, she said, “Would you have thought then that it would have been a ‘big deal’ to be given an opportunity to act with this actor and take a curtain call with him before a live audience?” “Yes”, I replied.  “Ok then”, she said. “Before you walk out there, I want you to remember that and take it in. I want you to look at it from where I’m sitting, through gracious eyes.” So I did.  That’s not an easy place for me to sit. Not because I am ungrateful because I am extremely grateful for my life. But because my Blue Collar upbringing also included keeping you in check, and part of keeping you in check is to make sure you don’t think you’re a “big deal”. So you just un-special yourself until you’ve proven your own destiny.

But the beauty of “Grace” is she thinks everyone is special. She thinks we’re all equal in our talents, abilities and awesomeness.  We all have the right and the key to cross the finish line of every race we begin.  But sometimes, I have to remind myself.  I have to take a moment and ask her if I can look at this through her eyes.  And when I do, I feel like the luckiest person in the world.  I see all of my accomplishments, all the hard work I’ve done through the years, all of the commitment that has paid off.  I feel good about myself and good about the fact that what grace and gratitude remind me of in the humblest of ways is that it is all a “big deal”!