Inspiration Fluctuation

Hi everyone, this post is a doozy so brace yourselves!

I hope you are all having a great end to your summer! My summer has been great: I’ve been blessed enough to have several vacations including two trips back to Cincinnati (one including my family reunion!) and a lovely visit to Florida. It’s been nice to kick back and relax a bit… but I wonder if I’ve done too much relaxing this summer?

In terms of my career goals I feel less motivated this summer than I have ever felt since moving to New York. The summer is a sort of dead zone for auditions but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. Some days I am the most passionate person EVER and there is nothing that can hold me back. Other days I cringe when people ask me what I do for a living because I have no idea what to say. I’ve been experiencing what I can only explain as “inspiration fluctuation.” For example, the first few days after I saw Book Of Mormon, I felt like I could do anything! I was ready to take on the theater world in a day! That enthusiasm soon left as I got back into my work routine and simply forgot how the experience made me feel.

I do things to motivate myself all the time! Most recently I finished my website!! I love it and when it was finished I was feeling really good about it… BUT I didn’t share it with anyone because I felt weird about promoting myself when I don’t exactly have much to promote right now. It’s a weird feeling but I know I’m not alone in this. Many young professionals question their field of choice, change career goals, and sometimes struggle staying motivated. So this lack of inspiration ironically inspired me to ask some of my friends – other young professionals working in all types of fields all over the world – how they are feeling about their career.

Here is my lovely panel of expertise:

I have to say that talking to my friends not only made me feel better about my career position but I also found their words very motivating!
Since I’ve been feeling this rise and fall of inspiration, I decided to first ask what keeps my friends motivated.

Martha, who works in TV, told me good TV and fresh concepts inspire her. She explained an example as “when you see a show with a really spectacular cast like The Newsroom, Damages or Scandal where the whole is truly greater than the sum of its part.” I find that inspiring as well.

Romeo said, “Weirdly enough struggle inspires me more than anything. In order to really appreciate success, you have to face some sort or struggle or denial.” I totally agree with this. Instead of letting yourself get bogged down, you have to get back up and try again!

Grace is consistently on her networking game for inspiration. She said, “Staying active in theatre at work keeps me motivated. I find it harder to be inspired when I’m not working in the field so I try to take every opportunity working with theatre that I can. Which is one reason I have ended up doing so much with wardrobe: It’s a great way to stay connected and inspired while networking with people who are doing the same thing.”

My two friends Keith and Lys both turn to God for inspiration. Seeing a good show or having a great audition also motivates Lys – something I think any actor can relate to! Keith is also completely inspired by the world around him. I think most artists are but we sometimes don’t know how to articulate that inspiration.

Nearly every person I interviewed told me that their friends and family keep them motivated the most. I absolutely agree with this. If it weren’t for you guys I would probably be a beggar on the street! You inspire me to be better every day ❤

People are such a huge inspiration so I asked who inspires my friends the most. Strong women in the media today personally inspire me: i.e. Mindy Kaling, Jennifer Lawrence, and Emma Watson.  Here are what my friends had to say…

  • Brian: I’ve always been inspired by the people you read about in movies and TV who were just doing their own unique thing and then stumbled upon acting or another form of art. I think leading a fulfilling life as yourself is half the battle of becoming a successful actor.
  • Romeo: The person I look up to the most is my mother. Even though that has nothing to do with acting, she’s an inspiration because of the things she’s endured.
  • Alex: My dad and grandpa [both also teachers]… They both have pushed me my whole life to be better, do better, don’t be ignorant, and never stop questioning or learning.
  • Jasmine: I look up to anyone working successfully in my field. I would love to follow the paths of George Carlin or Chelsea Handler, but I’d rather figure things out in my own way.
  • Moe [agreeing with me that the summer is a dismal time to stay inspired]: I feel it is partially my responsibility to give the same opportunities [that I had] to students here. They, in turn, are my source of inspiration as I interact and walk with them … summer has actually been terrible because we have so few students/activities! I have awesome colleagues that I look up to and consider as mentors, where we sit down on at least a bi-weekly basis to just chat and catch up. That continues to drive me to do better.
  • Grace very specifically mentioned: Raymond Bobgan, Chris Seibert and Denis Griesmer of Cleveland Public Theatre.

