19 Apr I am enough from Michelle Ward
Since I was 6 years old, I had one dream: to be on Broadway. It was my air, my food, my water, my drug, my life, my passion, and my identity. I chased it and chased it hard, spending time and money and love for years and years on musical theater lessons and classes and schools and camps and shows. I chased it to New York City to attend NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, since I got accepted early admission to their musical theater program. They take just 60 people each year, out of (if my memory serves me correctly) about 600 that audition, at least in 1995. And I made it.
I was enough.
I thrived in those classes, with those people, in that environment. I got a job at a regional theater that started 2 days after graduation, and had the best summer of my life there. I extended my contract and came home right before Christmas. It was then that I was faced with the Reality Of Being An Aspiring Actor: lots of day jobs, lots of auditions, lots of hustling, lots of rejection. I learned over and over, in room after room, in front of casting director after casting director, that…
I wasn’t enough.
I remember being in the car with my mother a few months later. I didn’t mention to her the struggles I was having, the doubt I was feeling, or the exhaustion that was settling into my bones at the ripe old age of 23. She must have sensed it, though, because she turned to me unsolicited and said, “Nobody will be disappointed in you if you don’t do this. It’ll be OK. We’re proud of you no matter what.” I sobbed in the passenger seat and thanked her.
I was enough.
The years passed and my auditioning/hustling/day jobbing/rejection became my routine – not only defining who I am but defining what I do. Even when the jobs came through and I got the opportunity to perform, I slowly and horrifyingly started to realize:
It wasn’t enough to be a grown-up and have to struggle so hard for the grown-up things.
It wasn’t enough to spend hours upon hours waiting around audition rooms to sing 16 bars of a song. (Seriously, I’m waiting for someone to do a study on how many hours of their life actors spend waiting. I’d be surprised if it was less than a quarter)
It wasn’t enough to finally land a job and have to uproot my life in 48 hours for 6 months to make $300/week.
It wasn’t enough to leave the home that I had made for myself in New York City, leaving my loved ones behind.
It wasn’t enough. Period.
“What was enough?”, I started asking myself. Getting grown-up things like health care and a 401K (for the first time!) would be enough. Finding a man I could spend my life with and a (new!) lucrative career that I could be passionate about would be enough. All those things would be enough. More than enough. Hell, if I had those things I’d have The World.
So, I found the “stable” job in sales. Wasn’t enough. Then, I found the “stable” job in customer service. Still not enough. I realized I needed help to articulate the pieces of myself – my strengths, my values, my non-performing passions (which I didn’t think I had), the environment I’d thrive in – and I got that help I needed. When I opened my mind and saw the glass half-full (I still consider myself a recovering optimistic-pessimist, believe it or not) and invested the time and energy and money to dig deeper, it became clear: I would make a helluva life coach, helping creative types like me through their career transitions – just like I needed at the time.
I enrolled in life coaching school and one of the first exercises they had me do was one where I wrote my coaching bio. “But this is only my fifth class!” I thought. “I’m not a good life coach yet! I don’t know what I’m doing!” But I wrote my story: my dream of being a Broadway Baby, how I chased it and where it lead me, the struggle to let go of my goal and that part of my identity, how I set out to find something new and passionate for a career, how it lead to life coaching and the passion I had in helping others through their career transitions. I ended it with the thought, “I’ve been training my whole life to be a coach. My communication skills, my enthusiasm and sense of humor, my desire to help people find their passion, and my people-loving-personality makes this the role that I was born to play.” I knew that all the parts of what made me me (my uniquity, as I like to call it), was…enough. Yes, I still wanted the training and to know how to be the most effective coach I could be, and I was scared crapless to be an entrepreneur, but still….
I Was Enough.
And now, I trust that my clients are Enough (I feel like I have to capitalize that word now, for some reason). They all come to me at different parts of their career transitions, whether it’s not knowing at all what they wanna be when they grow up to knowing exactly what they wanna do – but not being able to see how it can happen in their grown-up life. And no matter how long or far or hard that person’s journey looks, I have absolute trust that they will discover how to get there, because I’ve done it myself and have seen the 100+ clients I’ve worked do it, too.
By being Enough and helping others find their Enough, It is – finally – Enough.
About Michelle Ward
Michelle Ward, aka The When I Grow Up Coach, has helped over 100 creative people devise the career they think they can’t have – or discover it to begin with! A certified life coach by the International Coach Academy and a musical theater actress with her BFA from NYU/Tisch, Michelle has been been featured in Newsweek, Etsy, and Psychology Today as well as leading workshops for South by Southwest and the Etsy Success Symposium. She encourages everyone to claim their uniquity via The Declaration of You, refers to twitter as “my boyfriend” and blogs her heart out 5 days a week.
Illustration above by Jessica Swift.