Written by Kristy Cloetingh, Blogger & Advocate
Over the past few weeks I’ve had a series of mental breakdowns. Specifically, about where my life is going.
See, I’m an actor struggling to make it in New York City. I love what I do. I even love bartending, which is what I do to pay the bills while I look for that next acting gig. Generally speaking, I’m pretty happy these days.
Last week, I spent a day in a meeting talking about the future of my high school with the president and other former graduates. As we went around the table, each woman introduced herself with her name, year she graduated, and career. I was last. And while everyone before me seemed so prestigious, working at placed like Bloomingdales and Barclays, it was almost embarrassing to say, “Hi, I’m Kristy Cloetingh, I graduated in 2008 and I am an actor.”
Recently I’ve been having little quarter-life crises. I think it has something to do with my age. I’m twenty-six, and apparently this is the age when all of your friends begin growing up. I have five weddings to attend between July and October this year. Five. Friends who I went to high school with are becoming adults before my very eyes—getting married, buying houses, having babies (?!). They are contributing to their 401ks and IRAs. They seem to have everything figured out.
I, on the other hand, do not.
Every few weeks, it seems, I question my career choice. Why am I doing this? Am I doing this right? What if it goes all wrong? What if I spent all that time and effort getting my English and Theater degrees from the University of Notre Dame to end up being a bartender for life? I like being a bartender and all, but I don’t know that I want to do it for the rest of my life. And how will I ever retire? Or support a family?
While it seems like the rest of the world has all of their ducks in a row, sometimes my ducks don’t even seem to be in the same pond.
It’s not that anyone is putting this pressure on me to get a more stable career. My parents are perfectly okay with me being an actor as long as I am following my passion and can, you know, pay bills. Most of my friends, my boyfriend included, are actors in various stages of success. I’m surrounded by people who are in the same position as I am. So why am I suddenly feeling like my life needs to go a certain way? Why am I questioning everything, while perfectly accepting the lives of the other actors around me?
The pressure it seems, is internal. I have always set myself to high, sometimes unrealistic expectations, ever since I can remember. Although I accept that it takes most actors awhile to get themselves established, for some reason that isn’t enough for me.
And that’s just not fair. Not to mention, it causes a lot of unnecessary anxiety.
It’s going to be a process, but I have to learn how to be more forgiving of myself. I need to treat myself the same way I treat others—with love and respect and compassion. My career trajectory may not be “traditional,” but I’m doing what I love and I’m doing the best that I can. And that’s all that I can really ask for.
I know I’m going to still have these minor freak-outs. I can’t just decide to accept my progress and expect them to all of the sudden disappear. But I can change my approach: every time I start to panic or have a crisis, I’m going to have to remind myself that I’m exactly where I need to be in this life. I’ll give myself a little mental hug and carry on. Because I can’t keep comparing myself to others. I’m my own person and I’m doing just fine. And you are, too.
My name is Kristy and this is Where I Stand.