I love learning. I’m an advocate for life-long learning. I download audiobooks for fun on all sorts of subjects. I get excited by the prospect of learning something new. I love being in learning settings with like-minded people. I often don’t even care if I’m going to ever apply or need the knowledge. I’m ok with just learning what someone thinks about something.
Like I said, I love learning.
I also love criticism. I love being evaluated. Of course it takes pretty tough skin because it’s hard to always divorce your ego from whatever evaluation you’re getting. But once you learn that what someone says is just their opinion and how they view a situation, you can learn more about both yourself and whoever you’re getting criticism from in the process. Once you see criticism as a valuable tool for gaining perspective on how the world sees you or your product- rather than something that should be avoided or something that always needs a response- you get to enjoy being critiqued and you get more opportunities for constant growth.
And growth means more chances to learn. And like I already said, I love learning.
But not long ago, I took a short “class” wherein we were evaluated afterwards. I put “class” in parenthesis because it’s not really a course. It’s what’s called a “learning opportunity” where you can get in front of individuals who may or may not be able to help your career and they give you feedback. It’s a little tongue and cheek because of some laws involved, but I’ve found a lot of success in these “learning opportunities” and have no real problem with them. One night, I had the chance to do a short scene in front of five different people. You only get a couple minutes or so in front of each one, so it’s not like there’s a ton of time to get to know someone. So I like using the chance to learn how I come across in an audition setting with other people. My feedback usually involves what type they see me as and some relevant or irrelevant descriptions of how I did.
The only reason it’s significant that I had several people this particular night is because the first four were pretty standard. I did well, they gave me feedback- some positive, some neutral- and we all went about our merry way.
The last guy I did my scene for was pretty proud of himself. Just in general. I didn’t like his vibe from the moment he walked in, but I let it go and did the work anyway. We don’t always get to choose who we audition for, so I used it as a LEARNING opportunity (see above) and went for it anyway.
His feedback was short and sweet. It was simply “Stay in class.”
Let me pause and tell you three ways to make my blood boil: Be passive aggressive, be consistently lazy, or tell me cocky bullshit like “stay in class.”
So, as you guessed, my blood boiled. I completely forgot about the other four evaluations I had that night (let alone the countless feedback I’ve gotten over the course of my near-decade long career) and wanted to walk back up and get in that man’s face.
It was a lazy thing to say. And a pointless one.
Sure, if you didn’t like what I did- I’m ok with that. But you need to give me a specific feedback if you want my respect. You need to tell me, “Your facial features were too big and unbelievable” or “It felt rehearsed” or even the generic, “I didn’t believe you.” Cool. Fine. I’m totally with you and those are things I get to think about and decide.
But this guy was essentially doing what another teacher did to me several months before that made me almost go on a rampage. The other teacher said, “General note… not enough specifics.” That means nothing. That’s a worthless sentence and serves no purpose. When I’m paying for an evaluation, I expect to be given one. It doesn’t mean I need to listen to you or believe you. It just means I need to be given to opportunity to know how you see me so I can decide within myself if I agree that whatever your pointing out is something I need to work on. I get to be the one to do that. You don’t get to keep that information from me as if I can’t handle it. It’s your job to tell me something you think is of value. And it’s my right to decide whether or not it’s of actual value to me.
But to top it all off, what made me really ticked about the evaluation “Stay in class” was more ideological. Yes, classes are valuable. Yes, it’s interesting to learn more. Yes, I’m obsessed with learning and a firm believer you always need coaching and further challenges and goals for your own growth. But, when it comes to self- expression, classes don’t teach you shit.
We live in a world where our youth have been over-educated (myself included! No complaints and thank you mom and dad!). There’s a class for everything now. And that’s great because classes can provide opportunities to delve into worlds you wouldn’t otherwise know and sometimes give you courage to do something you wouldn’t otherwise ever do. But at the end of the day, you can’t teach self-expression or creativity. They’re inherent. Your voice is your voice and you don’t need something or someone outside yourself to validate that.
And because there’s so many classes and so much available education, people can spend a whole lifetime believing they’re “not ready” or they’re “not good enough” or they “need more education.” Or even as troubling, people can choose to stay in school rather than following their passion because school provides security and following your passion means taking big risks and risks are terrifying. So we stay in school. We don’t venture out. We squash the creative voices inside of us that are begging to be let out to play because they don’t seem to have as much value in the real world. And eventually they get quiet. And they get sad. And you get sad, but you can’t remember why. And it’s because a part of you inside has been systematically shut down.
Fight back. Bring it back alive. People are infallible, no matter how much they pretend to be perfect. Don’t listen to anyone but your gut. If you do choose to listen to a few people outside yourself, choose them wisely. And only take a few to heart. Otherwise, let people’s opinions be just that- opinions. You can learn from them or ignore them. It doesn’t matter. By the time you decide one way or another, they could have changed them anyway.
If you think I’m a “bad actress” as was the case of this particular dipshit, fine. Cool. No problem. But I need you to give me a specific. I need to know something I can work on to get better. I don’t yet have an Oscar or my own sitcom, so I’m willing to bet I’ve got plenty to learn still. But if you’re saying you don’t like my style, that’s a different story. But don’t be lazy and give me shitty worthless feedback like “Stay in class” because not only does that mean nothing, it doesn’t serve any purposes. Classes can’t teach you how to be you. You have to teach yourself that. Then classes become enjoyable because you know what you want out of it, so you’re not attached to any sort of outcome.
So here’s what I have to say to you, you lazy man who wrote “Stay in class” to me:
Stay out of my way.
Because I’m coming. And I know what I want and I know I have a valuable voice that won’t be served by listening to people who are lazy and don’t know the first thing about creativity. I’ve faced much bigger obstacles than you, and I look forward to making sure people know that they don’t need to be told it’s ok to be yourself, even if not everybody approves of who you are.