A Fine Balance or Going For Broke?

Having worked in the entertainment industry for the last ten years, I know a lot about focusing, exclusively, on that particular profession. I also know a bit about a back-up plan. Two different pursuits can work well with each other; perhaps one providing stability for the other. But careers require time, energy, commitment, and hopefully passion. Having a plan B might prevent one from fully pursuing a dream job. It may be more fulfilling, adventurous and intriguing to focus solely on one’s true calling. So, do you put all your eggs in one basket or do you learn to juggle?

“Some people make a career out of doing one thing, but I want to diversify my body of work.”
-Morris Chestnut

After graduating from theatre school, and pursuing an acting career for five years, I returned to college and enrolled in a variety of courses: political science, biological psychology, anatomy, sport psychology, and creative writing. As the semester progressed, I became increasingly curious about all of these classes. So much so that I’d have been hard pressed to have picked a favourite. I was still auditioning and working in front of the camera at this time. I discovered that when I was completely immersed in schooling, the information that I was acquiring in the classroom, although completely unrelated to acting, enhanced my life and informed my creative choices in a very different way. I graduated with an Associate of Arts Degree, and decided to return to my entertainment career full time. I have a number of friends and colleagues who have continued with their ‘other’ career, and have become very successful at diversifying: working on a stage, singing, dancing, acting, while having a Bachelor’s degree in their back pocket. They too speak of how they are able to use a pantheon of knowledge from their educational experiences to colour their artistic life; in a ‘fine balance’ type of way.

“I’ve never understood that concept, having something to fall back on. If I’m going to fall, I don’t want to fall back on anything.  I want to fall…forward.”
-Denzel Washington

Sometimes I think that I may be afraid to really pursue another career because I might discover that I will actually enjoy that career more than my involvement with the arts. If that happens, I would probably abandon my artistic pursuits; simply because a career in the arts is such a struggle that, if given an intriguing ‘out’, I might take it. There is often a desperation associated with artists; and I mean that in an interesting way. It’s a desperation to discover, explore, and venture a little outside of one’s comfort zone, artistically. Artists push themselves to great lengths, simply to see if they can. And they fall, often. Some, with nothing to fall back on, must discover how to fall forward; learn from what happened and advance with a new found knowledge. I have a number of friends and colleagues who know of no other life but an artistic one. When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it can be quite bad. But they are able to use a wide spectrum of emotions that accompany an unsettling life to colour their artistic choices; in a ‘go for broke’ type of way.

Having an alternative strategy, in case things don’t go the way in which you would like, could benefit or impede your primary career choice. Ultimately, I think that it comes down to an individual’s constitution. I have often thought that if I had something on which to fall back, I would have. But that might not necessarily be a bad thing. Often times, we fall back on another interest.  Regardless of your profession, whether it’s single focused or multifaceted, take advantage of every opportunity. If you are able to accomplish that, then it probably doesn’t matter if you’ve tossed all of your eggs into one basket or have become a master juggler. What is of importance, is that you are living an engaging life.