Job Hunting is Like Applying to College Except Less Fun

I hated applying to college. A lot. All those forms that looked the same, writing all those awful essays, and knowing that in many cases (or in most cases, for me), most of the effort would be rewarded with a rejection letter.

For the past three days when I haven’t been finishing up my last few tours, I’ve been job hunting. For some of those jobs, that just means sitting at home on my computer, composing cover letters and hitting the buttons for ‘attach’ and ‘send.’ But as the case was yesterday, I felt like I really was hunting. I walked around the city, mostly the streets that host a ton of high-end stores, looking closely at every window for a “Help Wanted” sign (or, as it seems to be now, “Employment Opportunities Available.”) Thankfully, it was a beautiful day outside, so walking around wasn’t as much of a chore as it would have been a few frigid days ago. But do you know how many of those signs I saw? One. ONE. And when I went inside to inquire, the nice lady behind the counter told me that I could apply online “but, if I’m being honest, it’ll probably be like one shift a week, like six to eight hours a week.” So that one chance was kind of shot; while I’m sure that’s a lovely place to work and the people seemed super nice, one shift a week isn’t even worth taking a job for.

It shows how much I need/want another job that I actually went into businesses and asked them if they were hiring. Normally, that’s not something I would be able to do. But now, I know I have to, so I just bite the bullet and do it. I went into a bunch of places that did not have “opportunities available” signs in their windows just because, resume in hand (see how prepared I was? I’m a good little job hunter.) Sadly, I was met with the same answer at almost every place: “We’re not hiring right now, but we’re always taking applications!” I filled out each of these fairly pointless applications (I applied to work at Barnes and Noble in 2006. I’m still waiting to hear back.)

By now, I’ve filled out about ten applications, and by tonight, it’ll be more. And maybe this process seems hopeless to me just because I’ve actually never really gone job hunting. I suppose if you consider auditioning job hunting, then the story might be different, but because those are cases in which I get to act, not just fill out a piece of paper, I don’t really count that. In pretty much every case, I’ve applied for one job, maybe two, gotten an interview, and gotten the job. So this new thing I’m doing, this seemingly endless succession of repetitive questions asked by a piece of paper, is pretty awful to me. In my opinion, college-bound students and job-hunters alike should be able to fill out one form and make a zillion copies of it that contains all of the information they spend hours writing out for each respective college/job. After all, no matter how many forms you fill out in this short period of time, the information never changes in that period of time. I’m sick of my own name at this point. I just hope that eventually, I’ll get a call, and by eventually, I mean like… really, really soon.

The Time My Job Made Me Poorer (More Poor?)

Today, I quit my job as a tourguide.

It was not an easy decision to make, partly because I like the job very much and it was perfect for working around an audition/rehearsal/other job schedule, and partly because my serving job is so slow as to be pretty much nonexistent at the moment, so these tours were my only source of income.

But let me repeat that: MY ONLY SOURCE OF INCOME. I already knew that as soon as my serving job slowed down, money would be tight- and that’s with the help my parents are giving me. But I did the math and I knew that if I put every paycheque from touring in the bank, as well as most of my tips, from December to March, I would scrape by without much of a problem. This seemed like a smart, frugal plan, but a wrench was thrown into it when something beyond my control started to happen, or rather, not happen: I wasn’t getting paid.

I’m a nice person, sometimes an overly nice person. I let people get away with a lot of stuff, making excuses for them left and right. I’m not as lenient as I used to be, but between being nice and hating confrontation, I don’t really question people when something like not getting paid happens. And throughout October and even November, when I hadn’t been paid for a growing number of tours, I was able to ignore it because I still had a fair amount of serving money coming in. But toward mid-November, the serving job slowed and I hadn’t received any payment for nearly a month of working for the tours. Again, I made excuses for awhile: Maybe they pay monthly. You’re just lucky getting paid every two weeks with your other job. So I waited until it had been a full month since I had started working for them and sent my manager an email inquiring whether I had been forgetting to pick up my cheques. She answered that my cheques would be sent to me. Okay… So I waited.

Then my serving job, to my shock, got even slower. Like, one shift every two weeks slow, and I ended up having to give up all of those shifts because I was either in rehearsal/show, or I was working, you guessed it, for the tours. I had been given some hush money by the  tour company (if you can call $40 hush money), and had gotten maybe one other paycheque from them since I had sent the first email, but the amount of money they owed me was slowly climbing into the hundreds. A week or so after Thanksgiving, I did the math and was floored to see that I was owed nearly $700.

