The Working Vacation That Didn't Work

Actors never give themselves a break.

From the outside it may seem like we are the living embodiment of ‘break’ but I promise you we are all workaholics who are putting in way too many hours compared to a civilized work schedule OR when/if we allow ourselves to take a moment and not work we are walking around consumed with guilt for doing so. We all have something to prove, someone to impress, and underneath all of that is that ITCH to be ACTING that consumes all of us all the time. (*Makes you laugh and cry a little bit doesn’t it?)

I am the queen of LIVE TO WORK (you can ask any of my friends, they even ‘toasted’ my love of work on my birthday, which I had mixed feelings about to say the least). And for the most part I happily own this title. It implies dedication, perseverance, passion and self motivation, ALL great things in my book. But the last few weeks I have been starting to feel like I’m working to work. Putting in the hours to say I did it, not because I feel driven to do so. I was burning out.

So I forced myself to take a vacation. Twice.

Why do I say twice? Well, the first time I booked a plane ticket home to BC (Mill Bay, Vancouver Island if ya wanna get all exact) for two whole weeks, booked out with my agency, told all my friends I would be gone… really planned to shut off from the industry and Toronto for a while.

Then a few days before flying west, the guilt crept in:

‘What was I doing?! I was going to waste all the opportunities in Toronto for two whole weeks?! Casting Directors would forget about me, projects would be planned without me, someone else was going to book all the jobs I would have if I was still HERE for those two weeks!!!!!’

So I just kept my little self motivated ball-of-work-that-is-myself rolling and asked my awesome agent to submit me for work in Vancouver, get me some Casting Director meetings out west… I also decided to bring my laptop and with it my daily career schedule with a list of daily tasks I usually plan and complete each day, my project development plan for an upcoming short film, and a million other actor-related-work-around-the-clock documents all contained on the amazingness that is MacBook Pro.

The guilt went away. The promise of a working vacation contented me.

Fast forward to the end of my first two days in BC (or is it rewind, because I’m writing this after the fact? … I digress): I received an email from my agent, so far no one was up for booking a meeting with me, and no auditions yet either but she would keep me posted. No problem, I thought, I’ll work on the work I brought with me *pulling out my laptop I realize that I forgot the power cord in Toronto.  …!

*insert workaholic melt down here*

*and here*

*and one more mini one here*

I ended up not being able to use my computer at all because I forgot to charge it before I left. No meetings, no auditions and no computer. The working part of my vacation wasn’t working! So I did the only thing I could do, I forced myself to take a vacation for the second time.

And what I did was: go for long walks alone by the beach, see seals, have quiet morning coffees and contemplate life, have a surprising conversation with my mom, see my best friend since I was 14 every single day I was there, play pick up soccer with friends from high school, see eagles, have a conversation with my Dad about his health problems I’ve been waiting to have for a long time, pat my 21 year old cat, start reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman, swim in the old rock Quarry that takes 1/2 hour to hike to, try hot yoga, see otters, visit my old elementary school and take a picture of the first stage I ever performed on, teach my mom about organic food, cook, stay up till 3am talking about American Politics and what its like answering the ‘So what do YOU do?’ question with a fashion designer and a bunch of musicians, try home made Cherry Wine and love it, give up on The French Lieutenant’s Woman, spend 3 hours shopping for cheap clothing with my best friend (FYI don’t buy a bathing suit with a ruched butt), laugh A. LOT., watch Creep Show 2 projected on the side of a house with a big group of people I haven’t seen in 10 years, look up at the stars x100, and touch the ocean.

I did all of that, and more. And to be honest I probably wouldn’t have done half of it if I had been consumed with work.

This doesn’t mean I am throwing off my workaholic robes and moving into the woods of Vancouver Island, but this forced vacation, REAL dedicated time away from work is necessary. It reconnected me to whats really important. Family, friends and nature. It gave me some real perspective on this little life o’mine. Which means growth. Which means a wiser me, which can only equal better work.

To conclude I would like to dedicate this post to my MacBook powercord, who was good enough to stay behind. You’ll never know the power of your sacrifice.

A few pictures from BC that have seriously nothing to do with work:

*Click on the pictures to see them in full vacation glory

Michelle Alexander