What Restaurants Have Taught Me So Far

I auditioned for Graduate school for my MFA in acting for the third year in a row. I wrote this essay. I'm learning every day. 


I get distracted by answers…by the need to attain a certain outcome.

For the past two years I auditioned for graduate school because I was convinced that it was the answer to all of my career goals. I poured everything into the applications, practiced my monologues with diligence, and lived with the desperate need to be accepted. Consequently, batting away life’s daily intrusions. This past year I have felt a shift in how I view my experiences and my career. I discovered the importance of daily presence. I was taught that the support of those around you makes you limitless. And once you begin to listen to the questions without worrying about the answers, the path toward what you want becomes much, much clearer. “Live the question,” my dear friend repeated, reminding me not to continue fretting over what’s beyond our control.

            It was announced that the restaurant that I worked at for the past three years, Union Square Café, was going to close at the end of the year. At first the restaurant was an enemy to me, something that took me away from my career. Over time it became my home, and as the end drew near the texture of experience became more pronounced. The daily grievances and grueling hours suddenly became something to bond over rather than battle. I began to dive into the small moments that occur throughout a shift: the creak of the kitchen door and the salty bites of pork at the end of a particularly long night that the chef sneaked my way, our secret. The way I could catch Anna’s eye across the dining room while a guest yelled about a medium rare steak that seemed to be closer to rare and know that we could snicker about it in a moment of respite. I found that the love and support of a team of friends can get you through anything. The world we built within those walls was one of compassion and integrity. We worked together, we fought, we prepared for the future, and were under pressure to perform moment to moment. We held each other up. In embracing this part of my life, the part of my life that I had once so desperately wanted to distance myself from, I began to discover who I am. I became more confident in that. I dared to tell the man I’ve loved since I stepped foot in that restaurant that I loved him, and it was the hardest thing I’ve done. But in the discomfort of this process, I’ve never felt more alive. It has carried over into how I view my career and how I am going after it.

            In the cracks of time I had between my day job, my experiences began to color my career goals. I have always found joy in making things myself. I love making pie from scratch, but the crust is one of the most frustrating steps. But I go back and do it again. I’ve gotten good, the process rewarding and informative. The best part is sharing it with my friends, harsh critics they may be. I began co-hosting a podcast without knowing what I was getting into and have found that I love talking with people on the air, unscripted. I was pushed to discover my voice by those around me and finally started to say “yes” without worrying about whether or not I was ready or knew what the outcome would be. By living in this unknown I’ve begun to carve out a path that feels true to me. This year I decided to write a screenplay.  I don’t even remember how I came to this decision. I wanted to make something myself from beginning to end and have always found the process of writing invigorating. I didn’t know how to do it. But I wrote a draft of a feature film and have found collaborators along the way who believe in me and believe in the story. We’re figuring it out. I’m going to be acting in it. I don’t have any money. I have no clue what I’m doing.

            I have been training my entire life for a specific outcome—to be an actor. I’ve been afraid of not knowing where something will lead, but in taking the leaps of faith I’ve had to take, I’m discovering that the answers slowly begin to appear. I want to go to graduate school to be in a space where I am challenged and supported by an ensemble. I want to be a better actor and I want to add to the foundation of the career I am beginning to build. My art is now my priority. By allowing myself the space and in letting my daily life inform me and exist as it is, I can now say with confidence that I am ready for the next step. I realize in order to get better my craft now requires my full attention.

            Theater forces me to question, to be present, to reflect. To alter and be altered. It challenges me to work with all kinds of artists in pursuit of something we aren’t quite sure of. There is so much work to be done. I want to develop my voice that is bigger than I allow it to be. I want to discover new plays and work in the discomfort of the difficult questions, to grow with an ensemble and create exciting and bold new work. I want to continue being thrust into the present in bodies of art greater than myself. I don’t know what it is that I don’t know yet. Whereas that would terrify me in the past, I now welcome its essential role in the process. It’s a driving force in my pursuit of something greater. It’s where art happens, where life happens, and where stories form. I’m finally ready to tell my own.