The amount of owed money kept climbing, but the boss managed to keep the number from hitting $1000 by picking and choosing my lowest-amount weeks and sending me cheques for those… for about three weeks in December. Then the money stopped altogether. Even worse, because she was picking and choosing- three tours from that one week in November, one tour in October, etc.- it was very hard to keep track for which weeks I had been paid. To date, I haven’t received a cheque from them since mid-December. Admittedly, I spent a good amount of money on Christmas gifts, but even so, I shouldn’t have felt like I got a hit by a truck when I looked a the number in my bank account.

While at my aunt and uncle’s for Christmas Eve, I was telling my family my story of woe, just in conversation. As it happens, my uncle is a lawyer, and he was pretty disturbed by what I was saying. In the end, he mentioned that if I needed him to sent what my dad called a “nastygram”, he could do that, since usually official-looking letterhead is enough to scare people into action. I said thanks, but I was sure everything would be fine.

Christmas came and went. So did New Year’s. No cheque. Again, I made excuses. ‘It’s the holidays, of course she’s not working’ (even though I was working either on or around both of those holidays, for her, as well as picking up every single emergency shift for which they needed coverage.) On January 2nd, I sent the boss a polite but firmly worded letter saying that I absolutely needed to be paid for my work for the past three months. I requested that I be paid in full by January 31st, 2013. Usually she’s not so great about answering e-mails, but this one got her attention. She wrote back less than twelve hours later, apologizing profusely, claiming that 2012 had been a slow year, but the funds would be in soon and everyone would be paid. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then last week happened. After every tour, we’re required to text both our Philadelphia manager and the boss in Chicago, letting them know how the tour went. They always text back, and when I got my response from the boss, she added, “By the way, I just sent a cheque your way for $120.” Well, $120 is better than nothing, but, compared to what she owes me, is pretty close to nothing. Since she had opened the door to the payment conversation, I barged right through. “Thanks,” I texted back. “Will I be paid the full sum by the 31st, as requested?” I waited nervously for her answer, but when it came, my nerves were replaced by anger. Because instead of “Yes, absolutely, don’t worry!” the gist of the text was, “Um… well… maybe? But probably not.”

What?

“But I haven’t been paid either!” she added. But I didn’t really care about her situation; as the business owner, she can choose how and when to pay herself, but leaving about twenty people hanging financially is not cool. I honestly have no clue how my fellow tourguides handle this. I know that many of them are still in college, and some have significant others to help them with bills, but even so, people usually get jobs because they need the money. To get that money late or not at all makes life pretty hard. When I first got this job, I did the math and thought excitedly that once my serving job picked up, I could probably pay ALL of my bills on my own, if I worked both jobs at a regular pace. Now that plan is shot and I must go job hunting again.

I wish things had turned out differently; this job is marketed to actors for a reason, and it was working out perfectly in every other way. But sadly, I don’t have the funds to work for no pay. So I wrote the emails- one to the managers of Philadelphia and Chicago, and one to the boss- and I talked to both of my parents about it and then I sent the emails. A lot of cringing went on as I hit ‘send’, and I’m sure the cringing will continue until it’s all finalized. I’m not a quitter. But I’m also not a doormat. And unless I choose for my work to be volunteer, I will not allow it to be so.

Twenty-Three

Saturday was my twenty-third birthday.

I’ve never been a huge birthday fan, mostly because I have ideas of how far along I should be by certain ages, and I’ve rarely reached those goals in time. This year, my show opened on my birthday, and I couldn’t have been happier. I know some people who don’t like to work on their birthday, but I consider it an amazing thing to get to do what I love on my birthday. I’ve spent most birthdays since I was fourteen or so acting in some capacity, and I think that’s great.

We had two shows on Saturday, and both of them went really well. My mom came to the dress rehearsal the day before and my five year-old cousin came with her parents and my great-aunt came to the second show opening day. I don’t know if people realize how much it means to me when they come to see my shows; it’s one of the best gifts you can give me.

In between shows, the cast and crew went out to lunch, which was really fun and I sort of counted as my birthday celebration, even though I didn’t tell them it was my birthday (when I told Trevor this later, he shouted, “YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!”) For an hour-long kids’ show, this show is exhausting. Usually at places like the restaurant we went to, I can never eat the whole meal, but I ate every crumb off of that plate. By the time the second show ended, I just wanted to chill out with a movie and some chocolate. Trevor kept encouraging me to go out and do something, but to be honest, I was perfectly fine just staying in; I don’t feel like I neglected my birthday.

