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Before the Parade Passes By...

As summer break approaches, Amanda Charney reflects on theater, education, and learning to live a full life.

By Los Angeles

Once again, I am forced to face the fact that I have no control over how quickly time goes by. Here I find myself standing on the edge of summer, with the beginning of the semester over three months behind me, and yet it's somehow passed me right by.

I was just thinking to myself today, "What am I even doing with my life?" (I have an unfortunate tendency to ask existential questions when sleep-deprived.) I have no current plans for the summer, no performance opportunities, and 3+ months of freedom that I feel obligated to put to good use. While it's true that some people consider tanning to be "putting time to good use," I have slightly higher standards for my summers.

When I think of all the people who will be making good use of their vacation, I start to work myself up into a bit of a state of panic. Although I love college and wouldn't give up the experience for the world, I do have to acknowledge that there are actors out in Hollywood and Broadway right this very second doing what I've only dreamed about. You cannot beat a college education, don't get me wrong…but in the world of theater, youth is priceless. Time is not on our side in this business, which contributes to the anxiety I feel when I realize that when I graduate and make my way out into the professional world, there will be people with 10 times my experience already pounding the pavement.

It may sounds strange, but I have felt like such a passive member of the world until these last few months. You know that feeling you get sometimes, of not being the star of your own life? It seems to me that I am the Rosencrantz to someone else's Hamlet, someone with a far more compelling story (and maybe with some cool action sequences thrown in). Sometimes when I dwell on this feeling, it drives me to panic and sadness. Sometimes--and more often lately--it drives me to inspiration and action.

If there's one thing I've learned in the past two years of my time here at USC's School of Theatre, it's that no one is going to hand you success on a silver platter. I know I'm guilty of waiting for things to change, or improve, or fling themselves at me, but the fact remains that just showing up and going through the motions is not enough. Until you truly engage your mind and heart in your work, and fully commit to development and progress, acting classes and performances will be lost in the blur of term papers and exams.

This concept of constant determination will, I realize, come as no shock to many of you, but I felt the need to share my thoughts on the off chance that someone out there is saying, "Yes! I feel the same!" Having been truly blessed with a wonderful childhood and upbringing, I feel myself becoming sedentary sometimes simply out of habit. I feel that I'll be repeating this semester's very first article by reiterating this, but there is no time like the present to get up and do things. Whether it's theater or not, wherever your heart takes you, there is no time left to waste--life is incredibly short once you think about it.

But the most important lesson I've learned this semester came as a completely random epiphany after acting class one day. I was chatting to a friend about auditioning and life after college, when suddenly it hit me. The point of life (in my case, at least) is to live as well and happily as I possibly can. That's why I chose to study theater in college. It's so easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day stresses and successes, and lose sight of this essential fact. You do this for YOU, not for anyone else, and if you would be perfectly happy living in a tiny apartment in New York dancing for pennies on a Broadway stage, you are obligated only to yourself to live that dream, and only so far as it is truly what makes you happy.

Why go through the motions of life when you can live it fully? I leave you with the famous words of La Cage Aux Folles' "I Am What I Am":

"It's my world that I want to take a little pride in, My world, and it's not a place I have to hide in. Life's not worth a damn, 'Til you can say, 'Hey world, I am what I am. "


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