Mila Meladinis // Columnist
I knew from a young age that acting was something I loved. There was just something about expressing myself by delving into a character that was so exciting. The happiest memories of my time in elementary and high school were when I got to perform. Despite all of this however, there was always that voice in my head that told me it was not worth it. As I got older I became more apprehensive towards acting. The dream of being an actor seemed just that, a dream. Although I continued to participate in any opportunity I had to act within my school, I was starting to lose my desire to be an actor – I was scared.
Growing up, I was a strongly emotional person. I felt everything and wasn’t afraid to share it. I was labelled as sensitive, and it started to become something that I was ashamed to be. I grew to hate that part of myself. The human part. The part that has feelings and expresses them. I started to shut down. I got really good at bottling everything inside, telling myself over and over that my feelings were not valid. That I was not allowed to feel.
Man what a hypocrite I was, because in high school I was always the person that my friends would go to whenever they needed advice. I encouraged all the people around me to talk about their feelings and to practice self-love. My friends used to jokingly call me their therapist – I did it so often and so well that for awhile I wanted to go to university to be a psychologist (okay a counsellor let’s be real I would never have the discipline to acquire a PhD).
Eventually I came to terms with the absolutely terrifying realization that there was only one thing I wanted to go to university for, to be an actor. It was the only thing I ever wanted to do, it was what I needed to do, so one afternoon while in a state of stress and frustration studying for the upcoming chemistry test I had to take, I took a chance and applied to CapU’s Acting for Stage and Screen Program. There were a lot of things holding me back before, but once I applied I was determined that this is what I was going to do. I still remember going into the bathroom during a Law 12 class simply to check my phone and saw the email asking me to come in for an audition. I started jumping up and down in the bathroom stall and started crying. This is something I wanted so badly. I entered the first year of the program bright eyed and bushy tailed. I had worked to get over all of those fears and doubts that had been implanted and I was excited to start a new chapter of my life, to meet new people and to finally be in school for something I was extremely passionate about.
This program has been a roller coaster to say the least, but throughout it my passion for acting has only grown. If there is one thing that has been stressed over the course of my education, it is that you can’t simply make up feelings or emotions that your character has – they have to be rooted in something real within yourself. Let me tell you, it’s not easy.
Here’s the thing about acting school, you talk about your feelings a lot. This is something I had trained myself to stop doing – in high school I was the one that listened and never the one that talked. Not that my friends wouldn’t try to get me to talk that is, they would constantly be saying things like “anyways enough about me, how are things with you?” And every time they would ask I would always respond with something like “there’s just nothing going on with me, I’m fine!”
I’m fine. These two meaningless little words were my defence mechanism. Fortunately for me, in acting school we cut right through those defence mechanisms, and it didn’t take long before I realized that I wouldn’t be able to hide my emotions away for much longer. Being an actor is extremely challenging if you can’t be vulnerable. I have had to rediscover that person that I was before social pressure got the best of me, the person who was emotional and not afraid to be sensitive. Throughout my training in acting I have had to be pushed pretty far, exploring some of the most intense sides of life, exposing myself to all kinds of heartbreak. It is so important as humans to take care of ourselves. Reminding myself to take time to breathe is a constant struggle. I have always felt very strongly about self-care and something I have grown to learn is that the first step in doing this is by not hiding your emotions. Let yourself feel because it is okay to have emotions. It’s not enough to put on a brave face and smile through the pain.
Every once in a while I find myself reverting to my old habits, bottling up any pain I feel. I have to remind myself every day that I’m allowed to have feelings, and that I have the right to express them. It’s my job as an artist to embrace my vulnerability, as scary as it may be, because acting is an expression of humanity, and having emotions only makes us human.