I play other people for a living.
I like to think I’m good at it- it’s my passion, my degree, my experience, my job. I love it. I love stepping inside new character’s heads and exploring different opinions, beliefs, ways of life, humor, preferences, personalities, etc. I love getting to know humanity this way, expanding my horizons, and gaining empathy for others that I may not have understood before. To get to know the people I portray, I do what’s called “Character Work.” I answer endless questions about my past, my hopes, my dreams, my delight of indian food versus Mexican food, and more. Anything that I can think of to get to know this character. It’s fun; always an adventure. The other night, I went out with two of my greatest friends. We planned to have one of those famous GNO’s with lots of laughing, girl talk, and embarrassing videos. None of it was work-related; no auditions, no meetings, no performing to behold.
And I was dead-nervous.
What was I so worried about? I was off-duty, about to have some fun with some friends, just being me.
“I have to be me,” I realized. My stomach flip-flopped.
Me. Flawed, introverted, observant, imaginative, me.
And I realized that being myself meant that I didn’t have to try. Didn’t have to try to fit into someone else’s skin and story. I got to live my story: feel my heart beating, breathe deep in my lungs, be honest about my actual thoughts and feelings.
When you play other people for a living, sometimes you forget to stop acting as yourself. That you have permission to be yourself.
For a moment, there was total panic. Who was I supposed to be? Whom was I supposed to be impressing? What was I trying to accomplish?
I don’t know who I am yet. But I’m learning. And I know more than I used to. I’m still getting used to walking in my own shoes- learning the fit and feel, the squeaks and the blisters.
But I like her so far; this me. She’s not perfect. She’s broken and she contends with fears and insecurities, but she loves. She loves life, she tries to love others, she loves who put her on this planet, and she loves what she was put here to do.
And I’m thankful for time. That I get to grow as this person. That I get to change and figure it out. I’m not done. My story is still being written and I’m thankful for it.
I’m taking this time to do a little character work for myself. To discover her with the same curiosity, imagination, and gentleness I use with the characters I get to bring to life.