Tuesday, May 01, 2007

White Bread

I love this time of year because it promises so much. The hope of spring and rebirth is all around me. It's so wonderful to lose the mittens, scarves and hats. It's so rejuvenating to feel the sun on my face, and know that summer is coming soon. I like a lot of things about winter, but what I like best is leaving it behind. But this time of years also brings with it some old, bad feelings. It was around this time about thirteen years ago (omigod has it been that long? crap I'm old), when I was sitting in a small room in the theatre school across from my first year acting prof, being evaluated. It was actually my second year out of high school. I spent a year at another university, before deciding that I needed a program that was less academic and more studio-oriented, if I really wanted to become an actor. Anyways, for those that think acting is an easy program, try sitting in a room with a prof who tells you exactly what's wrong with you. You're not being judged on your writing skills, or how much you studied for exam, or whether you had original ideas - you are being judged on YOU. Whether or not you're interesting, talented, significant. According to my first year prof, I was not. I was "too pink" (WTF?), too "middle-of-the-road", too "white bread".

White bread. I can't tell you how this innocuous phrase has gotten stuck in my head and stayed there. Sure, lots of people eat white bread. Some kids will only eat white bread, in fact. But nobody loves it. If a prisoner had to choose their final meal on death row, I'm pretty sure it would not be white bread. If you could only have one food with you on a desert island, I'm guessing it's not going to be white bread. Even if you had to name your top five favourite foods, I doubt that white bread would make the cut. So this is what I'm compared with? A food that, while tasty enough, is completely forgettable?? Thanks. Way to break a girl's spirit. I had a rather "delicate" self-image up to that point, and that pretty much shattered it.

Most years I can just coast by and forget, but this year, as some of you know, I was actually back in school. April brought with it papers, exams and much stress. Along with it came the inevitable reminder that I am not an actor (or why would I be back in school), so maybe the prof was right after all. It's not news to me that the professional actor thing isn't going to happen, of course. I've accepted, albeit grudgingly, the fact for some time now. But the question is - what do I do now? I'm stuck in a job that I don't like, that doesn't challenge me, and where I am all but invisible. I would quit, but it just doesn't make sense financially to do that right now. Even if it did make sense to quit, though, it wouldn't make me happy.

The truth is, I like to work. I think that I've been a better mother since I've been back to work. That doesn't make sense to most people, but it does to me. But I look at my beautiful Boy's face every day that I leave him in the hands of others and think what have I done - what am I doing?? It must be the epitome of selfishness to leave him every day for a job that I don't love. How bad a person must I be to think that I wouldn't be satisfied staying home all the time with this amazing little man who is so very lovely (except when he's not). Then I think - do other people feel this way? Does every mom who goes back to work love her job? Does her job make a difference in the world?

So the solution, you might think, is to find another job - one that I do love. There the rub, no? For every job other than acting would be a Royal Gardner to my Gilbert Blythe. But what do you do when Gilbert Blythe is off the market, but you still want to get married? Would you settle for Royal? It seems that I have no choice, but it does make a decision - any kind of decision - difficult. What I have to do is find another job altogether, something out of the norm. Easier said than done. What I can't do anymore is remain invisible. I can't do a job where I'm not using all of myself, and making a definite contribution to something worthwhile. Even if I was a good employee right now (and I'm not, because I don't care), I wouldn't be doing something valuable. I'd still be white bread. And that's not good enough.


metro mama said...

That prof is an asshole.

I don't buy the whole constructive criticism thing. Most of the greatest writers had little or no education--sometimes I think they succeeded because of that, not in spite of it.

Have you tried any other jobs in the theatre business, like stage management?

You write a mean review.

You'll find something you love--don't settle for less.

cinnamon gurl said...

I don't think what that prof said was constructive criticism. It was just mean criticism... maybe he wanted to be an actor and got stuck being a prof?

I don't love my job, exactly, but I enjoy it a lot more since I'm only doing it part-time. I think part-time is a great balance for me, and would have been even before I got pregnant. Except how do you justify that really? Anyways... it does seem like career things get even more complex and confusing when you become a mother. Good luck.

Suz said...

I don't think that you need to love your job if you're a working mom, but it does need to satisfy you. You need to feel valued in it and that your work is, to some extent, valuable. If not, I would find something else.

bubandpie said...

Totally distracted here by your Gilbert Blythe/Royal Gardiner analogy... In RoI, Gilbert turns out to be a bit annoying - a bit too much the doctor. Which is to say, don't marry Royal, but don't assume that Gilbert's everything he's cracked up to be either. Hold out for Barney Snaith!!!

Beck said...

I could make you some white bread that would break your heart, it would be so good. What on earth is better than right out of the oven white bread? Come ON now. Everyone loves that.
The answer to the working question is yours to make. If you don't love your job and feel like your heart is being broken by the separation, maybe there are other job choices you could make.

