The last couple of weeks in our family have been a conglomerate of these adages. All four of my children have dipped their toe into the acting industry. All four began their journeys on stage and have, in one form or another, had the opportunity to step on set for the small or big screen. There are so many things to love about the industry and the process of acting, and it is those things that feed the “courage to continue.” Then there are weeks like these when the slow and steady suddenly becomes the harried busy underscored by the excitement of (dare we say it?) the hope of a successful booking. Cautious optimism gives way to a tempered thrill as the audition success becomes the Producer callback. THIS is now to be celebrated and laden with such new adages as “the callback is the victory,” and “even if nothing comes of it, at least you know you booked the room!” Yet even in this celebratory moment, the undesirable knowledge that it might not last and the rejection could still be waiting on the horizon creeps in, threatening to steal the thrill of the small victory.
After the callback, (this particular one was for my middle daughter) she feels great about her performance and felt they truly liked it and they told her she did an amazing job executing the long list of directions they gave her so again—count it a success! One of the great life lessons to be learned in the acting industry is that success is how you define it. I doubt anyone who has not ventured through this process would consider these small victories “success.”. But over the years we have learned to because if you do not celebrate these things, there may be very long intervals where no pats on the back are to be found and confidence gets crushed.
Later, my daughter gets a call that they did indeed “like” her and she is in the mix for the role and pinned to network test. This is very exciting news! Network test is the last step before booking the role and they often seem to test only about 3 people so from that standpoint, odds begin looking better! In the meantime, she auditions for a smaller role but on a prominent series. More great news—she is pinned for this role! At this point, there is an elated feeling akin to reaching the top of that first hill on the roller coaster. The climbing work is paused and coasting is about to begin. Surely ONE of these two great opportunities is bound to work out?! Right?
The next day she finds out she did not book the small role. Yep, you guessed it, the day after she also finds out she is no longer pinned to test, they have gone in a different direction for her role. Suddenly instead of the sensation of being at the top of the hill and ready to coast down and enjoy the thrilling ride, turns into the sensation that you are now rolling backwards ALL the way to the start again! It is exacerbated by the fact that no other auditions have come in so there appears to be nothing on the horizon to distract from this feeling of failure and disappointment. The wealth of opportunity so suddenly in reach is just as quickly dissipated.
This moment is the real test. This moment will in turn either bring bitterness and discouragement which could then affect the next opportunity coming; or even worse, lead to quitting altogether. OR, this disappointment will be followed by new determination to never give up and not allow anyone else to determine whether your dreams are worth pursuing—“Failure is not fatal.” Most of us will need to wallow in our disappointment for at least a short time before reaching down for our proverbial boot straps and pulling them up. The important thing though, is not how long it takes to reach down and pull them up, but that the action in fact occurs.
Fortitude is the best and only defense in these situations. It is rare in any walk of life to meet or read about someone who embarked on a journey, or a dream or a career and found instant success. There are FAR more examples of people who first met with the exact tribulation you are currently facing. I repeatedly remind my children of this when opportunities that feel so close you could touch them suddenly leap out of reach once again. Stories like Meryl Streep being told as a young actress that she would never be beautiful enough to be a lead—3-time Best Leading Actress Oscar winner. Audra McDonald never garnering a lead role while at Juilliard—6 time Tony winner (more performance wins than any other actor). These ladies had “the courage to continue” not only in spite of facing defeat but because of it. Instead of letting their “haters” cause them to doubt themselves and shake their confidence, they chose to “doubt those who doubted them” and continue working towards their dreams. They had fortitude.
It has taken me so long to finish these thoughts that there is now a happy ending so I suppose that’s what was meant to be! Same daughter received an email a couple of days ago telling her she was pinned for yet another role. An audition she had forgotten about for the lead role in a small independent film. Yesterday she received the phone call she’s been waiting for telling her she is booked! She booked the role she was hoping for and today was her first day on set. She is already looking ahead for what could be “next” and has another audition due Friday. She knows already that this success is “not final” and though there will surely be more “failures” ahead, she will not forget that it is “the courage to continue that counts!”