I got an email this morning from the Office of the Registrar at the university I attended more than 20 years ago. The woman who sent the email informed me I cannot get an official transcript due to “financial obligations” to the school. In short, a debt from the early 90’s follows me to this day and limits what I can do.
What does this debt have to do with acting?
Debt creates a lot of baggage for actors and prevents us from having the resources to move forward. Overwhelming debt can leave us feeling stuck, frozen, and unable to rescue ourselves. We become unable to afford anything basic and relevant for auditions, from headshots to wardrobe items. Even getting to an audition can become out of reach.
I paused my typical morning job search online and opened a Google Doc to create a plan to erase my debt. Not just the old college debt but all my debt. It’s something I have put off over and over and over again so today feels like a long overdue step in the right direction.
How do I start "seeing" my debt?
I need things to seem real and have specific steps so I started with creating objectives for addressing old debt. My first, “Identify all sources of debt.” If you don’t know what could potentially haunt you now or later, you can’t prepare for it. My second and third objectives involve creating a payment plan and schedule and then actually making the payments to clear the debt. Saying and doing are two different things, right?
I considered making the debt list as a Google calendar event. I’ve done that in the past with some success. It became something I saw pop up every day on my calendar, making it unavoidable. You may want to see how that works out for you.
How else can debt crush your potential as an actor?
Now here is the part that inspired me to open up about this topic through my blog. I next created a list of incentives for eliminating debt. I focused on what kinds of power it will give me and what kind of joy it could bring others.
That’s when I recognized the depth of my failure to control my debt up to this point. It caused me to fail to help others. For example, saying no to an audition you can’t afford to get to robs casting of one choice. Being financially unstable makes you unreliable to fellow actors who could benefit from your help, whether carpooling with you to an audition or turning to you to serve as a reader.
I have been the burden of family and friends, with my hand out many times. I can’t measure how much harm it’s caused over the years. That’s why on my list of incentives of reducing debt I included, “Improve Family Relationships” and “Strengthen Social Connections.” Who knows what can come of attending mixers and screenings and truly being able to make time to have coffee with a peer?
I’m over feeling frozen in place, slow to respond to the call of others and unable to serve them. The thaw begins now, here in LA. I know making all the debt disappear won’t happen right away but each step towards the goal means one day I’ll be free to make less restrictive decisions regarding money and enjoy more power.