I was the last to know I was an actor. I’d performed in school musicals, bused myself to community theatre and worn out my dad’s Nichols and May album—yet it took me until the end of Grade 13 to admit that I wanted to act. Like most girls, I wanted to be like my friends, and they’d set their sights on normal lives that included regular paycheques and eventual retirement. But on that day, while finalizing plans for university, I burst into tears in the girls’ washroom because I couldn’t ignore the voice in my head any longer. So I listened: I studied drama in California, joined The Second City and then spent 15 fulfilling years working in TV and film.
Things changed in my late 30s. Once my kids arrived, it seemed I spent all my time making everybody else happy. I’m not above admitting this concept was new to me, and things got messy fast. My spontaneous lifestyle morphed into one of showing up on-set with pink eye, hushing my kids in sound booths and negotiating work schedules with my husband. It felt wrong. I scaled back on work. Plus, I now had a network of mom friends who had answers. They were lawyers, accountants, golfers—people I’d only played on TV. I deferred to their expertise on contractors, vans and braces, which quickly became a slippery slope.
If they camped, we camped. Why not? Camping sounded like fun. I packed $900 worth of new gear into the car and then lugged it all out again on our patch of dirt. I cooked and cleaned all day surrounded by the same families we’d just tried to ditch in the city, who were noisily bonding better than we were. At night, I lay wide-eyed in our unlit tent, adrenalin coursing, as I planned an escape route for when the cougar attacked. I didn’t like camping.
They made curtains, I made curtains. I didn’t know how to sew, but I’d watched Project Runway, so how tough could it be? Pretty tough, actually. To the uninitiated, a fabric store is a paralyzing labyrinth of choices. My palms perspired, patterns spun and I blacked out. I came to with 36 feet of white muslin. The next day, it jammed in my beginners sewing machine. I hated making curtains.
I hit the wall when everyone signed up for skiing lessons and I couldn’t get through to register. After three hours of redialing, I was about to blow when my husband reminded me that I don’t ski. Occasionally someone says something simple yet profound—this was one of those times. I got it. All these goals—camping, curtains, a B.A., sexy lingerie, a clean house—were leaving me unsatisfied because they were other people’s goals.
In the heat of my frustration, I realized my voice had gone missing in action—somehow it had been drowned out by friends, family and social media. I took my foot off the pedal and stopped chasing other people’s goals. The clouds lifted.
Not long after, I reconnected with some performer friends who’d since settled down as well. We commiserated, we laughed and we formed our comedy troupe, Women Fully Clothed. We write from our own lives and dictate our own schedules, and it’s the most successful venture of my career. It has also allowed me to find my voice again, much to the relief of my family. We’re satisfied following our own messy path.
This article first appeared in the March 2018 issue of ELLE Canada.
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