How to Know When It’s Time to Give Up Acting

Your ship hasn’t come in. While it feels like you’ve been at this for a long time, you don’t have much to show for it, especially compared to that actor who you came up with and who now has his or her own television show. You’re starting to doubt the choices you’ve made. The reality of working a restaurant job (or its equivalent) and sharing a small apartment when your contemporaries are buying houses and raising kids is weighing on you. Maybe acting isn’t for you. Maybe it’s time to give up the dream.

But how do you know for sure? You had so much hope in the beginning. While that blind hope has been killed by cold practicality, you still have moments in class, on stage on a random Thursday night, or at the odd audition, when it all feels so right—when you feel like you can do this. So, you go back and forth between investing even more in your acting career and considering moving back home to start a new life. One moment you’ll think, “Well, Gene Hackman, Jane Lynch, Kathryn Joosten, Samuel Jackson and Jon Hamm didn’t hit it big till later in their lives,” and the next you’ll be paralyzed with bitterness and hopelessness, picking up extra shifts to pay the rent that month.

That struggle is one that every actor engages in, but that thought process is inherently flawed. The truth is that being an actor is not something one gives up. It is who you are. It is a deep need that exists in every molecule of your body to explore the depths of the human emotional experience and then find human connection in the expression of those feelings. Giving it up would be like giving up hunger or thirst or the need for air. And it’s arrogant to think that you could…

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