When I was a young actress in New York City my managers gave me an ultimatum. They said I had to “chase one rabbit.” I went to New York City straight out of a liberal arts undergrad which had allowed me to explore all of my interests in tandem. This kind of choice was new to me, and it felt like heartache to have to decide. I came to New York as both a freelance director as well as a freelance actress. My acting career took off after a few years and I landed a leading part in a film that went to Sundance. After that point I landed managers, who promptly got me to “Americanize” my name, change my headshots and pick better audition materials. Suddenly I was doing TV and commercial work. Then came a very large “break”. I was asked to audition for an Off-Broadway play about an Indian family. Since there weren’t too many roles for Indian women back then (the wife of the 7-11 owner, sister of taxi cab driver – ect.) this was a HUGE deal. At the same time I was also offered an opportunity to write and direct with a small company made up of Asian American women writers. This opportunity was non-paying (in fact it would cost me to participate), would NOT get me into the union (a major perk of getting cast in the off-Broadway piece) and was not even acknowledged in the theatre community as a legit theatrical venture. My managers could not even believe this was a question in my mind. “You have to choose!” They insisted, “Are you an actress or a director?” I chose the directing gig. It felt “right” and I love the path my career has taken since then. I chose one rabbit and I chased hard.
Flash forward ten years. I am sitting on my couch watching Gray’s Anatomy. It is the season finale from last spring and I’ve already seen it, but I am riveted. TV entertainment is a wonderful luxury I allow myself to enjoy particularly when I feel overwhelmed, as I have been lately. The line that strikes me is during the last fifteen minutes of the two hour “event”. The character of Dr. Bailey (the resident struggling super mom of the series, often with toddler in tow) gives up the coveted clinic she fought for last season. She states, “I love this clinic. I love surgery. I love my husband and my child. But I’ve realized that you can’t do everything you want and have everything that you want.” In the background the lyrics “ what ya gonna live for….what you gonna die for…” sang out over a dramatic melody. And yes – it got to me.
In my last institution I cast a “wide net” for scholarship, not really making a choice about which path I would travel. I had many interests. I am trying to be more prudent this time around. I am trying to choose one rabbit to chase. I find myself more guarded with my time and less offering. I find myself asking “but will this count?” when asked to be a part of a new project. I find myself trying to prioritize and strategize which work will “carry more weight” more often than not. There is something in me that disdains this sort of activity. Like some professional actors I worked with who wouldn’t act unless an agent or someone “important” was coming to see the piece. It was as if they’d forgotten why they were doing it in the first place. I don’t want to forget! But I also know that the whole super-mom thing is impossible. You simply cannot do it all. I feel a bond to Dr. Bailey. I need to make some choices! I need to let some things go! I need to pick my rabbits already! Dr. Bailey’s storyline lets her continue to work and be a great mom but forces her to give up a big part of her dreams. I sigh. I commiserate. I look at the wide horizon of rabbits before me and feel completely overwhelmed.
What else is on TV?