Thursday, December 8, 2011

What do you want to be when you grow up?

As an actor, you constantly put yourself out there.  You go to auditions and you bear your soul in a way.  Yes, you’re acting, getting a chance to be someone else for a moment, but you are always drawing on your own experiences to do so.  Going to auditions is tough.  It’s hard to put yourself out there every time and not get feedback.  Well, you get feedback, but it’s in the form of pass/fail.  There are no progress reports.  And everyone is so afraid of bruising your ego that it’s hard to get anyone to tell you if you’re good or not.
A little bit of background.  

1. When I was ten years old, I wrote a letter to my mom telling her that I wanted to be an actress, and that she should get me an agent, and that I was writing a letter so that she’d take me seriously.  I didn’t get an agent.  But I didn’t stop wanting to be an actress.  Other things to be when I grew up came into my life and left.  I thought I’d be practical and be a psychologist or a psychiatrist  because I liked helping people, and I was a natural listener.  Then I started drawing, painting and sculpting, and I thought I’d be an artist, but I was still trying to be practical, so I figured I’d go to college for graphic design, because then I could get a job.  And then my school had an art college fair and they all told me my portfolio needed more pencil drawings.  I still hate pencil drawing.  So, I decided to go to school for Theatre to become an actress.

2.  I completed my undergraduate degree in Theatre Studies.  I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts, which means I didn’t take any math or science classes in college.  I never even took pre-calculus in high school (I really didn’t like math).  So, in order to go back to school for a Masters degree, I would either have to go for a Masters in Fine Arts, or do some prerequisites, depending on the degree I want to get.  Basically it’s not easy.  And if I went for a Masters in Fine Arts in Acting (which is what I would love to do) it takes a LOT of time, and I want to have kids, and that takes a LOT of time too.

3.  After undergrad I moved to California (L.A. to be precise, and then the O.C.) to become an actress.  At the time I went there I was a bit of a theatre snob.  I didn’t think that I ever wanted to do film.  I lived in California for 3 years pursuing acting in theatre, doing some shows, and doing one film.  All the while working either as a waitress or in the school system.

4.  Then I met, or should I say, re-met my husband and moved to Utah to be with him.  (that’s a story for another post) We married a year later, and I lived in Utah (Salt Lake City) for 2 years.  I do not like snow, enough said.

5.  After quitting our jobs and living out of our truck for 6 months (see Life Without a PermanentAddress), we went into debt and decided to settle down in Knoxville for two years for my husband to get his Masters Degree.

And that about brings you up to speed.  

So now here I am, 30 years old and still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  My husband’s schooling is coming to an end, and he’s trying to write a thesis, work as a Graduate Assistant, and look for a job somewhere else.  Needless to say, he's a bit stressed.

We never intended this to be our home, but I’m learning something as I move from place to place.  Nowhere feels like home at first.  Nowhere has everything you are looking for.  Nowhere do you meet the people you click with right away.  Nowhere do you find the hotspots of things you want to do, and people you want to hang out with right away.  It takes about a year and a half.  And then you start to find community.  Then you start to sort of like where you live, or at least not hate it.  And this is where I find myself now.  I’ve gotten to know people in the film community here, and I LOVE film!  I love acting in it, I love watching them, I love all the things I’ve learned about film from working with so many talented people.  And I feel as though I’m starting to make some headway.  And we’re moving in May.

My husband just found a job that is his dream job.  Literally, dream job.  And it’s in a place that is far from any city, from any film festivals, from any theatres.  But, it’s sunny, and warm, it has red canyons and blue skies, and it’s his dream job.  And I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, so who am I to say, “no, I don’t want to live there.”  I want to be a supportive wife.  But I also want to be an actress?

This is my struggle.  Do I continue to push for acting, continue to strive to become better, to do more?  I just had two auditions that I thought went well, that I went to and put myself out there, and the feedback was, “No, you don’t get the part.” But no why, no reason.  I found out once that I didn’t get a part because I had the wrong hair color, so I know that the reasons can be many, but it’s hard to have faith in yourself when you don’t know why.  And no one gives you feedback about your audition, telling you, “You need to work on x, or y” or “next time you should do z, and you’ll get the part”.  So how do you get better?  How do I get better?  How do I tell my husband that I want to be an actress, when I don’t know if I’m any good?  I think I am.  I’ve seen some of the films I’ve done, and I think I’m pretty good.  But maybe I’m not.  Maybe I’m just average (I hate that word) and I should quit while I’m ahead.  Get a “real” career.   Please don’t think I’m crying and begging for validation or being self-pitying, I’m just frustrated.  If you want to be a computer programmer, you can figure out pretty quick if you’re any good at it.  The programs don’t work if you’re not good.  Instant feedback.   As an actor, I don’t get that. 

And people who know me will say, “But Emily, you’re such a great teacher, you’re so smart, you have so many options, you can be whatever you want to be” and I know this, I just don’t know what I want to be.  A teacher?  I don’t like the current education system, but I don’t want to be the person who changes the education system, so if I were to go into teaching, it would be in an unconventional way, which is always the harder road.  But maybe that’s what I do.  Maybe I go to this small town for two years, have some kids, and try and become a teacher somehow.  I don’t know.

So, I guess I’m left with the same problem I had when I started writing this post, what do I want to be when I grow up?


  1. You want to be an actress. No question about it. I get that maybe it feels like that isn't a practical ambition, or a proper one, or any of those million of things that people say about the dreams they think it would be easier not to have, but you want to be an actress. I get the feeling, both from reading this, and from having worked with you, that you need to act. You need to act like I need to produce. Because it's the thing that makes us feel best in our skins, most like the people we want to be when we are doing it. Maybe you'll take two years and chase your husband's dream, and then take two and chase yours, maybe you'll have some kids and act at the same time (as many people do), maybe you'll teach acting. But, just so you know, I totally believe in you as an actress.

  2. Thank you so much Shannon. That means a lot to me. A whole lot.

  3. I still don't know what I want to "be" when I "grow up." I suppose it's a good thing that I still don't consider myself grown up. Although the wife and kids may differ with that assessment.
    To your quandary. You love your husband? You want to have children? I gather as much from this post. You're as grown up as it gets. As ready as you gonna get. Just do it. You'll be fine, but it won't be easy. Easy like you think it should be if you've figured it out. You want to be an actress? Be one. Or are you saying you want to be Angelina Jolie or Helen Mirren? Big difference. The odds aren't in your favor on that one. They ARE if we're still talking about being Emily Soleil. I've met you, seen you act. I think you are primed for that role. Be there for your husband. Have kids. Act. In community theater if possible; in Hollywood if it happens.
    Good luck.

  4. Mamalujo, you say you've met me, but I cannot figure out who you are.