A few unsolicited articles came in to firstname.lastname@example.org last week. Here’s one of the best…
Here is a photo of me, in June 2010. I am wearing a green Karen Millen dress complete with matching heels that my Mother bought for me, I have had my hair professionally blow dried for the occasion. There I am, proudly clutching my 2:1 BA(Hons) Acting from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama – with absolutely no fucking idea what was supposed to happen next. If you look close enough I’m sure you can see the panic in my smile. After 17 years of solid education and structure the only thing I know in this photo is that yes, I would like to carry on being an actor please world, and that the girls are on about us all moving to London for a bit to try and see how it all goes down. 5 years later, I am still here. I did move, I did work as an actor, I didn’t work as an actor – but I’m still here. Over the next 2 posts, I am going to share 10 life lessons that I have learned in that time – some I wish somebody had told me on that day in the green Karren Millen dress, some I am really, really glad they didn’t.
1 – London Is Like A Terrible Boyfriend
I once met a boy who was a real wrong ‘un. When we met I thought he was terribly exciting and totally set apart from all the safe, homely boys I had known before. I dropped everything to be with him, even though I was well aware there was a very slim chance of things actually working out well between us. When I told people I was with him they were impressed, and he gave me a lot of opportunities. But he didn’t care about me. He gave me very little attention. If I couldn’t do exactly what he wanted exactly when he wanted me to do it, he would carry on without me. He was rude. He was cold. He stole all my money. But he was really, really fit. The less he gave the more I wanted. And sometimes, in the midst of all the dismissal and cruelty, he would take me dancing in places I never thought I would go. He would show me amazing things. In those moments he was magic. Most of the time when I was with him I felt powerless – like nothing I could do would ever be enough, like it would make no difference to him if I was there or not, like I didn’t know why I even bothered when life would be so much easier with anybody else. But whenever I left I missed him, I missed all of him – and much as I hated to admit it to myself, everything else would always be just a little bit more boring because of him.
There’s your metaphor London you horrible, sexy little shit.
2 – Some Of Your Friends Will Be Doing Better Than You
“ I am thrilled to announce I will be joining the cast of ……”
Somebody from your year in drama school is going to get a ridiculous gig as soon as they graduate and is literally never going to stop working. They are going to do amazing things such as getting on to the property ladder at the age of 24 and regularly appearing in the copy of the Evening Standard that you are reading on the way home from work.
Here is what that means – That they are doing well in their chosen career and that is bloody fantastic for them.
Here is what that does not mean – That every other aspect of their life – their relationships, family stuff, mental and/or physical health are instantly a million times better than they were before because their career is going well. That their lives are suddenly problem free. That they need your friendship, your celebrations in their success and your support in their sadder times any less than they did before.
I’m really sorry, but there really is no easy way around this, you just have to get over yourself and be happy for them. Love them in the ways you always have. Because there is nothing worse than a bitter actor, because they deserve it and because you would want the same from them if/when it is you.
Unless of course they are a totally talentless dickhead. We will deal with you next time.
3 – Some Of Your Friends Will Not Be Doing Better Than You
On the flip side of this, at any given point while your busy tweeting about only having 20 minutes in between Panto performances (#Exhausted #SoBlessedThough) – some of your brilliant, fierce, sickeningly talented friends will not be working for complete bullshit reasons that you cannot or should not try to understand. They will be ok, of course they will be ok. But they will probably feel, at times, a bit shit about the whole thing.
Do – Buy them wine. Howl at the moon with them at the injustice of it all. Listen.
Don’t – Patronise. Explain. Complain at them that you’re not sure whether to take the tour you’ve just been offered because your agent thinks you should do more T.V.
4 – You Will Not Be Best Friends With Everyone You Work With
This one took me a while. Decades worth of youth theatre and drama school closer-than-your-own- family behaviours led me to the false understanding that everyone who you share a stage with will form an instant and iron-like bond with you that none but death shall part.
Then I worked with some people who didn’t like me. Amazing, I know. It was rubbish. Sometimes it came with a subtle indifference, an invite quietly missed out of the drinks after work, a sly comment in a dressing room that probably wouldn’t have upset me if I wasn’t in a strange town without my back up crew. Sometimes it got a bit mean. All I wanted to do in these situations was call the whole cast together before warm up and scream “WHY DON’T YOU LIKE ME ? I’M REALLY REALLY FUCKING NICE !” at them, whilst simultaneously beating them round the head with my fantastic personality that they had unfortunately missed up until now. But here’s the thing. They didn’t have to like me. They just had to work with me. If you find your self in this situation I would suggest you keep your head down, be polite, don’t take any bullshit, do any snivelling in the toilets for no more/no less than five minutes, then do your job and afterwards phone your mates who properly loved you before hand and will still properly love you after.
But I’ve also worked with lots of people who did like me (Phew!) with whom I formed whats app groups, in which I wouldn’t go an evening without cracking up at the millions of in-jokes sent between those in our select crew. People who I cooked for, drank with, who met my family, whose houses I stayed in, cars I drove, children I baby sat, who knew absolutely every gory detail of my life in and out of work for the time we were together. Then the jobs ended and we all went home. They are still wonderful people, you will see them again, if your lucky enough work with some of them again and it will be like nothing has changed. But life is busy, life goes on – and that is ok.
5. You Will Be Best Friends With Some People You Work With
However, sometimes, against all odds – some will stay. And if you are very, very lucky and you find a diamond in your digs – you may just have bought yourself a fast track, 3 month intensive crash course in best-friendship that normally takes the trajectory of about 10 years.
Hold on to these people. They are rare and precious. If they can handle you at your “12 people in the audience red wine hangover 10am matinee in Hull” then they absolutely deserve you at your “West End Transfer Press Night.” Congratulations – you have just won the jackpot. This is one of the biggest achievements of your career so far. Yes, even bigger than your Offie nomination.
More of this sort of thing next time. In the mean time, no matter where you are with it all today – try to remember it’s just bloody life. Oh, life. Oh, life. Doo doo doo doo.
Thanks Des’ree. Enjoy your toast babe.
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