WRITTEN BY AMELIA BRANTLEY
A few years ago, I was dating this guy who was a struggling actor like me. He was good looking, charming, and funny and I totally fell for him. About a month into our relationship, he got an audition for a huge contract role on a very popular daytime drama. That audition led to a callback which led to a screen test.
But before his screen test, he called me to say that he was feeling anxious about our new relationship and realized he wasn’t ready for anything serious and asked if we could go back to being just friends. I reluctantly agreed and then spent the rest of the day coming to terms with my new found heartache. The next day, he called to tell me he had booked the big role, and shortly thereafter, I couldn’t go to a grocery store anywhere in the country without seeing his face on the cover of Soap Opera’s digest. Ba-dump-CHING!
This has been my M.O. for the last decade. You know how Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers’ talks about the ten year rule? He says it takes ten years for someone to master a certain skill. Well, I’ve been in LA for over ten years now and have mastered the skill of watching all of my friends succeed in the industry. I’m not going to lie–it’s a skill I wish I didn’t have.
I’m now the master of a forced smile and congratulatory hug.
I’ve mastered composing an upbeat, supportive text or email when I’ve just seen a friend’s new movie or their guest spot on This Is Us. I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding how much this kills me inside.
Just the other night, I saw an old friend on an episode of Law and Order. It was a great role and she was awesome in it. She and I were really close while in acting school and for a few years after we graduated. She used to tell me that I’d probably work a lot after graduation because I was pretty. So when she came on my TV the other night, I sobbed. If I’m being honest, I was crying because I thought, Maybe she is better than me and I’m just a pretty face. She must be better. That’s why she’s on my TV right now and I’m just finding out that I didn’t book the 11th co-star I’ve gone to producers for on Criminal Minds.
All of the friends I had when I started this journey, all of the ones who have stuck it out just as long as I have, they are all working. I mean, full-time, don’t-need-a-side-hustle, actually-have-busy-pilot-seasons, working. One of them was nominated for a freaking Emmy last year.
And yes, I am happy for those people. They worked really hard to get to where they are and then some luck was involved when the right role came around. They deserve their success and I hope they have more of it. But it’s bittersweet because I’m nowhere near as successful as they are which makes me wonder if I’m good enough for this industry.
I know, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and, “Instagram is only a highlight reel.” Logically, I understand that. But those wise words aren’t strong enough to protect me from the knee-jerk, punch-in-the-gut reactions I have every time I turn on my TV and see someone I know doing the thing that I love. Jealousy, bitterness, sadness, doubt, insecurity–all of these feelings burst out of me and as soon as they do, I’m drowning in guilt for feeling that way in the first place.
Then, a whole new reasoning for why I’m not booking presents itself. It’s because I can’t be happy for other people. I have a bad attitude. It’s why I didn’t have any auditions this pilot season and all of the actors around me had like, a billion, according to their InstaStories.
It’s a whirlwind of sensations but I have a feeling I’m not alone.
When I have a clear mind to think about it, I think it’s normal to have these reactions to seeing other people succeed at the thing you’ve been desperately chasing. There’s jealousy, envy, heartache, frustration, pity. Feeling left out is hard enough but then I can’t also beat myself up for having these normal, healthy, ‘negative’ feelings. In fact, they’re not negative, they’re just natural.
One thing my mom tells me when I’m faced with composing another congratulatory text to an old college buddy is, “Everything always works out exactly as it should.” And as quickly as I may want to brush that saying off, she’s right. I’ve been in this fight for a long time. I’ve seen all sorts of shit and I’ve been through the ringer, yet every morning, I wake up with an overwhelming sense that I’m in the right place at the right time. I remind myself how lucky I am that I get to pursue such a dream. Maybe that’s faith or maybe that’s delusion but I trust it. It’s what I have to do to regain strength to keep going. I know that doing what I love is most important and that shouldn’t be given a time limit. I trust that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and I do my best to feel everything–the good, the bad, and the ugly. Maybe I kick and scream for a minute, but then I take a deep breath, high-five that friend who just booked their co-star on Criminal Minds after just one producers session, and go fight for my spotlight.