It’s the New Year a time for new beginnings, accomplishing new goals, and setting out to make this the best year ever! In the beginning of January after returning to LA from the holidays, I felt myself having a semi-nervous breakdown because I had so many things that I wanted to accomplish that I wanted right away. The little Verucca Salt in me was suddenly crying, “I WANT IT NOOOW!!”
I do not what to be defined by what I do for a living, how I make money, or even my profession. I think this is why I HATE small talk with a passion. After polite comments about the weather and traffic people jump to career-talking which ALWAYS makes me uncomfortable. Even if lots of great things are happening, I somehow feel inauthentic and automatically in business-mode defending my life as if all I were was a resume. I fear others judging me this way, but really (as much I don’t want to believe I do this) I sometimes get stuck judging MYSELF this way.
I feel that this is not just something actors deal with, but all people. It’s the first question we all ask when meeting someone “Oh what do you DO?” Is it because it’s more socially acceptable that delving right in and finding out what really matters: “What do you really care about in this life?” “What’s the most important thing to you?”
I don’t enjoy my day to day life being stripped down to stories that are meant to appease or amuse others by re-calling which celebrities I’ve met. A well-known actress that I recently met had a great effect on me—she shared her experiences and really inspired me both by her stories and by the grounded, collected, and present woman that was in front of me. I want to keep that experience for myself and not reduce it to an “I met__________” anecdote for others to have proof to validate the “Hollywood actor life” they have in their head. You know the story where it was just me and Beyonce chillin in a coffee shop right before I became discovered by my good pal Steven (Spielberg).
I don’t like feeling like I must tell people what they want to hear instead of my real reaction—but ultimately that is my own problem. What I often forget is that usually the people asking these questions: “Oh you live in Hollywood—seen any celebrities?” or “You’re on actor—what have I seen you on?!” aren’t asking these questions to annoy and patronize---they are most likely fascinated and truly interested in the life and career I have that is so polar opposite to what they know. In the same way I am really intrigued by physicists, construction workers, firefighters, sculptors, designers, mathematicians—I am intrigued by someone who can teach me something and share their experiences with me! I tend to think that other people enjoy talking about themselves and their careers even though I sometimes do not.
My career also feels very wrapped up in who I am at times because I am so passionate about it. I want to protect what I see as holy and pure from the dirty little small talk convos. The surface level conversations leave a bad taste in my mouth because it is the surface level part of my career that I don’t want to glorify or acknowledge when I don’t have to—I want to remember ALWAYS the real reasons why my career is important to me and to have that reason be so clear and spirited that I can answer any sort of small talk without feeling like I am reducing my passion to cliché.
We all have the power to answer “small talk” questions however we want to, not just giving answers to quickly get people off our backs or to halt them from asking further questions.
If it makes someone else uncomfortable that you haven’t “Made It” yet, then that is their problem. Because when I look inside myself I realize, I don’t have a problem with where I am in my career and the seeds I am planting for future opportunities. I understand it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And I want to be happy right where I am always—to appreciate right where I am at all times.
All people, not just actors have to define success and growth in their own terms.
I am proud of all that I’ve accomplished and learned in 2014. I am excited for 2015.
I know who I am.
I know what I like.
I know what I don’t.
To be able to say and feel in my heart an “I know” instead of an “I don’t know” is also something I am proud of!
Armed with what I know about myself and acknowledging how I feel about my life and how I’m doing—approaching the small-talk vultures suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. On the other side of every small-talk vulture is a person who is interested in what I’m doing and they are probably doing something in their life I would find interesting too. It has always been a good challenge to approach new people and make a conscious effort not to bring up the job/career first—to give them an opportunity to be more than a resume too!
For the other beings out there that hate small talk as much as me: let’s reclaim our power in the Small Talk world!
Instead of feeling like small talk questions annoyed and attacked my career choice what if I was able to use small talk as an opportunity to use what I love about acting? One of the reasons I love the arts, acting, movies, theatre---is the power of communication and the sharing of stories. I want to try to remember that slice of truth when I feel bombarded by small talk. A small-talk trap can actually be a great opportunity to practice and live out communicating honestly with another person, telling your story how ever is true for you, and learning the other person’s story too.