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BWW Blog: Facing the Unknown

Looking through my updated schedule this morning, I felt my heart sink. It really shouldn't have been such a shock; I'd been preparing for this news for a month. But, in a little irrational corner of my heart...I hoped things would change last minute. I'd hoped that SOMEthing magical would happen, and I wouldn't have to take in the news that all my classes would be held online for the Fall 2020 semester. In that moment, I couldn't even begin to process my jumbled bundle of emotions. So much anger for the situation, confusion, lot of sadness...and fear. I was taking in this news in a safe and healthy environment (my house), yet all I really felt was scared. Scared for the future of the world, of education, and of me.

I've always been something of a planner. I know, not the most ideal trait for a performance career. But I can't help it. I've always had a soft spot for a good, well thought out plan. I love my spontaneity and adventures as much as the next theatre gal- but knowing the basic steps and outcome of a situation relaxes me. And before this all hit, I had my plan. Study theatre and communications in college, absorb and perform in all the theatre I possibly could, make incredible friends, and move into my real life- armed with the knowledge and experiences I needed to become a working actor. Throughout my freshman year, I focused hard on setting up a solid foundation to kickstart "Leah's Life Plan" and get the ball rolling. And now....? Everything was a complete question mark. When do I go back to school? What classes will I need to make up? Are they cancelling the mainstage season? And how on EARTH am I supposed to take ballet online??????? My pulse was skyrocketing. Suddenly, my plan didn't seem so clear. And it opened up a lot of new question marks. What if I don't get the training I need? What if I can't succeed in the real world? And how on EARTH am I supposed to take ballet online??? (Yeah, that last one keeps popping up). I fully opened myself up to all the doubts and anxieties I can usually push down, the ones about the security of my career and my future as an artist. The unknown is scary, I groaned internally. Not having a plan to deal with unknown is even scarier.

I maniacally spent the day researching everything from virtual theatre internships to Wikihow articles to literally typing "actor scared help" into Google before I remembered: this is what life as an artist is like. Pursuing a career in the arts means coming to terms with embracing the unknown and trusting that it will all work out for the best. It means living a life without being consumed by fear and regret, using your decisions to propel you through your career. Living as an actor means taking and making the best of whatever opportunity comes your way, no matter how difficult. And if I couldn't let the iron grip of my supposed plan relax a little or learn to trust in myself and my decision making...then this career may not be for me. And then I took a deep breath. And closed out Google.

While these thoughts didn't necessarily stop my flow of worry, they definitely eased it a little. I am an actor. I want to act all my life, and I know that it will be the farthest thing from easy. I will have to plunge blindly into the unknown multiple times, with no clear model of success to follow. At the end of the day, all I can truly rely on is the strength and resilience of my character. I cannot place the fate of my career entirely into the hands of any teacher, theatre, or school- pointing fingers at them for any hardships I endure. Because at the end of the day, the only person who decides how to react and adapt to new situations me. While it's soo much easier to place all the blame on my closed school or this virus for any future career hardships- I can't do that (well...maybe just a little- I hate this pandemic). Because I know that, life plan or not, I still call the shots. I can decide how to react to all of this. I can decide where to go from here. I still have that power. I always have that power. So, I have to be prepared to deal with the unknown, iron clad plan or not. All that I can really do is accept and adapt to my given circumstances. And who knows? Maybe something really beautiful will come out of that.

To all my theatre students facing similar stories, I know this is all unbelievably unfair. But I have no doubt that we will emerge stronger. We are a powerful generation, and we will make our mark on both this industry and the world. So, show yourself some self-care (we all need it right now), take a few deep breaths, and stay strong. There is no doubt in my mind that we will all get through this.



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From This Author Student Blogger: Leah Packer