Help me figure out what to do with my life.
March 14, 2012 11:38 AM   Subscribe

How do I figure out what I want to do and where I want to live and move to the other side of the country at the same time? Nature, dislike of large cities, an acting career...loooots of text inside, lots of explanation. Help!

So this question is a bit complicated, but I'l try to lay it out as simple as I can. There's so many factors here and this is going to be super long...sorry!

I am a female living in NYC. I just turned 24. I was raised here and am currently living in my parent's apartment. I lived here almost year round until I was 18, when I went to college for acting at a state university a few hours away. As a senior in high school, I knew that I very much wanted to leave NYC for college and experience living in a new place, and initially was wary about the school I chose to go to because it was too close to NYC, and I didn't want to be so close. However, I had a great time, and am now (hugely) grateful I chose the state school over the more prestigious and MUCH more expensive private school I also got accepted to, because of the fact that I now have some money saved that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

The plan was always that after school I would try to become a professional actor, joining the hordes of young grads in NYC trying to work their way to Broadway or the Oscars or whatever. However, in my senior year of college, I realized that I really, really didn't want to go back and live in NYC right away, that I still wanted to live away and experience different things. Additionally, I LOVE traveling, and have always loved the UK and respected the place that theatre has in British culture. So I ended up spending my senior year applying and auditioning for various postgrad and master programs for acting in the UK, and got accepted to one! Yay! And so I went.

I spent the year in England, loved it, and still really REALLY didn't want to go back to the US and especially, NYC. Try as I might I couldn't find a way to get a UK visa to try to live and work as an actor in London, and ended up (reluctantly and tearfully) leaving the country this past summer.

My first stop back in the US was returning to a summer job I've held since my last year in high school, at a sort of farm and retreat center in northern New England. I love the place and have many close friends there, and have always loved working there, in the outdoors and the mountains and the dirt and etc. I thought it would be a good transitional period to make some money and assimilate back to the US before being plonked down back in NYC. I kind of assumed that this past summer would have been my last full summer working there, because I would start to need to do real (and not seasonal) work and focus on my acting career.

This summer at the center, quite unexpectedly, I met a guy, a native New Englander. We got together over the summer but were initially unsure of our ability to work after the summer ended because of the distance. I go back to the city, he stays in NE, and this is where things get complicated.

Six months later, we are still together, and very happily so, having managed to spend a good deal of time together despite the distance. Simultaneously, in the past six months, I've also been going through a bit of an identity crisis, and have realized a few things:

-I thought that after spending time away I could deal with living in NYC, because that's where so much of the acting work is. It shouldn't have come as a surprise to me, however, that after having not wanting to live in NYC for so long I actually, still, DON'T want to live in NYC. (Shocker!) I simply cannot live my life here. I'm sick of it, I'm over it, and I need to live somewhere else, preferably far away.

-This has morphed into not being sure if I want to live in a large city, period. I need a change.

-I love acting and the performing arts, and it's not that I don't want to be an actor anymore, but that I don't think I want to devote my life to working as a waiter/doing unfulfilling work/trying to make something happen for me as an actor. That would mean a life most likely living in NYC (nope), LA (definitely nope), or Chicago (perhaps, but still not enthused, I need a change from big cites), devoting my life to getting a break that may never happen. I want to live a fulfilling, rich, creative, adventurous life NOW, not at some undefinable point in the future.

-I love the outdoors and nature, and I love to travel, and I want the flexibility to do so and not be stuck and tied down to a single place. (Basically my worst nightmare.) This is in agreement with my boyfriend's career interests--he wants to work in the outdoors, but also majored in English and needs some sort of culture around him as well. Spending so much time in the outdoors with him in last few months (hiking trips, etc.) has made me realize a love of being and working in nature is a part of myself I've long suppressed in favor of the artsy city life I thought I wanted.

-And it's like, I DO want some of the artsy city life, but I don't want JUST that. I need variety and energy and I need to do lots of things. I'm very much an ENFP, if that information helps anyone understand where I'm coming from. I'd rather do a job that's fun and fulfilling and that I enjoy even if it's not very lucrative, than a job that pays a lot of money but I don't enjoy.

