Reflections on shame, fear & possibility found in putting an old dream to rest.
As a working actress for over a decade — it was second nature to check my email one last time.
Any actor will tell you, as soon as you pay for a plane ticket to go on vacation, a big job or audition will be on its way to disrupt all your plans. For me, it happened at least a dozen times, but never quite like it did last February. It was a perfect sunny day in Tulum, Mexico, two days before our wedding. Palms swayed gently in the breeze just beyond our balcony as I took a few quiet moments to reflect on the awesomeness of the days to come. Having our families fly out to support us as we prepared to pledge our lives to one another was hugely significant for me, and I wanted to be 100% present upon their arrival.
Up until that point, my entire adult life had been dedicated to and designed around the art and business of acting. As a child, a teen, and into adulthood, there was a fire in me to be a performer. I never felt more alive than when I would step into a character’s shoes and tell their story from the depths of my own being. Acting was absolutely, without a doubt, the first great love of my life.
So there I was, dutifully checking in with my acting agents one last time before signing off for a mere 3 days out of a 15 year career. And like clockwork, just as I was finally ready to put my real life and family first, I get the email I had been waiting for my entire career. An audition for a Native American series regular role, on a new epic period series, set in the exact part of Texas that I grew up in. It could not have been more perfect.
Except that they needed tape of my audition by Friday February 26th. Our wedding day.
Some favorite roles as Nadja in Road House 2, Huilen in The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Pt. 2, & Ursula in Longmire
The audition required self-translation of English into a native language, along with several pages of dialogue to memorize, rehearse, tape, edit, and upload. Saying “yes” would have meant taking the majority of the precious little time we had with our families that were all together for the first — and possibly only time — EVER in our lives.
It was in that moment that I finally said “no” to my first true love. It was like turning my back on a narcissistic lover who had serially taken advantage of me, occasionally loved me, but time after time had left me disappointed and heartbroken. And I simply reached a point where I could give no more.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and shut my laptop. Literally, figuratively, and consciously shutting the door on the “opportunity of a lifetime.” Looking out over the gently rolling waves, I continued to breathe deep and knew intuitively that I was making the right decision. Being fully present for this epic REAL LIFE event was so much more important than any ol’ audition of a lifetime.
Wedding memories in Tulum, Mexico
If I’m being honest, up until that moment there was an emptiness in my heart that had been there all my life. A void caused by growing up in a broken home and the drama and trauma that ensued, so I first fell in love with acting because it was a powerful emotional outlet. Actors are called to the craft for many different reasons. For me, taking on the lives of other characters allowed me to feel my way through emotions I couldn’t face in my own life. Moreover, the roar of applause made me feel validated, wanted, and somehow of value in this world. But when I finally made the conscious decision to shut the door on that which I thought I needed, it allowed another door to open: a door to REAL life, REAL love and INFINITE possibility.
In the months that followed, I felt less and less compelled to act. Auditions would come in and I would feel more burdened than excited. The emotions and dramas of the characters and stories had no where to live comfortably because my heart was just so damn full of other beautiful things. And let me be clear - it was not the wedding, or being married, or finally feeling loved that “completed me” all of a sudden. The moment I shut my laptop in Tulum was just a tipping point — the culmination of almost 10 years of deep personal work, meditation, and healing. For the first time as an adult, I had consciously created space for life to be more important than my acting career. Once that mindset shift was in place, everything began to look different. That burning desire inside me to be a channel for the human experience as an actor began to dissipate…while the kindling of new fires inside began to grow stronger.
Like most transitions, however, this notion of rising from the ashes to become a new version of myself was pretty uncomfortable. Up to this point, my entire life path was dictated by my blind ambition to have a successful Hollywood career. With that burning desire gone, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt lost, without purpose, depressed, and incredibly confused. How could what I thought was my “calling” in life turn out to be something I didn’t want at all anymore?
Not sure what to do with these conflicting emotions, I felt the need to disconnect from day-to-day life to gain some perspective. I asked my husband to take an intentional trip with me, somewhere we could get away from it all and seek clarity about what we really wanted in life. We decided to go on a backcountry adventure near Jackson Hole, believing that the magic of the Tetons would help guide us on our way. Under the bright, magnificent stars of the Wyoming sky, we sat around the campfire and planted the seeds of purposeful pursuit. It was time to align our actions, careers, and goals with our truest desires, passions, and priorities. We were ready to design a life we loved.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
The most amazing thing about taking time to dig deep and discover what your heart wants NOW, is that you start to realize your entire present is designed around a life you wanted in the past. As they say, people change… and dreams do too.
The concept is simple on paper of course — as you evolve on your human journey, your hopes and dreams evolve as well, so follow your bliss wherever it takes you. But what about all the investment you put into that original dream? All the blood, sweat, tears, money, and sacrifices… what about all that? How can you walk away from something you have worked so hard to achieve just when you are on the precipice of even bigger things?
You just do it.
Rip it off like a bandaid or opt for a slow burn — either way will work.
In my case, it was a bit of a slow burn. I spent 6 months on “sabbatical” from acting in an effort to step fully into living my own story. I didn’t publicly announce my sabbatical because quite frankly I needed time to process some very very uncomfortable emotions. Shame, fear, anxiety, and a tinge of sadness to name a few. It felt SO CRAZY to walk away from a career I had devoted my entire adult life to! Moreover, it felt a lot like “quitting” and I am NOT a quitter. Shifting my perspective on that was definitely the hardest part. After 6 months of reflection and settling into my new life, I have come to the realization that consciously choosing to walk away is definitely not the same as “quitting”. There is wisdom in knowing when to put an old dream to rest, and freedom in the power to choose.
Because my decision came from a place of conscious choice — it isn’t shameful. It isn’t quitting. It’s EMPOWERING. It is a powerful shift in direction toward infinite possibility, intentional living and greater purpose.
There is an incredible freedom in letting go. I am happy that I recognized my “dream” was an old dream, and that it was no longer serving me. I am thrilled and energized by the space that has been created and the endless possibilities that lie ahead. It feels like my life as an actor was so narrow, and now I can literally — do — ANYTHING!!!! Life is ripe with possibility and my heart is full as I step into the new now as a full time photographer and eco-entrepreneur.
Shooting at my photo studio in Topanga, CA
And what about all the time, money, and energy spent chasing that old dream? I don’t regret a thing. I learned so much about life, compassion and the magic of relationships by being an actor. It forced me to face my greatest fears, inspired me to take giant leaps of faith and taught me to truly believe in myself. Acting was a beautiful part of my life that I will always treasure. But like many relationships in our human experience — it simply wasn’t meant to be forever.
A whole new world of ups and downs awaits — and I invite you to come along on the journey. If you’ve ever wondered what happens next when you evolve past one dream and venture toward another, or if you’re curious what life is like starting a purposeful business (and a whole new life!) with your other half… follow our journey here on the No Trace Naturals blog “Live Light”.
Do you have a similar story of dream-shifting to share? Perhaps a success story of happiness post dream-dump? Are you struggling with a decision of whether or not to walk away from something (or someone) you aren’t sure is still right for you? Please share your story in the comments below — I would love to hear from you!
~ Marisa Quintanilla Griffeth
“Live Light, Travel Light, Share the Light, Be the Light.”