I loved hearing their sources of inspiration and I hope that writing it down for me has further reinforced that spark. Reading them certainly ignited mine.

For me, in the back of my mind there is a voice saying, “what are you doing? You can’t possibly do this!” I really want to get rid of that voice. It is discouraging and often makes me want to throw the towel in and pursue a “safer” career – not that I ever could. I decided to ask my friends how often they feel like giving up. Their answers ranged from “I feel like giving up every day/all the time” to “I’ve faced some tough times with the business, it hasn’t been enough to discourage me or give up” to even “I can’t ever fully give up.” That last one is my favorite because I think it’s what we all truly feel when we are passionate about something. Sometimes we aren’t willing to admit it to ourselves but we could never give up on our dreams – go to something “safe” – because we secretly know that if we do that, we will never be happy.

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t compromise with our dreams. I also asked how often their career goals change as a result of the “give up” voice.

  • Grace answered: I haven’t changed my goals yet but I do get tunnel vision. If I like what I am doing I tend to let my other goals fall to the sides. I have to work really hard to not get too settled and challenge myself to leave my comfort zone and go for the next thing I really want.
  • Lys’ take: My career goals change super often. It took me literally writing out my 3 month to 20 year plan to discover what I really want out of my life. I know my passion has always lied in theatre but … teaching would allow me to do something I love and still do shows just for fun at night. But then again, I have also wanted to be a theatre critic, a director, a world traveler and a physicist, so yeah my goals change depending on how I feel and what I want at the time – a bit like a multiple personality disorder.
  • Jasmine’s change: It’s not a dramatic change from actress to comedian. I think acting was what I thought I was meant to do until I narrowed it down to comedy.
  • Alex contemplated: I’ve thought about going back to school, but decided against it because teaching social studies is what I want to do, anything else wouldn’t feel right. I’ve just got to be patient. I know my perfect job is out there somewhere. And I’m going to find it when I’m prepared for it.
  • Keith had an “impossible” dream: A friend and I had a conversation a few days ago and I came to the conclusion that I want to be just like Justin Timberlake when I grow up. I’ve always wanted to be a cool white guy lol. But on a serious note I want to be like the ENTERTAINERS of yesteryear that were complete packages! I want that classic Hollywood story.
  • Moe answered my questions from two separate perspectives – one as a student affairs professional and one as a writer. At the end he combined his two passions into one large goal: “I want the best of both worlds. What I do in Student Affairs is service-learning, I’d love to start a non-profit and have its HQ set in my very own coffee place. I’d be writing/managing the coffee place while advocating, supporting and volunteering my time to make the world a better place.”

Now that it comes down to it: What did doing this blog entry teach me? That an inspiration fluctuation is totally normal – but there is also one more layer to add that Alex,  Brian and Martha all mentioned as closing remarks to the interview. Alex concluded, “Every time I make plans, life has a way of telling me, ‘nope, that’s not what you need.’ At this point I’m just going day to day trying to figure out where and what I can do to better others lives.” Brian said “I think it is very easy to let small setbacks get in your head when it comes to where you see yourself in life. It’s standard to spend a lot of time planning and creating checkpoints and expectations for a specific place in the future where you see yourself. I find nothing really ends up happening the way you want it to if you’re not able to stay flexible and adjust to changes. I think it’s good to keep an open mind when pursuing your career.” And similarly Martha said, “I just want to be happy, make art and love my job. I am tired of thinking about the future!” We have to do some planning to get where we want to be but if one remains flexible and open to new things (and takes risks!) you’ll figure out where you were meant to be.

We are all just starting out, some of us in a more comfortable place than others, but I have felt most of the things my friends feel – even the ones who aren’t pursing an artistic career. I’m done worrying about what I could have done. It’s time for me (and all of us really) to own up to our dreams and go for it. Make the most of today, live in the NOW, and really go after what we want. And for those of us who don’t really know what we want, it’s time to try new things, have fun, and give up on worrying too much about the future.

As Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness reminds us:

.BOOM. Inspiration.