Oh May Oh My

So something significant happened to me during the month of may. Honestly, I’m so glad may is over.  It’s been a long month.  Tumultuous. -Sigh- alright out with it. I was let go from my survival job — the restaurant job.

Alright, it’s not that bad.  It’s not like I was a CEO and got fired because I lost hella investor money or was a doctor and got fired because of negligence, I was a mere waitress at a corporate restaurant and I got fired. What happened?  To be honest, I was unhappy.  I had let that restaurant plague my well being and I was too lazy to quit and find another serving job. I had been unhappy there for quite awhile, disillusioned with the politics of a corporation and frustrated with the whole mantra of “the guest is always right”.  (Here’s an article where that whole POV is wrong and harmful, especially for the employees: Top 5 Reasons Why ‘The Customer is Always Right’ is Wrong.) I didn’t feel valued.  I didn’t feel management had my back.  When I spoke up, management would pacify me and say they would take care of it but never did.  They were ineffective and there was never any accountability of wrongdoing.  My unhappiness was palpable and I grew increasingly frustrated with every passing day.  I was an ugly person when I showed up to work.  I was aggressive, I lashed out, I took everything 100% more personally than it really was. I hated that place.

But I was there for 4 years. 4 fucking years.  Why didn’t I just leave at the first hint of unhappiness?  In hindsight after every difficult shift that I would relay back to my friends, without fail, they would always suggest, “Thi, maybe it’s time for you to quit”.  And without fail, I always made excuses for that place, “oh it’s flexible, it’s consistent, there’s structure, I make money not working full time” Blah blah blah blah blah! It was like an abusive relationship.  In the end, there was no trust.  I just didn’t have the courage to leave.

So it was a blessing in disguise when I got the boot. Well actually, let me just say first, it hurt. A blow to the ego.  It stung.  I didn’t do the dumping, I was the one that got dumped! :{ And after getting dumped, you go through that whole spectrum of emotions.  First you’re in disbelief, like did that just really happen to me?  Then you’re mad, how could they do that to me? Then you’re sad and insecure, oh my god I’m nothing, I’m a failure, I have to move back home and live with my parents, the dream is over, yada yada yada. Then you’re numb.  Then you’re finally clear enough to think, blessing in disguise. Yea it took a while emotionally to get to that state. But I got there! Yay!

So now what? During the whole debacle, I went through a much needed career assessment.  I have a lot of debt (school loans and credit cards), bills (rent, utility, phone, internet, car insurance) and nothing to my name (no house and no savings).  So, on the one hand, I was panicked and stressed because I was in survival mode – find any job to make rent. Period. Finito. On the other hand, when telling some members of my family that I had been let go, they said, “good, now you can get a real job. You can finally use that degree.” my response to this was, “what about the dream?” this led to the argument that based on how many auditions I get a year (which averages to about one a month), I could get a real job (9-5), make a lot more money than I have been from my part time jobs (starting pay with a BA can be at least $40,000/year vs. my current $20,000/year), pay off my debts, build my savings, and depending on my relationship with my boss, go on auditions when or if they come up.  My family’s point, and I’m paraphrasing, “all we’re saying is that we don’t want you to wake up one day at 35 and realize that the acting ladder didn’t pan out and that you have no useful skill to make money. What happens if you get hurt tomorrow?”

So now, I’m super bummed.  My family is asking me, why prioritize acting when it’s not making you any money? And I’m left questioning not only my commitment to acting, but my sanity, as if pursuing acting is stupid and futile.  In line with my family’s reasoning, at least going for a real job right now, I’m still young enough to build a career with a degree that is not obsolete yet (it’s only been 6 years since I graduated college).

Feeling incredibly discouraged and replaying worst-case scenarios in my head, I go to my friend Daniel and I tell him, “Maybe this is a sign for me to quit the dream. Maybe I should just pack it up and go home to my parents.  At least I don’t have to pay rent.” my friend Daniel says, “Thi, you’re looking for a sign right?” he points up, indicating I mean from god.  I nod and he continues, “I’m your fucking sign, Thi.  I’m the messiah and I’m giving you one week to give it your all and get an audition by next Friday. In one week.  Think outside the box, do your hardest, your best and if you can say you gave it your all, and you didn’t get an audition, then maybe that’s the sign you need to get out of la and go home. But if you do get an audition, which I know you will, then that’s the sign to keep going.  You can do this.”

I rolled my eyes at this challenge.  I told him I would humor him but that I wouldn’t hold my breath.  Getting an audition is such a crapshoot.  My morale was low and to be honest, I thought his challenge was stupid.

Clouded by two extreme conditions from my family and friends, I couldn’t decide on how to move forward. So on that following Monday, I applied to everything on craigslist.  Getting fired gave me freedom.  I had the chance to start over, explore other career paths.  Nothing defined, I could be anything! I applied to be a health coach, a market analyst, a full time blogger, an administrative assistant for a doggy day care, a server, a caterer, a barista, a teacher’s assistant, a private tutor, a museum researcher, a telemarketer, a copy writer, full time, part time, open availability, remote, willing to travel, etc. I cast a wide net to better my chance in getting an interview.  Depending on the pool of interviews that I would get, would ultimately decide the direction of my career. I was letting fate take control.

By the following Friday, exactly one week, I had a lot of interviews.  One was for a full time writer/blogger/website updater, another was a part time market researcher/analyst and the other one was a serving/hosting job for a gastro pub.  Now I had to really decide.  Get a full time job and give up the dream (come on, if a company knew my commitment was to acting and not to that company, why in hell would they hire me full time?) or continue with the pursuit of acting, be poor and serve tables?

Oh yea, I also got two auditions by then. I really didn’t do anything different, maybe submitted myself more so than usual (I had a lot of time on my hands), but I did take it as encouragement to continue with acting.

Here’s another thing, my other part time job.  I’m also an administrative assistant for an entertainment career coach. The company is very small and it’s basically a start up, so I wear many hats in the company — writing marketing emails, updating social media, customer support, technical support, etc.  So actually, I am building a skill that is relevant to my mass communications degree AND I’m still a part of the entertainment industry.  The company is small, but growing.  It helps with rent, but is not my main source of income.  So when I was debating whether or not to pursue a full time job, I had to consider leaving this part time position as a possibility.  I didn’t want to leave it.  I have a really good working relationship with my boss.  She’s a few years older and has a career in the entertainment industry.  She’s a director and is right now in production for her indie movie. So I went to her for advice. And she asked me, “What’s your commitment to acting? Are you gonna be ok with being poor for a long time? I was a server for over 10 years and only now in my forties am I making my own money, I am my own boss and I am filming my first feature film.”

I answered, “Well looking at you, the dream is possible.

She says, “yea, and if you work for me, being an actor is still on the table for you.  Because you know that I will work around your auditions.”

And she has.

In the end, I took another restaurant job. The dream is still alive.  And I’m still broke and poor as ever with a lot more debt (I had to eat and get to interviews and I lived on my credit cards for two weeks). But instead of letting my unhappiness turn me into a nas-t person (pun intended), the change in my well-being lifts me and makes me shine. I’m gonna be ok.


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