— This is Real Life

How the "worst" advice I received as a college senior actually paid off

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My final semester in college was definitely a whirlwind. Those last few weeks were filled with library trips, barbecues, exams, parties, and so many job applications. As a theater major, I had just wrapped up my last show of the year, and I was done with rehearsals and late nights. There wasn’t much left to do but set my sights on graduation and the great abyss beyond.

One night in May, I attended a lecture given by a Broadway actress. She made an appearance at my small liberal arts school in between rehearsals for Angels in America – a play that my friends and I recently worked on in class. It seemed as though almost every theater major attended that lecture, thinking she would surely bestow some kind of great wisdom upon us as we embarked on our “real world” journeys.

To be honest, I don’t really remember what she talked about during her lecture. It was the Q+A portion of the event that has stayed with me.

Towards the end of the evening, a classmate of mine asked her the question that was probably on all of our minds: “What advice would you give to theater majors?”

The actress paused (dramatically, no doubt) and we all leaned forward expectantly.

“If you can do anything else but this,” she said seriously, “do it.”

Teacher talking to students in theater class
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I looked around at my fellow classmates to see if anyone else had the reaction I did. Was this lady serious? Did she really come into a room of 20-somethings about to graduate with a theater degree and tell us to “do something else?” Like many of my peers, my post-college plans included moving to New York City, getting a part-time job, and auditioning as much as possible. When you spend four years reading Shakespeare and crawling around on the floor in Alexander Technique class, that’s really the only logical option.

With that in mind, I was pretty furious at this advice.

I left the lecture feeling indignant. How dare this Broadway actress try to discourage me and my friends. How dare she not encourage us to follow our dreams and believe in ourselves. It made me even more resigned to proceed without a backup plan, to choose theater as my only option. Screw that Broadway actress; I was going to prove her wrong.

And I did, for a while.

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