What you were doing at 12.30pm on Saturday 25th July? En route to a matinee you’d rather not have been doing? Taking a brunch order from a table you’d rather not have been serving? Or, were you – like me – squatting behind a bush trying not to be seen by a group of children playing nearby?
Wait, I can explain…
On 25th July at precisely 12.30pm, I was indeed hiding behind some greenery, waiting to serenade a 4-year old girl at her birthday garden party. And as I squatted, frozen, at almost exactly the same time as the intro of ‘Let It Go’ started to blare from the speakers, I had one of ‘those’ moments. One of those moments when you realize that in spite of the dress and the tiara, you’re not Princess Elsa from Frozen and your life isn’t quite going the way you’d imagined it would.
I am an Actress in my late 20’s, living in London. Since graduating 5 years ago, my part time jobs have consisted of door-to-door salesperson selling vegetables, a production runner, a waitress, a barmaid, a nanny, a party princess/pirate/minion… Yada, yada, yada. You get the gist. And when I speak to other actors, I’m always intrigued as to what their part time jobs have involved. I’m not too bothered about hearing about their latest role or if they’ve got any acting work lined up because a) I get a bit jealous and b) I think there’s more interest, and yes, something extremely comforting in hearing how someone else manages to juggle the demands of a job and the attempt at building a career. And I think it’s vital that we separate those two things, even if it’s just for our own mental wellbeing.
I’m no stranger to this all-too-common exhaustion-defying circus act. Towards the end of last year, I was juggling 4 part-time jobs on a weekly basis. The regular money was nice but it seemed as though I was trapped in a minimum wage extravaganza, and a dangerously vicious circle. Every time I got a last minute audition, I’d panic because I didn’t have the time I wanted to prepare for it… But if I cancelled work, I couldn’t afford to get to the audition/pay the rent/buy reduced party food. I was Nannying most afternoons, spending my weekends as a Children’s Entertainer, serving burgers in the evenings and doing an odd day of admin in an office. I felt like I’d had enough of the Big Top.
And then, then it happened. I had one of ‘those’ calls.
My agent phoned with some great news: a big gig that would change my life had come through after several recalls. Suddenly, juggling all of my part-time jobs seemed so worth it. I clutched the phone, slightly hysterical, and rang all 4 employers to tell them I was leaving.
Two weeks later, I had one of those calls.
My agent phoned with some not so great news: the big gig was still happening, but it was no longer going to be my life that it changed. I clutched the phone, slightly hysterical and with genuine despair, and rang back my former employers to ask for my jobs back.
In the space of 2 weeks, my confidence had soared to it’s highest and plummeted to it’s lowest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as used to dealing with rejection on a regular basis as the next dress-up Disney princess, but this was a totally different ball-game. I felt like I was taking a huge step backwards by going back to the bill-paying jobs when such an attractive alternative had temporarily been a possibility, but I needed to get to other auditions/pay the rent/buy reduced party food. So after a few days of wallowing in endless episodes of Gogglebox and eating my body weight in tiramisu, I reluctantly began the cycle again.
As friends are starting to have babies, getting on the property ladder and earning bigger salaries, here I am again, dressed as Snow White, crouching behind a sofa. All I need to do is remember the reason I’m down here; I’m here because it allows me to pursue my dreams.
I may not be Snow White, but that doesn’t mean I can’t whistle while I work…
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