The View From Your Recession

A reader writes:

As an actor in New York, I've long been accustomed to job insecurity. I've had dayjobs as a long-term temp for investment banks, as an administrator and research assistant in a cancer hospital, and many others. My most recent survival job has been more actor-stereotypical: I've been a waiter, working for a few different catering companies in the city. I've also been fortunate enough to supplement my income over the past few years with residuals earned as a commercial voiceover artist.

The recession is hitting my family where it hurts.

The residuals are drying up. My wife works part-time as a bookkeeper for a small consulting company which is increasingly in jeopardy of going under, and catering jobs are practically nonexistent nowadays. Both of us are trying to balance our work and audition schedules against each other while taking care of our two-year old son, since there's no way we can afford day care. And since my catering work was part-time, there's no chance of getting unemployment benefits. We've been living leaner and leaner, trying to keep our heads above water and failing.

For those who might say, "Why don't you give up acting and get a real job?" I can relate. Nobody forced me to take such an uncertain path, and I'm not really asking for sympathy on that score. Nor am I asking for a handout. But I have recently been blessed with agents who believe in my ability, and the right booking can literally change your life overnight. As the old poker saying goes, you have to be in it to win it. And I'm not sure what message I'd be giving my son if I gave up on the thing which gives me such creative joy, and which also led me to meet and marry his mother.

This week I caught a couple of breaks - I booked a radio spot, which helps a little, and I was hired by the US Census, which helps a lot. The work should be flexible enough to allow me to continue to audition, while paying well enough to allow us to breathe a little easier. Unfortunately the work is also temporary. But I'll take it and smile. Half a loaf is better than none. We are a rich family, even if our riches are not financial ones.