The thing I am hearing the most right now (after Congratulations!) is the awkward question… ‘Sooooo…. what will YOU be doing?’. I am not the one with the teaching degree, and I don’t want to be a teacher, so pursuing that career choice is out. And when that decision has been made, there really isn’t anything left for me to do. The town of approximately 400 people that we are moving to has no other job opportunities. The people there live a subsistence lifestyle, there is no where to go out to eat, and no real businesses aside from the health clinic, post office and small town store. I struggled at first (and who am I kidding- even now) with the answer to this question. I had already signed on for next season as the Assistant Stage Manager with the theatre I work at and would be getting my Equity card by the end of next season which was a huge step for me in my career. Now that is all changing. The super independent feminist side of me is freaking out a little bit, and I’m not going to lie; I totally cried when I wrote my resignation letter to the theatre. I have just under a week left on what is now my last show with them. After two years I had become extremely comfortable working with amazing people doing some really great theatre.
As a modern independent and strong woman I have been fed by the media, and my teachers and professors, people I trust and look up to that I need to work to earn my worth. My career should define my success, and I should be able to balance a family with that as well. A few weeks back however I read a really enlightening article by Zosia Mamet that a friend shared on facebook. She talks about how
“We are so obsessed with “making it” these days we’ve lost sight of what it means to be successful on our own terms. As women we have internalized the idea that every morning we wake up, we have to go for the f–king gold. You can’t just jog; you have to run a triathlon. Having a cup of coffee, reading the paper, and heading to work isn’t enough—that’s settling, that’s giving in, that’s letting them win. You have to wake up, have a cup of coffee, conquer France, bake a perfect cake, take a boxing class, and figure out how you are going to get that corner office or become district supervisor, while also looking damn sexy—but not too sexy, because cleavage is degrading—all before lunchtime. Who in her right mind would want to do that? And who would even be able to?”
This article actually brought me to tears. She goes on to say that we need to define our own version of success, and that if that means going off and having a bakery in the middle of nowhere instead of being a super ‘successful’ actress on tv, (or having any job at all really) we need to stop pressuring ourselves- and others- to fit into this mold of what society and feminism says is successful. This resonated with me and this decision to move to Alaska. I am NOT a failure for quitting my job and supporting my husband and going to run a household.
So I guess my clear answer is this: I will be taking a break from Stage Management and working in the traditional sense. I plan on doing all of the creative projects that have been on the back burner because “I don’t have time”. Crochet, Writing, Reading Plays, Translating Plays. Maybe this is my blessing in all of this. I’m not saying that I won’t go stir crazy and accept a job touring or in a town that will pay to get me there, but at least for the beginning I am going to have a lot of free time.
One factor that made this decision a whole lot easier: Money. I know, you aren’t supposed to talk about it, but it sure seems to factor into EVERYTHING.
If my job in the theatre could provide enough for us to stay we would. But it doesn’t, and never will. I read an article from another Philadelphia theatre artist having some of the same revelations. Charlotte Ford is a successful local actress/theatre creator, and what she wrote really resonated with me, and actually made it much easier to support my husband in this endeavor. You can read her story here.
I knew that when I got married, that once my husband found a full time teaching job it would trump any income I was contributing. This past year we worked 6 jobs between the two of us (stage management counting as one) and we still made less than what he will be making in one year as a teacher in Alaska. And that doesn’t even factor in 100% covered health benefits and the fact that they subsidize our housing. It’s not like we were broke all the time- in fact we were doing well, with a comfortable 2 bed apartment in the suburbs, nice things and not having to worry every second about the balance of our bank account. But in the end we were both consistently working 60+ hour weeks, with days off few and far between.
It’s interesting that I’m really excited about having a break, and taking a couple years or so to really build a sustainable base for a family. Had you asked me a couple of years ago if I would do something like this I would have thought you were crazy. My career and theatre were the most important things, and I was okay living out of a suitcase and giving up everything for my “success”. Now that is much less appealing. I got married. I want a family. I want a home. It’s not wrong to want these things, and know that theatre has to take a backseat for a while to achieve that. This does not make me any less of a feminist, or a success.