By Christiane Seidel
Some of the best advice I’ve been given for life inadvertently turned out to be the best acting advice. Someone very dear to me often reminds me that, "life is not a race”. It always seemed like a very abstract thing that made sense on an intellectual level. But brushed it off because either I was in a hurry or I had somewhere to go. You see, I’m naturally a rusher. I'd run around trying to make the most of my time by filling every minute with something productive. I’m still guilty of not looking up during my entire subway ride because I’m replying to emails or texts while eating a protein bar. Oh wait, did I take a breath yet? I’d say we all have this character trait to various degrees; especially if you life in New York. Everyone is busy doing a million things at once.
Making the most of my time and wanting everything now goes hand in hand. That state of mind inherently bleeds into the actual work we do as actors. But whether script analyzing , dissecting a play, or working on an audition, there’s simply no shortcut or app for that. In order to dig into our characters and stories, we must shift gears and slow down or we miss all the important stuff. And a lot of this type of work we do is on our own, which can be lonely. My acting mentor Larry Moss says that you must be a good friend to yourself. But if I’m so accustomed to that hamster wheel and I want instant results, then how?
A lifelong friend, who is not at actor, recently hit a rough patch. She’s climbed high up that corporate ladder at a young age. She’s independent, a globetrotter and a go-getter who can live an amazing life. However, she's extremely unhappy. The more we talked the more I realized that she’s been running her entire life just to get “there”, wherever that is. But from what I see, she hasn't given herself the time or permission to discover who she is and what can truly make her happy.
While it’s easy to assess other people’s issues, I saw a bright light shining down on my own modus operandi. I began to realize that by trying to get everything faster I was so distracted from actually being right here, right now. I treated my life and my art as if it was over tomorrow. I was frustrated. My acting could become a curse instead of a passion. I would operate on the surface of what can make this business harsh, annoying, and heartbreaking. I'd lose my focus, my love of acting and my reasons for being an artist.
And I saw that if I carried on this way, not only would my acting suffer, but my life would pass me by. And that’s really sad because it’s supposed to be about the journey, right? I was often too worried to have a vacation or visit my family in Europe. Murphy’s Law kicks in the moment we leave town. The audition or booking we waited for suddenly comes around. Conversely, what if nothing happens? No call. No feedback. No holiday.
So I decided to visit my family instead and not let myself be tied to my iPhone and laptop. Be inaccessible. Unavailable. And it was amazing. Liberating. Sure it was a little hard at first. But I’m an actor for the long run. And I became more present with my family and I enjoyed quality time with my friends. I was there one hundred percent.
When I returned, I was rejuvenated and inspired. The philosophy became more than an abstract notion. And it showed in my acting. Giving myself more time and freeing myself from instant results, allowed me to breathe. Literally. From those I admire I understood that it takes time to create something well. It takes time to learn, study, and improve. Even as I write this, I'm trying to rush. Fact is, anything I’ve been proud of was never created with haste or on a whim. So I stopped rushing so much; stopped anticipating the next line. That led me to actually live in the moment and sometimes with another person.
IMHO that’s the beauty of acting and of life. Sharing a moment and an experience, giving each other time and space to be. Learning and listening to each other. Sure, you might slip back into your hamster wheel. But after all, it’s a process; not a race, right?
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