I’ve always had one goal in life, and that was to move to New York City and become an actor. It’s has been my life goal since I was 12. So, naturally when I was 28 I made the big move to…Toronto.
Now, some of you are probably thinking “That makes sense, you’re Canadian and Toronto is like the NYC of Canada” but it really isn’t like NYC and I didn’t move here because I was Canadian and it was easier than reaching toward my actual life goal. I honestly have no idea why I moved to Toronto. I just did.
I remember sitting in my room back home in Regina feeling exhausted. In this moment I remember feeling so overwhelmed with my never-ending to-do list and wishing the universe would just send me a sign so I could know the future would be okay – and that’s when I went on Facebook and saw my friend’s post looking for someone to sublet her apartment in Toronto.
“There’s my sign”, I thought. That’s literally all it took to uproot my life.
For the record, I now realize you shouldn’t base your entire life plan on a random Facebook post, but I was naïve and believed life was like the movies. All I wanted was to be the real life Christina Aguilera in Burlesque or one of the many girls in those dance movies who almost gave up and then don’t and end up making it BIG and finding the love of their life in the process. It didn’t seem that complicated…until reality backhands you across the face.
Let me tell you, nothing brings out your insecurities more than moving to a new city – especially moving to a new city by yourself with limited friends (I had two). You realize your wardrobe, although fitting for the small prairie city you grew up in, doesn’t quite fit here. The way you speak and interact with people is “too friendly” and the realization you are now a small fish in a big pond (thank you, Dad for this line) brings a lonely, fearful feeling you never saw coming. With all of that in mind, let me remind you that I moved to Toronto to start a career as an actor. A career built on being critiqued. Yep, I set myself up well.
My first big audition in Toronto was pretty much my first big audition ever. I never realized how good I had it back home until this moment.
The audition was for a production that was calling for actors who could sing and play instruments. Now, not to brag but I can play all wind instruments except for bassoon (bassoon is HARD) which, after reading the audition notice had me all like “Yeah, I’ve got this!”
No, I didn’t.
In order to show off my mad acting/musician skills, I had to pass a dance audition and even though I felt confident in my ability to pick up choreography, I had no formal dance training. Instead of picking up the dance, I blinked and missed the demonstration. Then, to make this embarrassing experience worse, when the director told us to ‘show our personalities’ I decided to show off my goofy side which I’m prettttty sure they took as making fun of the choreography. Needless to say, I didn’t get the callback.
That one embarrassing experience wasn’t enough to knock me down but it started the slow decline. I did go on a few more auditions but my insecurities finally got the better of me and I stopped going. I used every excuse when talking with friends and family back home. I needed to get new headshots, I couldn’t get the time off work, anything so they wouldn’t think I had given up. It’s really hard for me to admit that my own fear stalled my career but it did.
Because here’s the difference between myself and those girls in the movies: they didn’t give up. They took the knocks – they overcame the fear – and they kept going. That is so much easier said than done, isn’t it? There was two months between my decision to move and my one-way flight to Toronto and in those months I pictured myself finding a serving job, working at night, auditioning during the day, living the dream. I never imagined the knocks but, who does? No one sits there wondering what bad thing is going to happen to them next. But here’s the thing with knocks: you get through them. They may divert your course and take you to places that you’d never put in your daydreams but that’s the best part of any adventure, isn’t it? The unplanned stop always has the best stories. For the record, I didn’t get a serving job in Toronto, my first job was working at women’s lingerie store and if that didn’t happen to me, I wouldn’t have met the coolest women in my life and you wouldn’t be reading this blog post right now. Life sometimes has other plans and sometimes the best plan is to just go with it.
I’ve now lived in Toronto for four years and am finally – finally – making my way back to the acting world. I started taking improv classes and found a passion I didn’t know I had. I have an improv troop with three others who make life better. I am actually looking into getting new headshots because I need them, not because I need an excuse to delay my audition. I used to think I lost my path but I just took a different route – and I’m so thankful I did because of the lessons I’ve learned, the confidence I’ve built and the people I’ve met.
From the moment I stepped off the plane, my life in Toronto has been an interesting and eventful experience. I could fill multiple movie scripts with ridiculous moments that would make an audience cringe, laugh and cry. The one thing I wouldn’t be able to fill those scripts with is a happy ending. Yeah, I know that’s a melodramatic, ridiculous statement but hear me out. I haven’t found my happy ending – but isn’t that a good thing? This way, I can keep this adventure going; I can fill even more scripts with my stories and ever-changing timelines. I can continue to learn and grow and overcome the hard stuff in order to push this story through one hell of a ride. I think that’s a win – don’t you?