Twenty-three seems to me to be a weird, in-between age. I’m not quite sure what to do with it, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

Awesome Plays and the Real Life Truck

On Thursday after a 9:30 am rehearsal, I set of for New York City for a trip I’d been looking forward to for awhile: seeing a play that was written by my friend Ryan. Though I’ve read some of his work and loved it, I’ve never seen any of it onstage, and I really wanted to. So at 2:30, I hopped on a Megabus headed for the city that never sleeps.

The bus was a little late, and my hotel, picked for its proximity to the theatre, was quite far from the drop-off point. Even though I didn’t get lost, it took me about forty-five minutes to walk there, so between the late arrival and the long walk, I only had time to drop off my stuff, make myself look presentable, and grab half of my sandwich before I needed to head to the theatre.

The theatre itself is small and homey. It was a little awkward being there by myself because I felt like everyone knew everyone else, but about half an hour after I arrived, my friend Molly (who is Ryan’s girlfriend and an amazing playwright as well) got there with her mom and brother and I was no longer alone.

The play was so amazing. I knew it was going to be well-written, but the acting was amazing, too, and the audience as a whole was really responsive. I love it when I forget I’m watching a play. All in all, it was just really inspiring, and I love being able to support my friends and theatre and see plays in general, especially plays I can’t see every day.

Afterward, Molly invited me to go out with them, which was awesome. Though I count both of them as my friends, I was a fan of their writing before I got up the nerve to talk to them, so I get a little bit flustered in their presence. But if they notice, they don’t let on and treat me like I’m a sane equal, though I definitely don’t act like one. We had a lovely dinner with Molly’s mom and brother and it was just a wonderful night.

My hotel was super awesome- very European, kind of like my flat in London. I let myself sleep in the next morning, and for the first time in awhile, I felt totally relaxed and rejuvenated. Apparently NYC trips just do that for me.

But just as with my last trip there, almost as soon as I returned, the Real Life truck hit me… a few times. I knew I would be busy, but my schedule blew up in a terribly stressful way that had me in tears. Can’t I just stay in blissful NYC trip mode forever?

At the same time, though, I don’t think I see my life clearly. I don’t see myself as having achieved very much since I graduated, but Molly said a few times, “You’re doing so well!” and every time, I thought, ‘Am I?’ Am I?

Thankfully, things are working themselves out slowly, but I would much rather be hanging out with cool playwrights/friends and seeing plays.

Show Countdown!

With just nine (NINE!) left before we open, rehearsals are getting super intense. I am bruised all over from doing a pratfall during a musical number over and over, brushburned from a squabble during the same number, and just overall exhausted. Tonight’s rehearsal, while only three hours, was a doozy- we blocked almost all of the show in that time, and my brain can’t hold any more information.

But while I’m exhausted, it’s the good kind. I LOVE being in this show. The cast is great (even the one member that doesn’t quite know where the line is between suggestion and giving direction) and so are the director and the woman who is basically the whole orchestra. Since it’s been so long since I’ve been in a show, I really appreciate that feeling of working and creating with a cast, which I haven’t had since March, when Children’s Hour rehearsals were in full swing. It’s not guaranteed that casts will click instantly, but we all really get along, and I surprised myself with how quickly I was comfortable around everyone. Though I had two great shows during my senior year, they were both with people I already knew; this is the first brand-new cast I’ve worked with in over a year.  With this show, I feel like I’m integral to the process. At the beginning, we had some brainstorming sessions, both with the whole cast, and with just my fellow swindler and me, and during all of them, we tossed around ideas, and I always felt like mine were accepted with open arms, and we’re even using most of them. We just got up on our feet in the last week or so, and I’m having such  a great time creating and playing around. I rarely play a character that’s the comic relief of the show, and though it’s really really scary for non-physical me, I’m really enjoying it.

With the number of rehearsals dwindling so quickly, I’m getting really nervous about getting it all done in time, but our director knows what she’s doing. I suppose what I’m actually nervous about is the fact that this is my first big part in a musical. While I am the first to say “there are no small parts,” I have to admit that having a singing role where, if I screw up, people can actually tell, is pretty scary- especially when I have to pair that with dancing, which is not my strong suit. But again, it’s a very safe environment in which to fail, and I think that by the time we open, I’ll feel comfortable with it.

