Whatever your passion may be, pursue it every day and always make the best of your journey.
When I was 23 I was accepted into the MFA program for acting at The Theatre School at DePaul in Chicago. To this day I’m not sure why they accepted me because, other than the improv class I took the previous summer, I had never acted before. I think they liked the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Maybe it was an experiment for them, I don't now. Regardless, I was thrilled to get in and months later began my work at DePaul. Needless to say, of the other eleven actors in my class, I was the most inexperienced – by far. Everything was new and intimidating, especially my acting teacher Joe. He was hardcore, to say the least.
At the beginning of the first semester, after only a few classes, Joe ordered everyone to come to the following class dressed ready to workout. The next day we all showed up in our workout clothes, not really knowing what to expect. Soon enough Joe came in, looked us over, and barked, “Follow me.” Amid nervous laughter, muffled complaints, and sarcastic jokes, our scrappy group of aspiring actors walked down three flights of stairs, through the lobby, and into the streets of Chicago. And so our class “jog” began.
Our group would definitely not have been mistaken for a running team in training. We looked more like, well, a bunch of out of shape actors who probably drank and smoked too much the night before.
The jog was not a short one. With each passing minute we got further and further from campus – not a good sign. We took breaks from time to time in order for people to catch their breath, get some water, and scream random obscenities. This went on for over an hour and a half.
After what seemed like a marathon, we finally stopped at a point on Lake Michigan overlooking the city, very far from campus. Was someone going to pick us up? Could we hail a cab from Lake Shore Drive? Could I get my money back?
Eventually the group caught their breath and gathered around. It was a beautiful Chicago afternoon in mid September. The sun was shining. There were sailboats on the lake. The city skyline was in clear view. A peaceful calm had come over us as we took in the scenery. Then, from out of nowhere, one of our classmates, a short fat guy from New York broke the silence in his high-pitched voice with, “Hey Joe, what the fuck?” Everyone lost it. It was probably the first time we saw our professor laugh. When the laughter subsided he answered the question.
He said, “This run is a metaphor for your acting career. A lot of you had a hard time getting here today without passing out. If you thought this was tough, you’re in for a rude awakening when it comes to your life as an actor. This is an amazing profession you’ve all chosen to pursue but you’ve got to be willing to work extremely hard, take huge risks, and never ever quit. It’s been said that it takes 20 years for someone to become an actor – a truthful, solid, grounded actor. This is only the beginning. If you want to stay in the race you have to keep running. You all have great potential or you wouldn’t be here. It’s up to you how you choose to use that potential. Good luck guys, I’ll see you back at school.”
Eventually we all found our way back to campus. Everyone finished the run, but several did not complete the program. The short fat guy from New York left school within two months.
Don't quit. If you've found your passion, that thing that drives you, that thing that makes you a better person, don't ever let it go.
Something I’ve learned throughout my career and my life is that “the jog” never ends. This is a good thing. For as long as you pursue acting, or any profession for that matter, you’ll always be faced with the uncertainty of what the future holds. You’ll always be striving to become better, to evolve. You can take a positive approach to your journey and enjoy the scenery, or you can complain the entire way, wishing for your big break to be handed to you. I’m sure we can all agree, negativity never wins and breaks are not given out. Stay the course. Find your passion and follow it.
Thanks for reading. Good luck and keep going. I wish you nothing but success in everything you pursue.
For more information or to schedule a coaching session, please visit www.ryankitley.com.