I’d been thinking about quitting my job for a long time. Honestly, no matter how great their treatment of employees, working at a sandwich shop is going to suck after a while. Not even a while, really. It just generally sucks. But there are a million other jobs out there that suck. Secretary, mall worker, high paid wall street consultant; if you don’t love it, you don’t enjoy it. And, no, I didn’t love making other people’s sandwiches.
I was still wavering, though. I didn’t want to quit until I was financially stable. I had enough in savings to last a few months, but what about after that? What would I do then? This was my state of mind when art literally changed my life. No exaggeration, this is true. I’d started interning at a theater and a nearby performance art gallery (If you’re ever in Chicago, visit Defibrillator. The work is amazing, and the owner Joseph is the sweetest man in existence). One of my first assignments at the gallery was to take care of this group called Non Grata. They were from Estonia, and Joseph warned me, very wild. All of the above was true, and I had a great time hanging out with them. We spent the next few days eating and drinking together, and talking about art.
Al is the leader of Non Grata and over the last year of our friendship he’s said more things that have shaken me into action than anyone else I’ve ever met. He and Taje (the backbone behind the group) are not only some of the hardest workers I know, they are some of the happiest people I know. A few days after we met Al asked me what I did, and I told him I was an actress. When he found out that I was working a job and balancing two internships, he laughed at me. He said something along the lines of “You young people are so stupid”. He’s not very subtle. But then he said, “Why are you selling yourself? I would never sell my time like that”. I thought about that for a while, and I decided I was going to quit my job… in six months.
See, you weren’t listening. I told you art changed my life, not a lecture. True, these words were stuck in my head. I kept turning them over and over, dissecting them, but even though they were on my mind, they weren’t enough to change me. What changed me was a car lit on fire on a snowy night.
I’ll try to sum up the performance, because as awesome as they are, this is not an advertisement for Non Grata. (If you want an advertisement, google them or visit their facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/diverseuniverse). So in the performance, the performers begin to smash a car, one person does a fire dance on the top of it, and then they hand over the sledgehammers to the audience and let us smash, beat, and flip the car however we please. It looked something like this:
And it felt something like this:
I know it seems cliche, the whole “this performance changed my life” thing. Like I’m a teenager at a David Bowie concert or something, but it’s true. I realized two things that completely altered my mindset in the space of those.
1. Rules are made to be broken
We were smashing and lighting a car on fire in the middle of the night BLARING weird techno music. No cops came. No fire department. We didn’t even get complaints from the neighbors. We had an amazing time, communal and stress relieving. My mother would have disapproved and it didn’t matter a smidge.
2. Things are not as dangerous as they seem.
See above statement. Glass was flying everywhere. The car was on fire and everyone was fine.
I was afraid of quitting my job with savings already in the bank account? No. I realized then I didn’t want to lead a normal life. Not even a normal “starving artist” life. I wanted to live extraordinary adventures. I just wanted to smash some more cars or something.
Okay, I was more focused than that. Barely. I knew I wanted to work full-time as an artist, I didn’t want a day job. I wanted to travel, get out of the country and see something new. And I wanted to shoot higher than my previous mantra to “be a working actress”. The problem was, I didn’t know how to accomplish what I wanted. I only knew what. The direction came later that week with an offer to come perform in Europe. Stick around and I’ll tell you how I got there.