Since this is my first show out of college, I’ve been noticing how much I learned while in the shows at my alma mater. I didn’t do many- only two- but they were two very intense plays and I was able to work closely with both of my directors. Only now am I realizing just how much I changed as an actor as a result of those two shows. Before being cast at my college, I never EVER asked questions, which meant that I missed out on a lot of good conversation that could have helped me develop my character and my skills. I thought that asking questions would make me seem inexperienced and unprofessional, so if I got a note, I just nodded and wrote it down. I also never used to play around with my performance. Again, if I got a note, I took it and applied it, but if the director didn’t say anything, I never changed a single thing about my performance. While there’s definitely something to be said for consistency, there’s also so much to explore as the actors and director develop a show, even into performances. Since I started playing around with my performances, I’ve discovered so much more, and it’s made my performances all the richer, and I’m so happy that I learned to do that before I set off into the “real world” of theatre. I know I have so much more to learn about being an actor, but lately I’ve been so grateful of what I gleaned from the past year and a half of acting.

My Life Would Be Easier, But…

Every now and then, as I’m sure most actors do, I think how my life would be so much easier if I weren’t driven to act. If the idea of never acting again didn’t make me miserable. My life would be easier if I wanted a “real” job, I’ve thought many times this week since I looked at the low, low number in my bank account and thought about how much trouble I would be in if my parents weren’t helping me.

Yes. My life would be a lot easier. But it’s things like this (this one written by Kristie Kuhl), as well as having great rehearsals over and over, that remind me why I do what I do.

“Actors are some of the most driven, courageous people on 
the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day 
rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. 
Every day, actors face the financial challenge of living
a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think 
they should get “real” jobs, and their own fear that they’ll 
never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the 
possibility that the vision they have dedicated their 
lives to is a pipe dream. With every role, they stretch 
themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism 
and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch 
as the other people their age achieve the predictable 
milestones of normal life – the car, the family, the 
house, the nest egg. 

But they stay true to their dream, in spite of the 
sacrifices. Why? 

Because actors are willing to give their entire lives to 
a moment – to that line, that laugh, that gesture, or that 
interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Actors 
are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal
moment when they poured out their creative spirit and 
touched another’s heart. In that instant, they were as
close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever 
be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate 
oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.”

Resolution 2013

New-Years-resolution-tree

I’m not really one of those people who makes New Year’s resolutions every year. While I’m sure I’ve made them between then and now, the last resolution I can clearly remember making was in 2006, when I resolved to stop my constant habit of biting my nails (I haven’t since.) This year, though, I need to make one to avoid slipping back into that place I fell into in November.

My resolution this year is to be kinder to myself. I feel a bit selfish having a resolution that’s not more centered around others, but I really think that before I can even consider helping other people, I need to work on this first. Maybe cutting themselves some slack comes naturally to some people, but not to me. I’m still beating myself up over a slip of the tongue I committed when I was eleven. About two weeks ago, I was chastising myself for waking up later than I wanted to and (in my mind) throwing off MY WHOLE ENTIRE DAY GOD when I had a thought: I should be nicer to myself.

This revelation actually stunned me; it was so simple and yet something I never, ever do. If I do something well, or I get something I didn’t think I would, I always chalk it up to luck, never to the hard work I probably did get achieve that. And if I do something poorly, well, I can count on a good year of guilt, at least. I often joke that this is the long family line of Catholicism affecting me, but seriously, it has to stop. Yes, I think I should feel bad if I do something wrong (though not if I do something poorly by accident), but the amount of guilt I heap upon myself for doing those wrong things is unbelievable. Considering that I rarely do “bad” things just for the fun of it (wait… I never do bad things just for the fun of it…), I probably don’t deserve that much guilt. The fact that I feel guilty for even cutting myself as much slack as I did in this past sentence is kind of disturbing.

I’ve been back in therapy for almost a month, and I’m really happy to be going again. One observation my therapist has made about me is that I assign myself to watch over everyone, and if something happens to them, I blame myself. It’s a heavy load to carry, and while I will never stop worrying about my friends’ and family’s well-being, I’d like to one day not feel like my looking away for a second was the reason for something bad happening to them. I’ve stated before that I often live my life for other people, and I think that ties into this; I need to live my life for me.

That second bit includes something I’ve been finding very hard to accept lately: that I have a different timetable than most people. I am the latest of the late bloomers in many social ways, and it has been bothering me a lot lately. Pretty much everyone tells me that this doesn’t actually matter; that no one’s judging me for what I have and haven’t done. I don’t believe them at all, but I want to work on believing them. Maybe if I start to convince myself that I’m not the weirdo in every social group, I can start to integrate myself into those groups without feeling terrible about myself.

I’d like to make a big list of resolutions, but I think the above is quite enough to deal with, even for a whole year. Hopefully by 2014, I’ll be putting a lot less pressure on myself.