The year I graduated from college with a BFA in acting, I was determined to be cast in a professional play by Christmas.
Most of my time was spent hoping my agents would get me an audition, freaking out if they did, running to multiple coachings to prepare, throwing my entire being into my 2-3 minutes in front of a casting director, then constantly checking my phone to see if I got a callback.
In November of that year (increasingly frustrated but no less determined), I got an audition for a part I thought was a perfect fit. It was a challenging and beautiful play about a 13-year-old girl with autism. I looked young and was passionate about the material. I was certain this was the one.
I called my Mom after the initial audition to tell her they’d given me a callback on the spot. Looking back over ten years later, I think that was pretty cool. It wasn’t an easy role, and competition in NYC is not slight. “Are you happy?” my Mom asked.
“I’m pending” I said. What mattered was getting cast.
It’s easy to live our lives “pending.” Oh sure, it’s going well NOW. But the other shoe will drop any moment!! Awards, praise, and other accomplishments can even make our self esteem worse. The more we feel we have to lose, the scarier it is to take risks.
And yet, celebrating now may be an essential part of our next opportunity for success. Allowing ourselves to feel joy and relief releases endorphins which we then associate with following through on a challenge. The next time we’re called upon to step forward, we’ll remember that along with potential fear and dread, we ultimately experienced positive emotions. We’re proving to our brains and bodies that it’s worth it.
I’ve been wondering about this in the Zoom world. We don’t have the same opportunity for a “great job” after a talk from someone we pass in the hall or a beer with our colleagues after a big event. Often we might complete a task that stretched us, then click “leave meeting” and immediately return to answering emails.
What is celebration to you? A nap, some ice cream, a walk in the woods? A silent or audible “thank you” to yourself ? You can take a full day or 30 seconds. But some moment of acknowledgment is essential to being a good boss to yourself (and making sure your employee - you - keeps on stepping forward).
I wasn’t cast in the play. But in February (not so long after Christmas) I was cast in another. I looked at the audition as a failure because I didn’t get what I wanted. The cool thing is, though, celebration doesn’t have an expiration date. I’m proud of myself for pouring over the play, jumping into the role, stepping boldly into a situation that many people (including myself, still!) would find intimidating. And celebrating that success simply through writing about it increases my motivation to step into the next audition room/auditorium/coaching session with my whole being, risking both failure and success.