A good number of people find it hard to see performing as a life-long career. These are their questions to us:
“Have you thought about what you want to do when you get older?”
“What are you going to do after your done with this?”
These are questions that almost all performers get asked on a regular basis. But, it’s ok. I understand. No really…I do understand. I understand that this is not a normal career. I know it is hard to understand how one can make it work as a living. So, let me try and help here. Below are five points that people outside of our industry have a hard time grasping and my humble attempt at an explanation…
Sorry, but sometimes you don’t need a college degree. The majority of people in our performing line of work have been training their whole life to be in this career. I specifically, started when my parents put me in karate at 5 years old. So, in addition to public school that we attended just like you when we were younger, we also had a decade or more of job specific training before our first job. So although many of us might not have a college degree, we have had an amount of schooling that surpasses the normal career path.
A living can be made in our line of work. We are happy with our lives! We have families. We are not homeless. We can even save for retirement. And no, you are right, not all of us are going to make hundreds of thousands on Broadway or millions in TV/Film, but we can still make a living. A lot of performers can make a steady “middle class” living at their jobs. Just like every other career line, there is an obvious path to more lucrative positions. And, just like every other career, if you want that increase in income, you have to work hard and hustle to get it!
For those of us who are acrobats or do stunts…Yes, the job is dangerous, but that is a risk we are willing to take. Our job is to take risks and overcome obstacles. Yes, we will get hurt. Most of us have been hurt before and it’s going to happen again. Our job is to continue to take risks and when we get hurt, recover and keep taking risks. There are plenty of other blue collar workers that take the same risks everyday (i.e. construction workers, power plant workers, divers, etc.) Just like with any other job, there is a chance that we will get hurt one day and never be able to perform again…but, the same thing can happen at all jobs. Sometimes a typist trips and breaks their wrist and can never type again or a scientist gets into a car accident and can’t concentrate ever again. This is a sad and unfortunate fact that happens across all careers.
We will be able to do this until retirement. Getting old is a fact. This is why when you go see a show there are not just 20-year old people on stage. You have actors and dancers of every age. For some reason, it is often assumed that there is no place for a performer after they have hit their 30’s, but in contrast, there are an incredible number of roles for people of all ages. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see a show where a 20-year old is trying to play a 65-year old. As for acrobats… When you do something every day, you keep your body use to what you are doing. We work with a good number of people in their 50’s that still operate like they are 20. It’s the same idea in careers that require a sharp mind. As long as a surgeon stays in their field and continues to practice their skill, their mind will remain sharp and their hands steady. Or, another example is people who run and exercise every day. They get into their 60’s and are still running a couple of miles per day. It’s not easy, but by staying with what we are doing and continually practicing, we can make it to that sweet retirement age of 65 too.
We love our job and that is something that is rare! I don’t have any fancy statistic, but I have been around enough people to know that many people HATE their job. If you forget everything I’ve written before this point, this still makes it all worth it. To still be excited every day to go to work, to not dread returning after vacation, to not count down the hours while at work…well, that’s more than point enough to justify what we are doing. At the end of the day we love what we do and that is all that really matters.
On behalf of all performers who get this question, I say, “we really do want you to understand. So, feel free to ask us any time about our careers. We would love to answer your questions. We want everyone to know how much we love what we do! “
Zachary K Miller