What I am

I like to spend a bit of time in the evenings doing some mental processing. I try to clear my mind and allow any thoughts or questions or ideas to bubble to the surface. Sometimes I write these things down, sometimes I accept them and move on and sometimes I file the thought away for a time when I can use more brain power. Last night, I was doing my processing and my mind landed on this phrase:

Why aren't I ... ?

I realised that through this past year of theatre training I've begun to ask myself this less and less. Theatre is a job where the learning and training never stops. As soon as you stop learning as an actor you might as well leave the profession. This is what I love about my work, but it has also been my major obstacle.

I'm the type of person who is always raising my personal bar. I always expect more from myself. This makes me unable to celebrate victories as I am always asking "what's next?". Now, it is great to have goals and to push yourself, but there comes a time when this behaviour is more destructive than productive. I was spending all this time, unhappy, asking why aren't I this, or why aren't I that. I was spending no time being what I was.

This has larger ramifications than just my profession. This shift of thinking affects my life in a huge way. However, I have always said, and believe, that theatre is not about therapy, so I will stick with the impact this shift has had on my work.

The change from "why aren't I" to "I am" reminds me of something written early in Anne Bogart's and Tina Landau's Viewpoints book. In the book, they write that creators of theatre are sometimes so busy defining "what it is" that they don't take anytime to ask "what is it?". If one tries to define what a play is before even starting work on it there is no room for accident, surprise and discovery. There is an amazing amount of space when one asks: what is it?

By shifting to an "I am" statement I'm allowing room for growth in my craft. If I keep asking "why aren't I" the growth is too defined; it is rushed, forced and won't result in balanced training. By stating "I am" I do not shut down the possibility for growth, but I remove my prescribed definition. This lets me develop at a natural, productive pace.

I suppose the overarching discovery is that change happens no matter what. I don't need to stress over the change; I don't need to be in a constant state of distress about myself and my work. Pam Johnson, my movement teacher, told me I needed to allow people to come to instead of trying to hook and reel them in. This also applies to myself. I need to allow the training and the skill and the creativity in me without trying too hard to harness, define and change it.

Acting is learning for life, but the learning doesn't make you better right away. Sometimes the "more" I'm looking for is years away and I just need to allow that more to happen. Sometimes I'm looking for the wrong "more" and I miss all the growth I have done.

So, to put it simply:

When I stopped asking "why aren't I...?". I started being What I Am.