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I Moonlighted as an Actor—Until I Fell in Love With My Day Job

January 20, 2017 | Filed in: Your Career

You know when you’re brilliant, totally going to make it, and want to pursue your dreams 24/7, but you also need to pay rent and eat sometimes? Or when you can see yourself going down many different career paths and don’t really want to choose? Or when you change what you say your job is, depending on the audience—and yet you’re never lying? Welcome to the life of moonlighting, also known as juggling jobs that pay with jobs you love.

Right out of college, I was in full pursuit of an acting career. To make ends meet, I started working as a production assistant—running light boards, helping with set load-ins, and running around the city finding odd props. Then I got a part-time job at an off-Broadway box office. A few months after that, while playing trivia at a bar, I walked up to the host and said, “I grew up on Jeopardy! and I think I’d be great at this. Are you hiring?” And so I began hosting trivia nights at bars around New York City.

Slowly, I started getting acting roles and making connections. I landed a few projects I was really proud of, and then some—like a Travel Channel show where I played a prostitute running a séance scam—that just paid the bills. Using this forward momentum, I started a theater company with a few friends, taking on the role of executive producer. On top of my box office and trivia jobs, I was still auditioning and performing in a few productions; in my spare time, I was figuring out how to start and run a business. I was living many lives, and I loved the excitement and variety every day brought. And yet, I was stretched thin.

My favorite acting teacher once told me, “Look, if you can be happy doing anything other than acting, do that.” Although I had always been open to new opportunities, I never thought I was going to find any one thing that made me as happy as acting did.

In October 2013, I had just finished two big shows and was starting to produce a new play. I’d left the box office job and was looking for ad-hoc work to subsidize my acting, and a friend-of-a-friend posted about a week-long job at MM.LaFleur’s first pop-up store. I reached out and got the gig. That week turned into a month, which turned into several months, and then a full-time job offer.

For the first year, I tried to keep doing it all—the theater company, the trivia hosting, and the acting—and when that became unmanageable, I chose MM. There was no breaking point; it just became clear that I needed to pick one if I was going to keep excelling at any of them. It was a hard decision, because I didn’t want to be happy fully devoting myself to something other than theater. But at MM, I was. The choice wasn’t driven by a desire for the security of a day job, or a frustration with acting; in fact, I would love to return to theater in the future. It was driven by my gut telling me, “Turn left. Why not?”

As my role at MM has evolved from giving out hot chocolate to pop-up customers on the sidewalk to my current position in strategic operations initiatives, I am still unsure of where I’m going. What I do know is that I love working towards building something that has no closing night. And I love how limitless I feel learning skills to build a profession I wasn’t trying to have.

I never thought I would find that singular “other” thing that made me feel happy, challenged, and fulfilled. I wasn’t even looking. But I’m not going to fight something great just because it’s not the path I set out to follow.

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Emily is the Manager of Strategic Operations Initiatives at MM.LaFleur. She will never turn down a dance-off and lives on a steady diet of sangria and sarcasm. Read more of Emily's posts.

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