I was the surest I’ve ever been of myself at 18 years old. So sure in fact, that I completely uprooted my life and left everyone I loved for a 144p vision of what I wanted my life to look like. T’was a classic story of a small town girl following her dreams of being an actress in NYC.
A quick lesson I learned in the big apple was the art of introduction. The key is to sound as impressive as possible, so that meant I needed to list a few extra skills in addition to my acting ambition. So a few halfway decent selfies, a couple of funny Instagram post descriptions, and a bad habit of busting out a show tune in a dorm shower meant I was to advertise to the world as such: “Hi, I’m Laura and I’m an actor/model/writer/singer.” And henceforth that was my “thing”.
What is a “thing” you might ask? Dear reader I can only explain a “thing” as a passion or skill that one defines themselves by and, also, funds one's life. A “thing” must not only fuel you as a person but also serve as your career.
No one tells you that everyone expects you to have your ‘thing’ worked out. And whatever that “thing” is, you are expected to over exaggerate your skill level to the point where 24/7 imposter syndrome takes hold (or “fake it ‘til you make it” as they say).
I was lucky enough to attend New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts; one of the most renowned drama schools in the world and an institution where a professor told a class of wide-eyed 21year olds “Know exactly what you want to do and don’t waste time around people who don’t.” Little did he know he was advising us to either isolate ourselves from our peers or lie.
And that’s exactly what we did. That’s what I did. I spent wakeful nights fueled by existential crisis cramming my head with lines I could never give meaning to. I stared at myself in mirrors of dance studios eyeing the dimples on my thighs and stress acne on my cheeks. I cried in the arms of lovers I reduced to self soothers exclaiming “I don’t like myself. I’m not a good person.” I was alone in my doubt.
But at least I was doing my “thing.”
Sometimes you get exactly what you thought you wanted. And the reality was, I hadn’t had much time to question what I wanted. Years of spoon fed, next step curriculum had me constantly preparing myself for the future. Step one was always “know what you want.” So, naturally, the second I stumbled upon an interest I could claim as my purpose, I clung to it. I was lucky to have found one! I was better than my peers who still had some figuring out to do at 18 years old. So I placed all of my eggs in one basket and faced the precarious path ahead.
No one tells you that New York may take your dreams and stomp on them in unironic, steel toed Doc Martens. Then, as you pull yourself up and turn the corner, you may stumble upon another dream like an abandoned curbside loveseat (with no visible stains to be found).
I graduated a little over a year ago. And honestly, I’m still not quite sure what my “thing” is. The reality is that I feel like I have a lot of things.
I still enjoy acting but I don’t really audition anymore. I’ve really found power in directing and producing that I felt was missing in acting school. Also, I love being in front of a camera. I love to learn more about and educate others about sex positivity and nonmonogamous relationships. I’ve unlocked a love for kink and play parties. I want to explore my interest in interior design. And, now, I write blog posts every so often!
Writing out that list of things I love to do brings me joy. But the idea of choosing is daunting. Maybe some of us just don’t work that way. Choosing one passion to devote all of your time to is quite a monogamous way of thinking. The idea that it’s possible to have one purpose that fulfills you completely reminds me of the pursuit of meeting a lover that meets your every need. But just like explaining your “situation” as a poly person, nowadays, introductions can be a little complicated.
My usual attempt to sum up my job in a sentence is “I’m an assistant for a relationship coach.” I admit it definitely grabs attention but it doesn’t quite feel complete. I could rattle off my list. Some people do! (I think we all know at least one person who does.)
The reality is, at the end of the day, I’m just Laura. Maybe the path I follow hasn't been stumbled upon yet. Maybe there are forks and hills and curves that wear me out. Maybe I’m on the right one now! I could be offroading.
But, today I’m just Laura. And that’s all I need to be.