The moment you decide to become an actor, those who love and care about you will probably voice a strong opinion one way or the other. If you're one of the lucky ones, your family and friends will stick by you and encourage you to pursue your dream, and will even help you find an acting agency to set you on your path. If you're not as lucky, you may have a difficult road ahead if your parents urge you to follow a different path, and perhaps aren't as supportive. Criticism, not all constructive, will be handed left and right. The most important thing to keep in mind is to stay focused and not let someone else's opinion sway your dreams and determination.
My harshest criticism came from my father. Coming from a traditional Korean household, actors were considered lowly beggars and symbolized the uneducated. He constantly refused to attend any of my high school shows and repeated that I was never pretty enough for Hollywood. The manner in which he spoke to me was extremely denigrating not only as his daughter but as a human being. After each performance our drama class would put on, I would look around sorrowfully as other student's parents came with bouquets of flowers and big smiles on their faces, telling them how proud they were of their children. It didn't matter if the kid had one line or a lead part, they all seemed to have great parents who encouraged them, and I was very jealous. My father never came.
During my senior year of high school, I went through the same process every other high school senior does, deciding where I would go to college and what I would major in. I had always known that there was nothing more I wanted to study other than theater. Having put all my time and effort into drama during my four years of high school, it was the only thing my resume showed about myself. It was apparent that drama would be a fitting major for my goals and aspirations of becoming an actor. My father saw the proposal as an outrage and downright disgraceful if any of it were to come true. He gave me an ultimatum: either I would go to a university and pursue anything other than acting, or he would refuse to pay for my college education.
There were no words to describe the emptiness and devastation I felt. I was always a strong student and had 4.2 GPA. The thought of not going to college or university was like someone stripping me of what I had worked so hard to earn, and deservedly so. Who was he to dictate what my studies would go to? I had considered that I had a good chance of getting a scholarship for being a minority within the performing arts field, but any opportunity that might have been was now gone as I passively chose to go to a university to pursue what he wanted for my future. It felt like cruelty to the utmost extent that a parent could do to their child. I still find it difficult to forgive him.
As it turns out, I found my escape when I discovered I had accelerated beyond my high school curriculum and was already well into my second year of college based upon college credits from testing. Crushed dreams and spirit set aside, I could be free from any obligation if I were to work hard and take extra classes in order to graduate early. And I did. During my sophomore year in college, I took five courses per quarter. I walked in my graduation ceremony at only nineteen years old. I turned 20 shortly after and was ready to pursue whatever I chose. I decided to pursue theater, and now three years later, I will be heading off to New York this Fall.
Lesson learned. No matter who lacks respect for your goals, keep in mind that for every great achievement, the person had to get into the mindset to reach that target. Struggles will always come with goal setting. Goals wouldn't be considered such if they were easy and anyone could do it. There will be many doubters you will come across because they do not have the courage that you have. You may face lots of criticism for being an actor but will also meet just as many who cheer you on and support you. As long as you work steadily toward your goals, there is no reason why you cannot find success. A student who studies diligently to become a doctor will become one if he or she sticks with it. The countless hours that must be dedicated and years of schooling would still be necessary, yet roads would open for scholarships and fellowships if the mindset was there to begin with. In Geoff Calvin's book, Talent is Overrated, he notes that great achievers in all fields - musicians, sports, chess - arose from hours of work rather than innate talent. According to Calvin, any talent one may be born with could be irrelevant if the person doesn't work at it. In Calvin's view, work is more important than talent. You can work hard to become an actor just as you would a doctor.
By the time a student completes medical school and earns their Ph.D., he or she may be in their 30s. Acting can be just as honorable and respectable a job, not to mention profitable! Sandra Oh, an actress well acclaimed for her work, is rumored to have earned $250,000 per episode on Grey's Anatomy. Who says you can only find success by being a real doctor when you're good enough play one on TV?
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