I’m about to graduate.
All TK students enter the Two Year Program knowing it will inevitably end. And yet, during our First Year of training, graduation seems so far away. Any jitters we are experiencing tend to be tied to the “unknown” of beginning something new. We’re only at the start of our artistic journeys.
First week of second year. We know the sands in our acting-training hourglass are waning, yet it is still fairly easy to push that knowledge to the back-burner of our minds and stay in denial-land — “THIS IS GONNA LAST FOREVER!“
Second semester Second Year. The time when we start to really spiral into “Second Year-itis”. We’re still learning, being introduced to new concepts, and immersing ourselves in the work. But that GRADUATION DATE is now a big, looming elephant in the classroom.
And that brings anxiety into the equation.
I know this blog post isn’t a high school graduation speech, but I think the definition of “anxiety” is helpful in this case. Webster’s dictionary describes “anxiety” as:
Apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill.
Here’s the deal: the work we’re doing is all about being present and in the moment – but when Second Year-itis kicks in, our brains split their energy between juggling being in the moment and thinking ahead.
Anxiety is worrying about what we’re going to do post graduation. How do we translate all of the important information we have learned into a professional setting? And why on earth did we choose to pursue a profession with no discernible roadmap or set plan?!? How are we going to pay our bills???? What if we have to move back into our parents’ basements!?! WHAT IF WE HAVE ZERO TALENT AND WILL NEVER WORK IN THIS PROFESSION?!?!
These thoughts can manifest into regression within our work and behavior during class. I’ve noticed that ever since my second semester began in January, my classmates (myself included) have begun acting out in sometimes hostile ways during Terry’s feedback. We’ve turned into scared little birds – terrified of the idea that we must soon leave the warmth and safety of our nest. Plus! We are furious at the Mama Bird that wants to kick us out of the nest in the very near future.
We’re thinking “I HAVE TO GET THIS RIGHT. I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR FAILURE!”
He does his best to remind us that the ultimate goal of this training is to be the best actors we can be and to get us to the point of being self-sufficient artists. He has always been open about the process along the way and has told us that this part of our journey is about weaning us out of the emotional dependency of “needing him.”
Terry can’t be there PHYSICALLY / LITERALLY as our acting spirit guide with a pep-talk for every audition post graduation. Therefore this part of Second Year is about reminding ourselves that we are trained professionals who have the tools we need in our actor’s toolbelts. Terry encourages us to dig into figuring out why we feel we need him. Why do we feel he has so much power? We are artists. And as artists, we need to trust we know what we’re doing and that we have a PROCESS.
Additionally, we need to be on the lookout for what Terry calls “The Shame Spiral”. We can’t beat ourselves up every time something we’ve worked on doesn’t go as well as we’d hoped.
We have chosen a personal profession and, because of this, we need to be even more objective about our own work. There is room to be passionate about the work, and to examine our work through a dispassionate lens. Hard as it might be, there’s no need to attack ourselves. In fact, to do so is actually indulgent, and self-destructive.
Terry is so deliberate about staying away from a preoccupation with the business, career, auditions, headshots, agents, etc … And yet he works with so many successful actors and obviously knows a lot about the game.
But! He fervently believes that if we focus on training we will have much more to bring to the work for the rest of our careers. He sees the training as an investment in the rest of our artistic and professional lives.
My fellow classmates and I are learning this the hard way: realistically, we only have so much energy. And if all if it is going towards freaking out and self-judgement, we’re not focusing on the work. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy; when we tie ourselves up in knots – our work suffers. As a result, we start thinking “wow, maybe I’m not as good as I thought???”.
Not to air my class’s “dirty laundry,” but I feel like this anecdote is relevant.
Recently, a fellow classmate had a minor meltdown. Having seen and worked with this woman for several months, I’ve gotten to know her fairly intimately. This tantrum was totally out of the norm. During the feedback, Terry gently called her on her attitude and encouraged her to take a deeper look as to why she was feeling so defensive.
“Could it be you are feeling anxious about the fact that you’re almost done here? You’re worried about being on the downslope?”
Terry wants us to succeed at this. He is patient with us when we get frustrated – and rather than holding a grudge when we lash out at him or ourselves, he aims to get at the root of why we are behaving this way. And it’s become abundantly clear that at this point it’s mostly due to:
When we realize certain behaviors aren’t serving us, we must ask ourselves: how do I get out of my own way? The first step is becoming aware of our habits. We can’t change the way we operate if we can’t see the way we’re operating.
My class has adopted a sort-of motto around this:
Any time we feel ourselves start to freak out about something. Any time we start to self-sabotage. Any time we start to beat ourselves up. Any time we catch ourselves suffering in the work… Terry encourages us to pause and ask “is this feeling of panic useful?” If not, we say to ourselves (in our heads, but out-loud is helpful, too…) “Cancel, Cancel.”
As in, nope. Not helpful. Abort. Next!
I definitely struggle with this. I tend to tie myself up into knots and I’m the first to admit that I have a lot of defenses…
Ironically enough, I’ve been putting off finishing this article. Not intentionally – but I’ve been having a tough time getting it done. If I’m being honest with myself, I think it boils down to two things:
1. I am avoiding thinking about how close I am to the end of this training.
2. I feel the need to get this post right / perfect / etc etc etc. I don’t want to leave anything out!
Apparently, Second Year-Itis can apply to more things than a Second Year acting class (haha).
So now I’m choosing to say “Cancel, Cancel.” Because let’s be real: we have a choice in all of this, even when we’re feeling overwhelmed. This is where I’m at. And instead of beating myself up or worrying that perhaps I didn’t 100% perfectly nail the content and explanation of this abstract-ish concept, I choose the healthier, kinder alternative: I choose to say f*** it and take the ride.