I’m swiveled around in my chair, looking out my office window and taking in Michigan Avenue’s bustling view. I’m not exactly working — a fact I would be embarrassed to admit under most circumstances — but something just feels different today. It could be that I’m staring down a monstrous pile of proofs to edits, interviews to transcribe and features to write. It could be that this is the second straight week of cloudy, cold weather and its dreary nature has begun to wear on me. It also could be the creeping feeling of burnout, and while that might be true, it isn’t the case. No, instead it’s that dread of fast-approaching 30 and saying to myself, “What’s the point of life?”
In college, I always held on to the belief that once I graduated, my life would really start. Now that I’m knee-deep in the real world, I can honestly say that I’m still wondering when my life will begin. It’s amazing that only six years ago I was telling myself that all these amazing opportunities would open up once I graduated. I pictured having the freedom to move where I wanted for any opportunity and traveling the world at the drop of a hat without worrying about class schedules or finals. In short, I pictured having a lot more free time to practice and hone my crafts, whether it was writing, art, traveling or acting. Unfortunately, I’ve come to the realization that life isn’t that black and white, and free time is much harder to come by as I get older.
A week after graduation I took the plunge — I went home to pack my things and then headed to a city I barely knew. There was something terrifying and wonderful about the experience. For the first time in my life, I was taking a real risk. I pictured days filled with auditions, rehearsals and performances. I envisioned becoming a renowned actor in Chicago. Looking back, I must say my visions were more idealistic than realistic. I never fully comprehended that most actors go through hundreds of auditions before landing a role, and most of the time landing a role doesn’t mean you get paid enough, or even paid at all. Most actors I know don’t act full-time; they have regular, 9 to 5 jobs. Yet to my naïve, recently graduated brain, the world was my oyster and I was dreaming big. I looked at the city as my opportunity to do what I’d been dreaming of since I was six.
Around the time I moved to Chicago, I also noticed a shift in the lives around me. I realized that most people I grew up with had moved back to our hometown or never left. Almost all of them were buying homes, dealing with mortgages, getting married and having children. While I was rushing from one fruitless audition to the next, friends were on their honeymoons or posting photos of their newborns. I started shifting my attention to how different my friends’ worlds had become and was left wondering, “Is this what life’s really about?” Social norms tell us we should get married, keep a steady, stable job and have children. However, let’s be honest. Most people are overworked, underpaid and underappreciated. The world is currently overpopulated, and 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Again, I find myself returning to the million-dollar question: “What’s the point of life?”
As I sit here, thinking about turning 30, I realize that I still don’t get the point. After six years of city life and pursuing my career, I honestly can say that the meaning of life hasn’t gotten clearer. However, I fully admit that my view of the world is definitely more realistic and practical than it used to be, which helps with disappointment, rejection and failure in as tough an industry as acting. These six years have taught me a lot, even if I’m not exactly where I expected to be at this point.
Recently, I’ve redirected my focus and attention to pursuing circus arts — a career I would love to do full-time, much to the behest of my family. “Be realistic, you’re almost 30. How much longer can you do this?” they ask. At first I think it’s a snipe at what I do, but then I realize it’s an honest question. Then I come to another realization: My family is me six years ago — worried and overwhelmed but wanting to understand this newfound world better. I can’t fault them for that. Perhaps six years from now I’ll laugh at my current dreams. However, for now, I’m content and inspired to pursue a circus life. Having something that drives the child inside is what will keep me going through the rough workdays and failed auditions. Furthermore, I have to keep reminding myself that people can’t accomplish extraordinary things without taking risks. I’m tired of living a life of “what if’s” and “maybe’s.” I have to embrace who I am, regardless of whether the younger me would. I’m a writer. I’m an acrobat. I’m a stuntwoman. I have bruises all over my body and I’ve broken all my fingers. I’ve jumped out of a plane. I’m not married. I have no children. This is my 30.