I was that kid that used to perform made-up skits for my family in the living room when I was two years old. I said I wanted to be an movie star in my Kindergarten time capsule. And when they opened the time capsule at high school graduation, nothing had changed; my dreams of acting were still very much alive. When most boys and girls had long forgotten their aspirations of becoming an astronaut or a firefighter, I was still vehemently in love with theatre. My room was covered in Broadway paraphernalia – it looked like a gaudy souvenir shop you would find in Times Square. I loved me some classic 90’s Nickelodeon sitcom “Taina”. Acting was IT for me.
A Dreamer’s Dream
My parents were incredibly supportive. Although they would occasionally nudge me in a more stable direction, (“Why not try a career in Broadcast Journalism? You’ll still get to be on TV!”) they supported every aspect of my dream. They video recorded every performance. They paid for every acting camp, every class, every lesson. I was incredibly lucky – I had parents who told me that I could follow my dreams . I attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and studied theatre for three and a half glorious years. There were ups and downs, but it expanded my mind and art in ways I never knew possible. I studied the classics, I wrote my own plays, I was surrounded by more talent and drive than I could ever imagine.
After graduation, I felt prepared and determined. I auditioned for agents, got in front of casting directors and found myself busy pursuing my lifelong dream. And for the next year, I freelanced with an agent, went on auditions, worked on indie films, web series, short films, Off-Off-Broadway theatre – anything I could get my hands on. It was every actor’s dream.
The Beginning of the End
Yet, something didn’t feel quite right. And I knew in my gut that it wasn’t the rejection. I was used to rejection; every actor experiences it hundreds of times a year. Although each time stung in its own way, it no longer affected my resolve. No, this was something bigger. I felt like I was in a fog. Something that used to bring me so much pleasure, such a natural high that fueled my life and drive – it was gone. The feeling had disappeared and I couldn’t understand why. It was like someone turned off the music and everyone else was still dancing along, but all I heard was silence.
I remember the exact moment I fell out of love with acting. I was out of school and auditioning for a friend’s production of a show that he wrote. The atmosphere couldn’t have been more creative or relaxed – It was a recipe for acting bliss. And yet, as I was auditioning, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with dread. It felt like I had lost a close friend – gazing at someone you used to know intimately and realizing that they might as well be a stranger to you now. I may have realized it in an instant, but it took well over 6 months to become honest with myself and realize what I had to do.
Pursuit of Happiness
Everyone tells you that you should follow your dreams – but what if your dreams change ? There is a tremendous amount of pressure applied to dreams, from society (and more importantly) from ourselves. When we confide in others about our dreams, we are held accountable to them. I was so afraid of admitting to myself and others that I no longer wanted to “become a professional actress” – I didn’t want to be viewed as a failure. But in all honesty, my dreams had merely changed . I no longer desired the end result I was working to attain – the art or the career that I had valued for so long. I knew in my heart that my real pursuit was only happiness, in all its forms – and I was no longer receiving joy from acting. And with this realization, I stumbled upon an entire life’s worth of interests, talents, and knowledge that I had never allowed myself to experience before.
The ‘Changing Dreams’ Process
Have you held a dream or belief for so long that you don’t know who you would become without it? The idea can seem very scary at first; it’s very easy to remain in an unhappy, yet comfortable situation. But if you allow yourself to be open to the idea that DREAMS CAN CHANGE – you will discover a whole new set of possibilities.
Here are some vital things to consider:
1. REMOVE THE “TITLE” YOU’VE GIVEN YOURSELF
Titles only get in the way. If your dream is associated with a title, like I had long associated Brittany with the title of “actress” – get rid of it. I think I thought my head might explode if I didn’t consider myself an actor. Like, I simply would evaporate from earth the very moment I removed that title from my self-concept. But I realized, nope – I’m still a living, breathing human being! Can’t get rid of me just yet! I’m just not an actor anymore – that’s the only difference. In fact, I felt limitless! All this time I had confined myself to one thing, one idea of what I was capable of, and now I got to feel what it really meant to purely be “Brittany Ritcher” – no titles attached.
What do you find out about yourself when you remove your long held title? That title might be “girlfriend”, “dancer”, “unemployed” – any label you have put on yourself that no longer serves or describes you or your aspirations. When I removed my title, I realized that I was way more complex than I had previously allowed myself to be. You might be surprised by what you find!
2. CHANGE DOES NOT EQUAL FAILURE
This was a biggie. The desire to change your dreams stem from wanting to move in a different direction. I have friends who are still pursuing acting and have asked me why I decided to quit. I always tell them, “It was no longer bringing me happiness. If it still brings you happiness – PURSUE IT!” Taking the risk of failing is WORTH IT if you still desire the ultimate goal. I no longer desired the end result (acting in big projects, the lifestyle associated with a successful acting career), so I switched my dream. I was very scared that people would not believe me, that they would think I was making up excuses, trying to save face from giving up on such a difficult career path. Those thoughts haunted me and they only hurt me in the long run. Ditch them! Forget what people might think – do what is best for you. I’m pursuing an equally as risky career choice (entrepreneur) as I was before, so I don’t think anyone could say I was looking to take the easy route! I’m only concerned with taking the happy route. It’s the only route worth pursuing and you are the only one who knows what route you need to take to move forward.
3. BE OPEN TO NEW VISIONS OF YOURSELF
This is the fun part! After you’ve ditched the title that no longer serves you, you’ve overcome the fear of the opinions of others, you now get to create your next big dream! Because out of the ashes of a changed dream is a brand new dream waiting for you to pursue. When I opened my eyes to life outside theatre and acting, I was overwhelmed by the amount of interests, hobbies and skills I had within me! In fact, I wanted to do TOO many things! It became a running joke with my friends – every time I would meet with them for brunch they would ask me what career I wanted to pursue next…and it was different every time! I was overflowing with ideas of things I wanted to accomplish and create. Expand your view of what you can do. You are no longer limited by your past endeavors. It’s a great feeling to make that switch.
Have a dream that’s no longer serving you and your future? Save yourself the heartache and use these tools to make the jump to something greater. And don’t forget to tell me about your journey and success!