• Kelly Tietjen

Taking a Break

Have you ever competed in a triathlon? Running, biking, swimming, vomiting, getting up again, having gatorade spilled over you, listening to Hamilton on your iPod as if that’s going to push you to go further, stopping, feeling dizzy, eating ice chips, falling, going faster and faster and faster, on a roll, you’re killing it, you’re almost to the finish line, and oops you tripped and died. Well, felt like you died anyway. That’s what my life has felt like trying to make a career for myself as an actor. Ooo that’s a bit grim isn’t it? That isn’t my intention. The moments where you actually GET to act are bliss. It’s the constant “trying” to get there that can knock the wind out of you.

I’ve been in a place these past couple of months that I genuinely did not see coming. I can’t tell if it was gradual honestly. I just started to feel….tired? I’d been rejected for the 4th time in a row by a theatre company I admire so much. Having that on top of years and years of countless rejections was…is…brutal. I’ll be honest with you. I got to a really bad, pretty dark place.

I wasn’t myself for close to a year. I spent the majority of 2018 so incredibly depressed I didn’t even recognize myself sometimes. I’d have complete breakdowns over the smallest thing like my partner politely asking me to clean a dish a certain way. I’d cry at any criticism. The idea of going out made me feel complete dread (still working on this but it’s getting better) and I had such little energy. I gained 30+ pounds. I kept this pretty hidden from most people in my life (hence the not going out.) In my home though; totally different story. It was destroying me and creating cracks in my relationship.

All of this was bad enough – but I knew I had a real problem when I started having suicidal thoughts. WOOOOOOF. Pretty heavy there huh? Full disclosure: I am fine! I’m on medication and starting therapy. No need to worry about me, friends. The second I had a thought like that I went straight to Chicago Women’s Health Center where I still go every few months and I can honestly say – they saved me. I’m so lucky to have great resources and amazing people in my life. Ok – I spilled the dark stuff, can we move on now? Yeah? Great.

It pains me to say it, but so much of this came from how I was living my life. Yeah I was and in some ways still am “chasing my dream.” Because God forbid you give up on your dream right? But at what cost, dude? I mean – I don’t remember intense depression being part of my 10 year trajectory. I needed to take a step back. I wasn’t finding any joy in my auditioning, networking, classes, anything to do with acting. Also, I was so broke. PAINFULLY BROKE. I wanted to focus on other joys like fitness, cooking and writing, but with a hectic, often last minute schedule that comes with acting – these things were legit…not possible.

I made the tough, yet surprisingly easy decision to take a break from acting. Woof. Even writing that was painful. I have to say, the first feeling I have is guilt – which is immediately replaced by ridiculous confusion because…..I am ALLOWED to take time for myself! It’s literally bonkers that I feel guilty for doing something other than acting. At the same time, it makes complete sense. From the age of 10 when I first started performing I was told I had to give it everything. Like I’m a fuggin Olympic athlete or something.

Side note: Olympic athletes should also be allowed to take breaks by the way. Just saying.

I’ve been told for the entire, almost 2 decades of performing that I needed to give it my all. Its a 24/7 gig. My job is auditioning constantly and networking till my face falls off and taking class after class after class because if I don’t, all of my skills will fall out of my butt and then I’ll die and have to tell everyone in heaven that I died from monologues falling out of my butt. You get the idea.

Here’s the thing – none of that is wrong. It does take so much work to make a career for yourself in any creative field. But, like one of my favorite movies – some things gotta give. Right? Nailed it.

I don’t have a good way to end this blog post because this break is an ongoing journey. I think that’s going to add a lot to my writing though, and I hope you’ll follow along and maybe be inspired to take a break yourself. I am such a creative and sensitive person. I want to find joy in my work. That’s my new dream.

Self care, self flare.



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