It has been a very strange fall/winter. Being in my parent's home and in NYC is more than just boring and undesirable for me; I'm pretty sure I'm depressed. I've had some random jobs and am good at saving so I'm not TOO low on money, but not consistently working is making me more bored and unhappy and restless than anything. At this point, I wouldn't be opposed to living pretty much ANYWHERE else, provided it's in the northern half of the country and not the northeast.

Even a small town in the mountains of Colorado or something is more preferable to me than living in NYC. I think that would be a great experience, and though I don't think I could live there forever, I certainly could for a little while. Just to get out of here, and live in a beautiful place. But it's not like there are tons of creative jobs in those places...I've thought about going into children's theater, maybe after school theater programs or something? Or forgoing that for a little while and doing something nature or animals related? Or something else entirely?

I'm just kind of at a loss and don't know where to go from here, and how to go about doing it. The plan right now is to return to the summer job where my boyfriend and I met. He's returning too. The idea is that it's a good way to spend more than a couple of weeks at a time in each other's company, see how things go, and take it from there. He very much wants to leave the northeast as well, which is good...we've discussed the possibility that if things go well this summer, we would like to move somewhere, if not together at least to the same area. He wants to work in the outdoors or as a writer or preferably both (his ideal job is to be a travel writer), I want to work in the performing arts and/or with nature or...I don't know.

I've thought about Seattle, or that the Seattle area would be a good fit for us. But how would I go about getting a job there? I know everyone says not to move without a job lined up, but my background and skills are in theater. How can I get a theater job from across the country? I have lots of interests and love to do many things. Part of me just wants to pick up and move there in the fall, would this be a good idea?

Any and all advice and info would be really helpful. I'm just kind of lost, and my boyfriend feels the same. I feel like I'm wasting a year of my life and am not being productive or creative or living up to my potential. I'm also finding it hard to motivate myself, since I have so much free time. If I end up coming back to NYC after this summer with no immediate plans to leave, and basically in the same place I was for all of this year, I think I will truly lose my mind. (For what it's worth, if things DON'T work out with my boyfriend this summer, I plan to leave the region anyway, even if it's by myself.) Where do I go from here? How do I do this?
posted by Emms to Work & Money (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
There are regional theaters. Lots of them. Here are two I found in Seattle alone. So you can do theater in places other than NYC. There's also the option of teaching theater at a kids' arts program in one of these locations as well. Or, you could combine your love of the outdoors with that and teach theater at a summer arts camp or something of that nature.

Of course, these jobs are not going to fall into your lap. You may need to do a bit of legwork to figure out a) whether teachng is right for you, and b) where you want to live in the first place. Once you get settled on where to live (at least pick a REGION of the country, or a TYPE of place -- rural vs. urban, etc.), that will help you look into options where you end up.

But just to reiterate that you can indeed do theater-related things in places other than New York.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:47 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you ever been to San Francisco? You might like it.
posted by mareli at 12:02 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

For years, a friend from college ran the education program at Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox, MA. She now does this for a theater in Vancouver, BC.

A lot of regional theaters have programs like this. Can you get back in touch with some of your profs from college to see if they'll help you brainstorm/network?

Part of me just wants to pick up and move there in the fall, would this be a good idea?

Depends. How much money do you have saved, what's your tolerance for risk, and are you willing and able to work temp/retail jobs while you find your feet?
posted by rtha at 12:06 PM on March 14, 2012

This is how I felt when I was 21(tech theatre background, wanted to not live in SF or LA...wanted to be in a more naturey environment)! I planned to get a summer internship in a small theatre in New England(I did), and trying to get a job from there(I was offered one.)

My plans changed, and I ended up going to grad school and living in LA doing a non-theatre job, but I really highly recommend doing a summer internship in an area you'd like to move to(with a small stipend and room and board, which many offer) and try to parlay that into a more teaching focused or administrative theatre job - either with that company, or another in the area.
posted by sawdustbear at 12:25 PM on March 14, 2012

I've said this on this website before, but keep in mind that it's easier to make two (or three) small steps than it is to make one giant leap. If you want to be an actress in Colorado, or Montana, or wherever, the way to do it might be to move to one of those places and take whatever work you can get that allows you to get involved with the arts / acting community wherever you are.

If your goals in life are to act professionally and to live in Colorado, and you move to Boulder, you've already accomplished the one goal, and -- if you're any good at networking -- you've also started taking strides toward the other.