NotSoSage said...

Oh, no-mo this is a hard one. I was just saying to a friend, this evening, that I'm not happy where I am but that at least that means that I'm motivated to really pursue my dreams. I won't get too comfortable in my position and be afraid to take that leap.

And Beck's right. I would wager that Joe would put a nice, round, crusty loaf of white Calabrese bread in his top five foods. That prof was a jerk...

PeanutButtersMum said...

I kind of like white bread. I have the thighs to prove it! ;-)

mcewen said...

I've been a full time working mum with my eldest - I thought that by the time she was old enough to have her own children the choices would be different!
Now I'm a stay at home mum with the next generation [we're lucky to be able to afford this option]
There is no right or wrong choice, there are only the best choices for each individual. Good for you.
Best wishes

Mad Hatter said...

The thing with theatre profs is that they all have different opinions. My husband's darling have been shat upon by others. I will say this: my husband has received some very hostile reviews in his time. He's also received some stellar ones. The trick is to persevere.

Sadly, the bigger trick is to make money along the way and that, my dear, is where the arts may fail you rather than you failing in the arts.

You know, I really like the job I have now. I spent about 11 years in jobs that I didn't like before I found this one. They say that the average North American changes careers 7 times before settling. You will find what's right for you yet.

Pynchon said...

I'm very interested by your post even though my wife Mimi made me read it.

Like yourself, I was once an actor (oh, this sounds like a bad SNL skit) and it was all that I loved. I loved to turn the trick and make the audience forget who I was; make me forget who I was.

And then I stopped.

I have felt adrift ever since and have searched the depths of my soul to figure out what it is that I want to do with my life.

I'm starting to give up hope on being special (which is how acting made me feel) and beginning to wonder if it is enough to be a nurturer. As it turns out I am a really great stay-at-home dad (which was shocking to both myself and Mimi considering my rather irresponsible past and general lack of contact with children).

Being a SAHD has made me feel special again but I admit, it doesn't complete me like performing used to. I think I have been waiting for some light bulb moment to go off in my head at which point I will suddenly realize all of my potential and begin to live life instead of cruising through it.

OR maybe Mimi was right when she told me tonight that I need to explore what I want to do with my life rather than waiting for it to come to me.

Either way, if you figure out what it is that you were 'meant' to do; let me know how you came to that conclusion. Maybe I can copy it.

Mary G said...

You are a class act, nomo. Your writing really sings, for one thing. You would make a marvellous story teller, just for one thing off the top of my very fuzzy head. I was over forty when the career I wanted opened to me, and I've loved life a lot more ever since.
And white bread (Stupid man!) is the food of choice in a lot of situations. Think of a fresh, slender baguette and lots of stinky cheese.

Mimi said...

I read an article in Harper's a couple of months back that said that one of the reasons everyone always grumbles about how profs have it easy (not your prof--he's just a dink) is because what they really mean is that profs are lucky to do work that is at once personally meaningful, full of prestige, and socially relevant.

Who doesn't want a job like that? The author surmises this is one reason a lot of underprivileged young men join the armed forces--to feel that their lives have meaning, and that they have some sway in the world.

Only, historically, this desire to feel fulfilled through work is a very recent development, probably tied in to the fact that we work so many more hours now, and fewer of us have the kinds of households in which one income is sufficient.

I'm sorry you're feeling so poorly, but it's definitely a right first step to just come out and admit that you want more, isn't it? What you wrote really resonated with Pynchon, for one. And with me. Do keep us posted.

Jenifer said...

Back again. I saw your comment at Mimi's and was intrigued and had to come by and read. (Back again, referring to the fact that I commented on an early post a minute ago before getting to this one.)

I feel exactly like this sometimes...I have been home with my girls for two years now and posted about this a while back...(Feb. 5) the feelings of being torn.

My job had moments where I felt I was contributing but mostly I felt like I was wasting my time, so when the opportunity (well "restructure") came along I was actually relieved. Staying home is so much harder than I thought though and I do feel bad for wanting more sometimes.

Getting involved in the school has been good for me, but I so get what you are saying. You feel guilty either way somehow.

Just wanted to let you know that you are not the only one looking for your destiny and wondering if you will ever find it.

kittenpie said...

May I put forth: baguette. Good, crusty, white baguette. Slathered with a little butter so fresh it's a bit sweet, or buried under a think wedge of brie, or dipped in a stringy fondue...

Damn, girl. White bread is fiiiiiine!!! Like you.

Meanwhile, I think the place to start is thinking of as many things you'd like to do as possible, and then figure out how a few might be made to happen and work from there. At least, a way of figuring out your dreams and maybe pointing yourself in the right direction.