So, I’m at a conference (The Voxy Summit, to be exact).
I am here because (after years of work in theatre) my 2015 New Year’s resolution was to wiggle my way into a spot in the voiceover industry. This would be the perfect compliment to the career I have been carving out onstage.
In 2015, with resolution swagger in my steps, I sought out training, I auditioned, I worked a bit, I made back my financial investment (yay!). But I knew, as 2016 steadily approached, I wanted more. I wanted to take it to the next level. I felt the breath of “more”, somehow both warm and cold at once, on the back of my neck.
I knew what this meant. It meant more networking. It meant stepping outside of myself in different ways like going to conferences (where I would know few, in any, in attendance). This meant leaning into discomfort. This meant shaking hands with my fears. Cue multiple applications of antiperspirant.
This was a challenge for me, coming here. New groups of people spark a special kind of anxiety in me … and that trepidation runs deep. Like in-the-marrow-of-my-bones deep.
As I set off for the conference, I told my husband: “This feels like the first day of school.”
And I meant that in all of the best and worst ways. I knew coming here would be a journey of inspiration. But I also had those panic-driven thoughts flickering on the movie screen of my mind:
Would I make a fool of myself?
Did I deserve to be there?
Am I smart enough?
Am I cool enough (whatever that even means)?
Who the hell did I think I was?
Would anyone let me sit at their lunch table?
Somewhere along the line, I had convinced myself that if I wanted something, then it must be locked behind some mythic door. It must be inaccessible because, I had diabolically determined, if I want it then it must be impossible (or nearly impossible) to have. It must be without welcome. I decided with certainty that everything I wanted was a part of a closed community.
I don’t know if most artists (or even many artists?) dwell on this crooked little thought. Maybe it’s the non-independent artists in forms that rely heavily on collaboration or on casting? That’s really not the point. Whatever the reason, I had really done a number on myself over the years!
But, tonight as I sat in a session, I glanced around the room and what did I see?
A panel of artists doling out advice with generosity.
A collective of women all striving to follow a passion.
A roomful of creators.
A table (yes, my lunch table … I wasn’t left holding a lunch tray and eating in some corner reserved for the people cursed fear marrow!) of artists – dare I say colleagues – sharing tips, ideas, business cards and laughs.
And as I looked around and as I listened to the panel, I realized that simply by showing up I had debunked my own myth. This wasn’t a closed community. This was my community if I would allow it. If I made eye contact. If I said “hello.” If I listened.
Wait! Universe? What are you telling me? Everything is closed if you never open it (#physics)? You mean I just had to show up? Oh! OK.
Well, it isn’t quite as pat as all that.
I mean, yes, I happen to have a career that operates in the realities of auditions and agents, of contacts and connections. If you don’t get the audition, you don’t get cast. If you don’t make the contacts and connections you will never build the relationships that are the lifeblood of this industry (voiceover and theatre alike). But you must, must, must show up! Because I realized in that moment that thing I want? That thing that feels like a closed community? The only thing separating me (or you, for that matter) from it is a door. That’s it … a door. With hinges and a handle. Made to be opened.
I don’t know if the eye contact and hellos will get easier with time. But I know this: I will show up every time, antiperspirant applied, and I will push that door open and trust that a part of my community waits on the other side.