I think you should look into small-ish college cities in the Midwest. Places like Ann Arbor, South Bend, Urbana-Champaign, or even Minneapolis-St Paul (which is on the bigger side). They are cheap to live in, relative to the coasts; they afford plentiful access to outdoorsy stuff and rural scenery; they are large enough to support an arts scene. Despite my own deep and abiding loyalty to the Northeast, I've found all of these cities to be surprisingly fun and charming.
posted by gauche at 12:35 PM on March 14, 2012

This is a ton of 'wants', very few 'needs' and no 'sacrifices'.

Everyone wants their ideal lifestyle! It doesn't help to just aim for that and hope it works out. Start with what you're willing to lose. Which of these great things to have in your life can you compromise on?
posted by MangyCarface at 1:06 PM on March 14, 2012

Have you ever thought of living outside of NYC? Like on long island? We have the LIRR and you can commute into NYC and still have access to the beaches, parks ,wineries, and farms of long islands north fork. Plus if you have a car ferry access to New England .

I love living on long island. Being able to access the beach when ever i want ,farms and wineries while still having access to NYC rocks and there are not very many places like it in the US.
posted by majortom1981 at 2:04 PM on March 14, 2012

Have both you thought about school teaching? It is one way to have a basic income with some spare time to follow other interests -- particularly of the travelling type which need blocks of time.
posted by Idcoytco at 2:34 PM on March 14, 2012

-Create your own traveling acting program for kids that you can go into schools/camps for short amounts of time and teach.

-Summer theater. You can work the rest of the year wherever you want and just focus on 3 months of intense acting.

-Make a list of very alternative acting jobs and see if anything fits with travel.

-Do something partially creative, such as creating something that fills a need for the acting community. That way you stay connected, have an income, and can experience new places/not be tied down to a single place.
posted by Vaike at 4:35 PM on March 14, 2012

Why not come to Australia for a year or two? You'd get working visas, the economy is healthy, there is heaps of outdoor work and, most relevantly, we have a vibrant movie making and theater scene. More Australians visit art galleries and the theater than go to sporting events (true dinks!) I bet you'd get a performance job at either one of the amusement parks on the Gold Coast (Movie World etc) or as extras in one of the many films we shoot in Sydney at Fox Studios.

There is heaps of tourism work, rural work, office work... amazing bush and beaches. It's not crowded (Sydney rush hour an exception) and nothing like the US once you get underneath the surface. And the food is really nice. An additional plus is that any savings you make here will be worth more in the US when you get back home.

Go on, take a leap. Come to Australia and see what happens.
posted by Kerasia at 4:45 PM on March 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Sort of inline with Kerasia's answer, I think you two sound like exactly the kind of people that traveling around the world teaching English and shooting movies on your iPhones are made for. You are young, frugal and able-bodied. Plus, you already have experience dropping everything and moving to a foreign country. You could start planning now, work at the farm place you love and save more money, and leave in the fall.

I love acting and the performing arts, and it's not that I don't want to be an actor anymore, but that I don't think I want to devote my life to working as a waiter/doing unfulfilling work/trying to make something happen for me as an actor...I want to live a fulfilling, rich, creative, adventurous life NOW, not at some undefinable point in the future.

I think this is a really powerfully important thing to have realized for yourself. Many, many people have ambitions to be actors/writers/musicians/artists, etc., and they assume that this means being a professional actor etc, and they pursue that for a long time to their detriment when they could have had a day job and an enriching hobby/side gig. I think you will be better off living like Harry in Sultans of Swing. It opens many more doors.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:23 PM on March 14, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the advice! I'd like to say first off that I do realize there's theater in other places than New York, that's a lot of what the whole Seattle idea is about.

mareli--I have been to San Francisco once several years ago, and I loved it! I have been thinking about northern California in the same way I've been thinking of Seattle.

Kerasia--can I get an Australian visa?! I thought I looked into this briefly once, and I was under the impression that it was very hard for Americans to just get a visa to work in Australia...if I'm mistaken, I would LOVE to go there and would go in a heartbeat!

Honestly, just asking this question and getting answers has motivated me to become more proactive and productive and actively look into all my options that I hadn't previously seriously considered (like teaching English overseas, creating a traveling acting program for kids, becoming a teacher)...thanks, everyone.
posted by Emms at 8:30 PM on March 15, 2012

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