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LJ Idol week 25: uncarved block

When we’re kids we doodle our way through life. We try a little of this, a little of that, and most often we don’t take any of it too seriously. We can be astronauts, movie stars, doctors, and soldiers all in one afternoon. Nothing leaves too deep a mark, at least, not yet.

As we get older we start to wear grooves into our lives: our favorite song on repeat, a favorite food. Some things are just comfortable from the very first time you try them, and living with the familiar is soothing.

In college we ‘choose our path’. Pick a major and decide what field (you hope) you’ll be working in. Some people choose a degree based purely on love, and some take more practical matters into consideration. But how practical is any 20-year-old, really? How do you know what will be important to you at 30, or beyond?


I followed the rules, as I understood them. I fell in love with acting in the eighth grade. I went to college, discovered the technical world of theatre was where I fit, graduated with honors, and began looking for work in my chosen field of stage management. I had a day job to pay the bills for several years, but kept pursuing theatre, working crew gigs and focus calls to stay close. Then I got hired for what I had quite literally defined as my dream job back in my senior year of college. It was wonderful and amazing. I got to meet some talented and good people (and some who aren’t either one) and occasionally be a part of creating new theatre from the ground up. I was doing exactly what my 22 year old self wanted to do for the rest of her life.

Except now, I’m 38. I still have that same job, at the same theatre, eleven years later. And it’s not my dream job anymore. There are still parts of it I love, but the good no longer balances out the bad. The things I find frustrating now would never have occurred to me at 22. I always knew the job was evenings and weekends, but eleven years of working evenings and weekends, with no possibility of taking vacation when I’m on contract, is wearing me out. Many of the friends I’ve met through theatre have left the business and gotten a “grown-up” job, which means their schedules no longer mesh with mine and I rarely see them. The shows are all starting to run together, and I’m sure as hell not in this for the money. I think it might be my turn to find out what’s after theatre. So, what’s next?

That’s where I freeze. My future is blank, uncarved, unwritten. My future can be anything I want it to be. That much possibility is paralyzing. 

My daily life is so etched into specific patterns I’m not even sure I can break out of them anymore. I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s routine; inertia carries me through the daily tasks without having to think about them. How do I change the habits of a decade?

Or worse, what if I do try something new, and hate it? What if the very first mark I put on the next page of my life is ugly and wrong and it will always be there and I can’t take it back, and … gah.

I try to convince myself that a mistake can be written over, or incorporated into a new, larger design. The important thing is to start. I’m taking classes at a local community college, pursuing something that will be a job not a passion. But it would be a job that will let me have a life that matches the lives of the people I love, that I can fill with other passions.

I am still in my groove, my rut, but eyeing the open space ahead. Now I just need the courage to jump -

***This is my entry for week 25 of LJ Idol for the topic "uncarved block".  The topic post is here, and we're about to be at the top 25 so you should go read everyone, and then vote for your favorites in the poll.  And to the folks on my flist who have been hearing me talk about leaving theatre for years; I know, boy who cried wolf etc.  Apparently this is a slow process for me. ***

Ah, job inertia :sigh: You and me both. You're doing something about it, though, which is more than I can say for myself and many, many others.

It's so much easier to just keep doing the things you do, instead of looking for newer, different things, right?

So far the classes have been relatively easy, and I've taken the ones that don't disturb my life much. That's about to change so the commitment to moving forward is going to get harder.

Wow lady. Wow. You have no idea how much what you wrote here mirrors my life right now. Talk about a piece that resonates. Strong, strong writing.

I wish you luck in finding your way out of your rut. The courage is inside of you, you just need to tap into it. And I know you can.

I think part of it too is that I am old enough that my grandparents had one job for their whole adult life and then retired, and my parents expected to do that, though it didn't quite work that way. So this was the model I was following and now it's broken for pretty much everybody.

The economy doesn't help, if there was ever a time to stay in your safe rut, this is it.

Thanks for your kind words, both about the piece and me. I'm confident that you are also going to find a new and awesome place that matches and challenges your skills. Go us!

Wow. I hadn't ever really thought about the "pursuit of passion" in this way before. Truly, when I studied something I enjoyed doing at university, out in the work force I found I hated doing it for other people. I think that's why I'm reluctant to actually work in the areas I'm passionate about, especially with filmmaking. I want to continue doing it only when the specific objective is something I love. I've no interest in being paid to shoot some stranger's wedding. Boring! But getting to shoot a music video or short film with people I enjoy working with and who don't care about being paid for it either? That's what I want to do. I've never really been able to accurately express why before, though.

Part of it is probably that I'm resident at this company. So I have some choice of the shows they do, but have a guaranteed four shows a year out of the eight. If I was fully freelance I could only chase shows I really wanted to work on, but may end up scrambling for enough work.

