The short answer is: Because I had kids.
The long answer is…way too fucking long. And honestly, I’m still processing it. The guilt still arises, though less frequently, and it’s been 6 years since I made this decision. Quite possibly longer.
Making the choice to leave my acting career behind wasn’t easy, especially since American culture beats the “never give up” mantra into our heads from the second we exit the womb. While “Don’t give up” is a good philosophy to live by for the most part, sometimes letting go makes more sense than holding on. No one wants to be a quitter, but sometimes it’s the wiser choice.
The idea of being an actor is romanticized to a fault. All most people see is fame and fortune. The reality is this business is straight up brutal. You spend a lot of your time preparing for auditions that you likely won’t book and unless you have the skin of a rhinoceros, all of that rejection eventually wears you down. Don’t get me started on walking into the holding room and seeing 30 other girls who look just like you waiting to be seen. If anything is going to make you want to quit acting, it’s that.
[Enter THE SNOWBALL EFFECT]
The New York hustle was so depressing. I worked an awful job at a karaoke bar getting yelled at by entitled AF NYU students, *wealthy* patrons AND (believe it or not) Broadway actors, who didn’t know how to wait in line for their song. My life choices were being questioned daily.
I told myself I should have had that rhino skin. I blamed myself for being weak. My friends seemed to be booking left and right (enter Facebook jealousy). Shows I knew I would be perfect for were starting to go up and I couldn’t even get up in the morning to audition for them. I couldn’t bear the thought of rejection, and so if I didn’t go, then I wouldn’t be rejected.
My then-boyfriend-now-husband moved about 90 minutes from the city and I would escape as often as I could just to GET AWAY from the noise of NYC and the skeletal remains of my career. When the few auditions I went on started to feel like a waste of time, I realized I was done. I didn’t want to hustle anymore for dust. There had to be more to life than chasing a comatose dream. I told myself I could go down to the city for auditions whenever a good one came up but honestly I just stopped looking. Then we got married and had our first child. The first 6 months of parenthood only served to forge and temper my decision to walk away for a longer period of time. One day, I realized it had been years since I had worked. Years since I had gotten a paycheck for acting.
So why did I quit acting?
In a nutshell, I wanted more than what my dream was giving me. The return on my investment wasn’t worth it anymore.
How do you know when to put your career to rest? How can you be sure that doing so is the absolute best thing to do?
What if you find yourself thinking “Should I quit acting? Can I quit acting? Can an actor just quit?”
Consider these thoughts:
The idea of acting is no longer appealing. Maybe you always wanted to be an actor, but interests change. If it truly no longer appeals to you, then take a break and explore other passions.
The sacrifice is no longer worth it. Not only is the pursuit of an acting career soul crushing, but the work itself can wreck you physically and mentally. The days are long, the days off are few, you can expect to spend long stretches of time away from friends and family. It is exhausting, and for what? Only you can answer that. Be honest.
You’ve found something better. Perhaps your skillsets have improved or your life situation has changed. And that feels weird because what could be better than acting??? The truth is, a lot of things. There is no shame in walking away when it’s the better option available to you.
You’re obsessed with what others think. If the only reason you want to become an actor is to become famous, stop. You will never be happy. No one will ever praise you enough to make the pursuit of an acting career worth it. An actor’s job isn’t to make others like you.
Your capabilities have changed. At one point, I had a chance of being a decent dancer, or at the very least a good mover. Not anymore. I couldn’t afford classes to keep up my skills. I am now a glorious 40 and the idea of a dance audition makes me want to cry. My core is not strong and with the multiple surgeries I’ve had recently, I am not sure it will ever be what it needs to be in order to dance again. I’m not being negative, it’s my reality. Some physical limitations make the necessary sacrifices too big to be worth the effort.
I have wanted to be an actor since I was 12 years old. Never did I dream I would quit acting. Someday I will go back, but it will be on my terms. The days of the hustle are long gone, at least for me. My time is precious, my mental health is non-negotiable, and my family comes first.
It took me a long time to stop being in denial with the fact that I quit acting. What helped me cope was remembering everything else that made up who I am. I had given myself over to this dream for so long that I had forgotten how much I loved to draw. I have been an artist longer than I’ve been an actor. For awhile I sold pet portraits, and then started a clip art shop on Etsy. People were paying me for making art again! I learned how to cook and can improv a recipe pretty well, these days. Not Chopped well, but most of the time the kids eat it. And most importantly, I’m a mom, now. Parenting is the most fulfilling work I have ever done or ever will do.
Remember, a lifetime isn’t forever. Interests and priorities change. If you can be just as happy or happier doing something else, there is no shame in walking away, if only for a little while.