Working Without a Script

intermission-still3One of the biggest reasons I ended up studying theater in college is because I love being scripted. I discovered there is enormous freedom in knowing what’s coming next, because then I can silence my internal editor and truly live in the moment. It’s a wonderfully safe place from which to work – like a recipe you’ve used a million times or a task you’ve performed for years. It’s the kind of setting in which introverts, like me, can thrive and even appear daring, now and then.

Understand that a “script” can be all sorts of things – a place, a set of people, a career, even a title. For me, my script is a clearly defined role – be it ingenue or wacky neighbor, part of a crowd scene or performing a solo, volunteering as a room parent or serving as chairperson – I perform best when I know what my part is in the bigger picture.

Last week, the role I’ve held for 5 and 1/2 years ended. I am no longer gainfully employed.

I can’t readily recall the last time that was true for me. I’ve had some kind of job since I was old enough to work (16 in Illinois). I worked afternoons and weekends during high school. I worked all through college. Even in those first awkward years of adulthood, when I tried on a dozen or so different hats – waitressing, temping, selling jewelry, working in the front office of a coal mine – I was always working or just days away from my next job.

Now, not only is my next employer unknown to me, I’m not even sure what field I’ll be working in. Well-paying jobs are scarce, so I can’t limit myself or my search. At my age and stage of life, I realize this may be my last chance at a major career shift, so I’m considering retraining or tightening my family’s belt so I can take a lower paying job and work my way up in a new field.

All of these questions sit in front of me, like an audience filled with strangers, waiting for me to entertain them. And here I stand, center stage, at the end of Act I, with no script for whatever follows this intermission.

I suppose one option is for me to write my own script. How long is intermission? God, I hope there are enough snacks to keep the audience busy while I figure this out.

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