It does change your passion slightly when you occasionally use it in service to something you really don't like much. But really, if I could do my job from 9-5 M-F I don't know if I'd be this burnt out. It's the hours and time commitment and always being on call that are really wiping me out.

Having just attended college commencement exercises and watched my students graduate, this really hits home. I think I must have cycled through at least three careers before deciding to go to grad school to "start over", and while I don't regret the other experiences, it's nice to be in a different place now. I like to think that I've had chances to be as many of me as I can!

I look at college kids now and envy their eagerness. I was lucky to get out of college and work in my chosen field. But now that I've been doing this, or wanting to do this, for 20 years change is hard. It almost seems better to get your feet kicked out from under you career-wise sooner, the ruts are hopefully less ground in.

I like the idea of being another me.

And it's good to hear a success story from someone who changed directions as an adult.

Or worse, what if I do try something new, and hate it? What if the very first mark I put on the next page of my life is ugly and wrong and it will always be there and I can’t take it back, and … gah.

I've been in my job for coming up on five years, which is the longest I've ever been in any one place (work or residential). I never thought I'd see the day where I was reluctant to change, but it's amazing how quickly it happens. I'm now in the place of the quote above, myself.

For six years after college I moved at least every year. I remember realizing how weird it was to be in the same apartment for a second year, and now I've been in the same area for 11 years. The routines settle in surprisingly fast.

I'm working on the idea that even if the next step is messy or ugly nothing is forever. And sometimes movement, even in the wrong direction, is better than standing still.

I get bored easily if I'm not doing something I'm passionate about. But having worked a job doing something I was passionate about, I can say it gets mired in details and muck after a while. Taking a first step into the unknown is always scary. But when you're ready, you'll know.

Oh yeah. Much as I still love theatre my job is mostly about calling the ends of breaks and the nuts and bolts of presetting props, not the fun stuff.

I feel like my windup is going to be long and slow, but eventually I'll be so wound up I'll have to go forward.

I can relate to this so much. I'm stuck in a rut workwise, and I wish I could just overhaul the whole thing!

I wonder if there are people that are able to avoid the job rut, or if it happens to all of us and some people just cope with it better.

I think it's time for all of us who play Idol to write our novels and become rich and famous.

Thanks! I think I'm just going to need a lot of prep, but it's going to happen.

My future is blank, uncarved, unwritten. My future can be anything I want it to be. That much possibility is paralyzing.

I love this sentence and I think, no matter your age or situation, this is true for everyone.

I hope you take the jump and I hope it ends up being even better than you thought :D

Sometimes too many options is just as freaky as not enough.

Thanks, I'm working towards the jump and looking forward to where it'll take me.

I know I'm all young and naive and stuff, but I come from a family where changing career in your 30/40s is entirely normal and acceptable. Life is short: take the chance. You might bellyflop the first time, but you can always jump again.
Anyway if you don't jump then I'll come up behind you and give you a damn hard shove.

A lot of my issue is that I wanted to do theatre for so long, and not-theatre is not a very distinct choice. But soon it's going to be time to try something new.

I may come ask you for that shove though.

I really like that you realize your job does not have to be the big passion in your life. Making a living is only one facet to making your life. Be brave and take a leap.
You can always change your mind. Very good entry!

Yeah, I think I've defined myself by my job for too long. It's time to try something new, even if it doesn't work the first time. Thanks so much!

I quit a teaching job after 16 years because of the rut I was in. It was a hard choice, but I have zero regrets. Still in education, but I needed out of there to avoid burnout. AW

It's good to hear from folks who made a move to great success. It's good to know it can happen. Part of my issue is that I do want to get out before I hate theatre forever.

It's been less than a year since I learned that the person I am now isn't the person I have to be when I get old. And 38 is so not old.

Still, I do know how hard the effort to make the change can be (especially with your career--starting out with your dream job, which is the opposite trajectory of most of us), so you might need a shove. I am lucky in that my wife is a good shover.

It's amazing to realize that I can keep changing who I am as long as I want to, instead of being stuck.

Starting with my dream job was awesome at the time, but it does feel weird now. My boyfriend is a pretty good shover, but I think if I'm here too much longer he'll get better.

I fervently believe you're never too old to change anything. It's scary but so, so worth it if you're feeling the need to go.

Yeah, I'm still okay here, but I'm also not giving 100% or have been fully engaged in ages. I will need to get out before I shut down completely, but nothing has been unbearable yet. Hence the school to give myself a path out.

I am thankful that I did make that leap years ago, afraid to leave a comfortable job that I knew I could easily do, for something a little different. Sometimes it does work out in the end. Good luck to you on your journey!

That is one of the things about this job, I would likely have to kill someone before they fired me from this place, so I have to leave on my own. School gives me a timeline - finish my certificate and get out. Thanks!