Living with uncertainty

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I’d discovered there’s not a clean line from being an employee muddling along in a corporate environment to being a successful independent contractor on fire with passion, purpose and authenticity.
 
In fact, I have found the going rather slow and heavy, and none of the things I’ve done since leaving CNN (writing, editing, even working in a warehouse) has provided enough money to live on. So when two director-friends urged me to take up acting and modeling, I listened. Not because it fulfilled an egoic need, but because the one who first suggested it said, "You can make a lot of money for not very much work."

The appeal of making a lot of money for any amount of work was profound. And it wasn’t just the money. There was also a certain logic, even a magic to it.

One of the projects I wanted to pursue was a TV series, an idea that first came to me one afternoon in 1994 when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I was a freelance writer living in Connecticut, and a friend said to me, "You need a niche."

A vision flashed in my head: I was walking in a garden strewn with white apple blossoms. Next to me was a small man. We both wore microphones, and we were being filmed by a TV crew. I had never had a desire to be in televison – fact is, I had contempt for it as an insult to intelligence – but I knew immediately what what that vision was: a TV series.

I had a file drawer full of material, stuff I’d been saving for years on the premise that it was fascinating and, taken as a whole, represented a powerful and positive alternative to the world force-fed us by mainstream media. I also had decades of experience interviewing people, many of them gifted, accomplished and often famous, and I was good at it.

Over the next two years, a series of coincidences and fortuitous meetings with key people provided me with enough information to put together a viable proposal which I sent to PBS in Washington (Virginia, actually). The response was positive, but wary: We like your idea, and we’d like to see it when it’s at the rough-cut stage.

To have a show at the rough-cut stage, I would have to raise a lot of money, hire a crew, shoot a pilot, edit the footage, etc., and that’s where I hit the wall. The idea was good – and still is – and I knew I had the ability to be a host/narrator. But I didn’t have the courage of my convictions. I didn’t have the nerve.

About two years ago, motivated by an argument I’d had with the woman I was seeing, I began doing a form of breath-oriented therapy that brought to the surface all the old shopworn beliefs that had been running me since childhood. It also helped me blow out a lot of emotional ballast, and I began to feel as if I were awakening from a deep and rather unpleasant dream.

But I needed work, and acting and modeling were attractive for three reasons. One, the money was good. Two, my age worked against me in the corporate world, but it was a plus in this world. Three, it would provide experience in front of the camera, which I would need for the TV project.

In the past 18 months, I’ve made enough to cover my expenses — acting classes, photographs, etc. — but not enough to live on. Meanwhile, parting with one of my agents – I have two others – and the draw-down on my cash reserves have brought me close to the point where I vowed I would start looking for a job.

But over the past 10 days, I’ve had five auditions and gotten two jobs – one a commercial for a natural gas company, the other a print job for Home Depot. I spent last Friday as an extra for a holiday commercial, and today I audition for an AARP commercial.

If the work keeps coming, I’ll be fine. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to put my ideals on the shelf and look for a job. Four years ago, this kind of uncertainty would have put me in a state of high anxiety. But today I am calm. I know it’s going to be OK.  I’ll explain next time.

If you’d like to respond to this blog, please click below on ‘Post a Comment.’ If you’d like to contact me directly, send an email to jc@johnchristensenonline.com.

 

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