If there’s anything I’ve learned from facing my fears it’s that once I do I effectively change my life. I create and share new work to inspire people, get a new job to work hard on, or meet new friends to enjoy life with. In this case, facing fear led to a new acting job as a standardized patient (SP), but I almost didn’t even make it to my interview for it. If you don’t know what an SP is, more on that in a bit.
My interview was out in Long Island and I’m based in Queens so I didn’t think it’d be too challenging to get out there. The directions told me the fastest route was to travel into Manhattan first and then take an express bus out. I hopped on the subway and zipped out to Manhattan. Then things started to not go so smoothly.
After a fight with a metro card machine, it wouldn’t read my metro card because there was a little dent in it, I finally refilled my card with the funds for the express bus. Having conquered that machine I walked over to the bus stop in Midtown. I was right on time for a bus that wound up being 45 minutes late. At this point I was an hour away from an interview that was supposed to happen in 15 minutes.
I was freaking out. I very nearly walked away from the bus stop and went home. I told myself the job is too far away, they’ll never want to hire someone so late to an interview, and why do I even want to be an actor maybe this was a sign, yeah I was spiraling into that negative self talk zone. I realize now I was trying to rationalize my fear of disappointing people I’d never met and who might actually be understanding.
I forced myself to keep waiting and got on the very late bus when it arrived. I then charged straight to the back of the bus and just let the tears roll, interview makeup be damned. I was mad at myself for not being in control of the bus, for not finagling the situation perfectly and mostly for being late.
Yet even as I was having a moment I found the courage to email the guy who had set up my interview and tell him I was running late. Then I realized he might not get that in time and I called him and told him I was running late, forcing my voice to sound calm. He thanked me for calling and said he got my email as well and wished me good luck on my interview. I took positive action and got a little positive energy sent back my way. I started to calm myself and prepare for my interview. I reviewed my notes, fixed my makeup and took in the trees rolling by my window.
I finally arrived at the office and checked in for my interview and agreed to let someone else go in before me who had waited longer. During the hour I waited I continued to prepare for my interview/ audition. When I finally got in the room I was completely honest with them about my morning, told them about the emotional bits, how I recovered and how I’d plan better next time. They were understanding, maybe even a little amused, and told me about their amazing SP program.
SP actors take on the personal history, physical symptoms, and emotional characteristics of actual patients and then improvise with student doctors to help them train for optimal patient interactions. This hospital goes all out with their doctor/patient simulations. Cases I might play as an SP include a pregnant woman in labor, a homeless person sitting in an entryway (for this one they shut down the whole office building and put makeup on us to help us look more bedraggled), or a victim of sexual assault where they’d actually pick us up in an ambulance and drive around doing an entire intake scenario with an EMT in training. Those are just some examples of over 50 different training cases they have.
They interviewed me for an hour and then they offered me the SP job on the spot!! Flash forward to today, one month later, I’ve just had my first orientation for the job. The President of the hospital came and spoke to us, about 100 new hires across all departments of the hospital, and said something that really resonated with me: ‘You don’t fail when you lose, you fail when you quit.’
I would say the inverse is also true: you don’t succeed when you win, you succeed when you keep going. My success on that interview day was in getting on the damn bus, even though it wasn’t perfect, even though I felt embarrassed and emotional. If I hadn’t persevered I wouldn’t have won later in the day and booked the job. My success was in taking action and facing my fear of disappointing someone.
Today at the orientation they asked us to fill in the blank, ‘I am made to…’ My answer? ‘I am made to inspire people.’ I can’t predict when I’ll have an opportunity to do so, but often times I just have to show up and be present for whatever the Universe sends my way and it gives me that opportunity.
At one of the break out sessions during the orientation today we had to share personal stories about what we wanted to be as a kid and how it connects to our job at the hospital now. My answer? I’m doing what I wanted to do when I was younger, as a standardized patient I get to use my acting chops to help train doctors in patient care. My table mates told me that inspired them. See what I mean? Thank you, Universe.