One of my favorite things in the world occurs when I turn on the television, go to the movies, or attend a Broadway play and find that a former acting classmate has made it to the big time. A joyful feeling arises in my breast at the same time that it swells with pride. This happened recently when I was watching TV and saw a new trailer for a film.
Several years ago, I took an acting class here in NYC. I loved the class and especially relished the praise I received from established directors and writers. On one occasion, a highly successful director told me, “your so F-ing good! You’ll make it someday.” I wasn’t the only one in the class, of course. There were about 10 of us, but one classmate (I’ll call him “Breorge Cloonpitt”) and I always landed the juiciest roles. I played the characters that experienced a wide range of emotions and “Breorge” played the straight man. So, it was only fitting that, after a difficult night-time stand-off with the kids (aka bedtime), I felt a wide range of emotions as I watched my former class rival on TV enjoying some juicy screen time of his own. (Oh, and that part above where I said my favorite thing in the world is watching my former classmates succeed – well, that’s a big pile of poo poo.)
Here’s the truth: When I was an actor, I wasn’t the easiest guy to get along with. My ego and attitude were quite Brandoesque. I walked off several call-backs because I felt that the script just wasn’t quite on parallel with my acting skills. There was one film that I decided wasn’t for me and I dropped out at the last-minute. Professionally, I was very immature. Towards the end of my acting life, I realized the mistakes I had made and was willing to do anything to get some screen time. I became a “hungry actor” at the wrong time. My old colleagues would probably enjoy knowing that a successful day for me now is to go a full day without getting peed on. I used to figuratively relieve myself on others, now I literally get relieved upon. It’s impossible to not be humble while pee pee dribbles down your shirt.
When my son was born, I had to make a choice as to where my life was going. The acting life consists of auditioning at all times of the day, long shoots that seem never-ending (and, in fact, sometimes are), and my least favorite thing of all, networking. Actors attend parties where they meet people and talk about how great they are. That became hard to do – not because I didn’t think I was great, but because a few hours later I’d have to wake up with my new baby and change his diapers. The nightlife had to go, and soon, everything else that went along with it.
We made the decision that it would be best if I stayed at home with the kids while my wife was starting her career. I’ve watched her career blossom, as well as my former classmates’. They’ve gone on to join Saturday Night Live and appear on Broadway, TV, and in films. I’d be lying if there wasn’t a hint of jealousy inside me as I have watched them all prosper. I’m aware that my kids love having their daddy around to do all the things that I do, and I love every minute spent with them. But there are those moments that I can’t help but wonder, “what if?”
My story isn’t that different from most stay-at-home parents. For one reason or another we made the choice to stay home. That choice comes with trade-offs; we get to watch our children grow up right before our eyes, but we also have to watch others pass us by. How do we get through those moments of depression and jealousy? Quite simply, in the time spent with the little ones we’ve chosen to work for.
Currently, I am acting in New York City. It’s a small, intimate setting and seating is limited. But those in attendance get to see my wide range of emotions and hear my wide range of dialects as I bring various literary characters to life. It doesn’t pay, but the audience assures me that I’m twenty times better than every other person in my old acting class. If you’re lucky and you happen to know someone who knows someone, you may be able to score a ticket. Just bring a pillow, because the floor in my kids’ room starts to feel pretty hard after a while. And if you happen to say to me, “you’re so F-ing good!” I’ll have to wash out your mouth with soap.